KUALA LUMPUR: Marketers should look beyond the headlines in Malaysia as native advertising, digital and out-of-home takes off in the country, believes one local expert.

Despite economic downturn, advertisers remain optimistic as hyper-connected young Malaysians show few signs of slowing down.

Sandeep Mark Joseph, head of strategy and digital at Zenith Malaysia, believes that digital advertising will offer new opportunities for brands in the country as Malaysia's economic growth slows.

In an exclusive piece for Warc on Malaysia's advertising landscape in 2016, Joseph writes that with marketing budgets under pressure, it is "only natural" that marketers in the country will turn to the lower cost, more traceable medium of digital.

More than 60% of Malaysia's population is under 30 years of age, and a similar percentage is connected to the internet via a smartphone. More than 35% of Malaysians reach for Facebook on their phones before they get out of bed every morning. And over 70% of online users watch YouTube videos regularly.

Advertisers have lagged behind this consumer adoption of new media, due to relationships with monopolistic traditional media outlets. But now budgets are increasingly moving online. Of the top 50 brands in Malaysia, the estimated average digital ad spend is 20%.

Native advertising is also on the rise. Multinational brands such as Petronas, Shell, Nestlé, and Unilever are deploying native ads to connect with Malaysians in editorial environments. Online video has seen a massive surge, and today many brands are taking an online first approach to campaigns for festive seasons or national holidays.

However, Joseph believes that brands may be losing opportunities by taking an English language-centric approach. With about 18m Malay speakers in Malaysia, Malay-language newspapers have a higher circulation than their English-language counterparts, but attract disproportionately lower advertising dollars than they should. Local language ad spend faces similar issues in India.

Warc subscriber can read more on what advertisers should know about Malaysia in 2016, and South East Asia's other fast growing markets.

Data sourced from Warc