Ogilvy & Mather today unveiled a three-year collaboration with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop the country’s marketing services industry, from data analytics and customer engagement to UX and digital media.
Following discussions between the parties over most of last year, Ogilvy’s strategy includes three main prongs: launching the Modern Marketing Lab R&D facility, developing a secondment programme for Ogilvy Singapore employees, and creating a modern marketing training programme.
“This has been a significant effort that we are very proud of and excited about,” Chris Riley, group chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Singapore, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “It’s a government grant, but it’s also a three-year period in which we’re having a dialogue that’s very much strategic. In Asia you simply can’t just pull from existing ways of thinking in marketing services—you have to innovate and invent.”
The R&D function, which began operations in November, is tasked with developing innovative products and services that are globally recognised across Ogilvy’s network and clients. Riley said this gives the agency the chance to create bespoke new assets ahead of the industry’s demands.
“So for example, we have a lot of data in our media business now, which can be very rich if turned into intent modelling, but it’s quite a manual process. Can I now automate that for 22,000 people across the Ogilvy network? Let’s see.
“Can I turn a chatbot into an assistant that will really help nurture demand? There’s a lot of B2B potential in that. So the lab creates the space and freedom to innovate in a business model that’s often quite constrained by the realities of our commercial objectives and clients.”
The secondment programme will see 20 high-potential Singaporean staffers spend a year in Ogilvy’s New York headquarters, working on globally significant accounts.
“This significant investment in talent will see a maturation of skills and international exposure to brands, that is then brought back into Singapore,” Riley said. “I think that’s the kind of return on investment that both parties are looking for.”
Finally, the training programme will focus on areas including digital transformation, data analytics, marketing automation and social media.
Kelvin Wong, EDB assistant managing director, said: “Our goal is for Singapore to be a leading global hub where global brands partner different players in our marketing ecosystem to develop and pilot digital marketing innovations for the region and beyond.
"To achieve this, it is important for the marketing ecosystem here to build up capabilities in areas such as creative technologies and marketing analytics. We are therefore heartened by Ogilvy’s choice of Singapore as one of its key hubs to grow its modern marketing capabilities.”
The announcement comes as part of Singapore’s ‘Smart Nation’ agenda, which saw requests for more than S$2.8 billion (US$1.94 billion) in technology tenders in 2016 and a further S$19 billion (US$13.2 billion) dedicated to R&D, technology and innovation over the next five years.
Riley said Ogilvy has a long and successful relationship with EDB, having been awarded previous grants in the areas of creative technologies and data. The new partnership was borne of both parties’ greater ambition to innovate and develop talent in marketing services.
“There’s a very strong shared agenda,” he said. “It’s a real partnership, a significant enablement. It’s such a positive reflection of and epitomises what Singapore is trying to do. It sets its course, argues a strategy and then executes.
“It’s about executing the plans now, and we’re lining up to that in a very shared way.”