MALAYSIA - At the Mindshare office in Kuala Lumpur, there’s a room custom-fitted to be a command centre for consolidating every data source available to the agency.
Called a Loop Room, it is touted as a “physical space that enables the monitoring of everything happening in the market across paid, earned, owned media channels.”
It is currently being used for brands such as Pay TV player Astro and fast food brand Pizza Hut, and pipes in data from every available source, including internal data such as Mindshare’s own analytics and even client sales data.
“Gone are the days when we would execute a campaign and do a post-mortem after it’s over,” said Cindy Chia, general manager, Mindshare Malaysia. “We’re now reviewing a campaign and doing course correction in real-time, tapping into any upcoming trends or opportunities to fine tune and amplify the message.”
The introduction of a concept such as a Loop Room is one part of the agency’s larger efforts to transition and perpetuate it’s “adaptive marketing” approach as a market differentiator. Mindshare has been driving its "adaptive" approach as a key differentiator for a couple years now, and the Malaysia office has officially kicked it into gear this quarter, as it seeks to further stand out in a market getting crowded by non-traditional players, from consultancies to startups.
The approach may sound familiar to TBWA’s Disruption Live discipline, which also leverages real-time data sources and insights to inform its work—but nevertheless, remains a sound response for an industry that is having to renegotiate its place and pace with the marketing function.
Chia adds that real-time campaign monitoring and response in the Loop Room is done in consultation with both the client and its partner agencies, such as PR and creative. “This is a team effort, it has to be to get the most out of the data we have.”
Varun Channa, managing director, Mindshare Malaysia, said the Loop Room encouraged boardroom-based decision making, making it “important to have all the stakeholders involved”.
He told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the Malaysian market remains “exciting” from an ad expenditure perspective, with approximately 4 to 5 percent growth expected.
“But we’re seeing a shift on client-side, with a lot of conversations now focused on data and technology, because spend is shifting quite a bit from tradition to digital,” he added. “We see it as doing marketing in a digital environment and with so much fast moving data, you have to be fast moving as well.”
The agency brand’s philosophy of “adaptive marketing” seeks to be the answer to this, with the official explanation phrased as follows:
Our ten global differentiators are our brands that will deliver on the Adaptive Marketing promise, wrapping up all the innovative products, services, workshops and tools that are created, improved and deployed in local markets into a global Adaptive offering.
Dheeraj Raina, head of strategic planning at Mindshare Malaysia noted that the market is classified as a mobile-first one, with consumers having adopted mobile in ways that are far advanced compared to what brands are currently ready to do.
“Different brands are at different levels of engagement,” he added. “For an agency to not be adaptive would be dire, and we believe that an adaptive approach is the most relevant for a market like Malaysia.”
This shift seems to be taking fruit; Mindshare has been on a roll of late when it comes to new business wins, especially with the digital remit for brands such as Nippon Paint and DiGi Telecommunications.
Channa said that data and tools are what enable the understanding of the consumer journey, but the spoils of success go to “whoever does it faster, better and at scale”.
“In conversations, that’s what gets them excited,” he added. “Why are telco brands with us? They need to have conversations with consumers in real-time, at scale and at a pace that differs from an FMCG or retail brand.”
Raina said that an agency today, is not “just a media agency” anymore in this market, and needs to be a brand’s business partner—and that is the role Mindshare envisions itself playing.
“For a media agency to just sit in a meeting, get the brief and come back with just a media recommendation, honestly speaking, does a disservice to the practice,” he added. “As a practitioner, I can’t ignore the overall business architecture of a client, including aspects like creative and media. We need to have a point of view and then have the capabilities to deliver.”
10 ways to stand out
The recently launched “10 differentiators” being promoted encompasses a proprietary suite of tools and frameworks that Mindshare will deploy in service of a client’s needs and objectives.
Not all of the 10 differentiators are currently available in the Malaysian market, with Channa adding that product launches will be done in phases, based on relevance and market demand.
Some products are currently in pilot phase with a few brands, but no details could be shared at this time.
In addition to the Loop Room, products currently in use in the market include what the agency calls “connections planning tools”, an upgraded version of traditional media planning tools, along with data and tech-centric offerings such as its Life+ product.
Mindshare, partnered with Rexona, to launch its first Life+ campaign in the country using wearable devices and ambient motion sensors at the Electric Run 2016 on 7 May.
Rexona was the official partner for the event, to ensure that participants stayed fresh while they moved for a good cause. Life+ is Mindshare’s “wearable and internet of things differentiator”, founded in June 2014.
“Today, our conversations are not about GRPs, reach or full page full colour placements,” said Raina. “It’s about data and technology which is further indication of how the role of an agency in the market has evolved.”
The phased approach to the introduction of these products in Malaysia is linked to the wider APAC picture, which sees the Mindshare network adjusting to how it can better handle the region’s diverse maturity scale.
Sanchit Sanga, chief digital officer, Asia Pacific recently shared at an industry event in Singapore that Mindshare had centralised some Southeast Asia planning operations in Singapore due to a talent challenge in local markets. “There’s generally a shortage of programmatic skill sets in local markets," he told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "Also most of the technology partners are based in Singapore, creating an easier and smoother workflow.”
Asked about the state of programmatic in Malaysia, Raina reported that the market remains at an early stage.
“Most of the programmatic spend is going into display ads and video is not as high in this market as you might assume,” he added. “Programmatic video is not that big but is definitely gaining momentum.”
When it comes to the status of programmatic TV, Raina said that the infrastructure for programmatic TV is currently in the stage of being set up in the market. He expects adoption will take some time but has no doubt that programmatic TV buying and planning “will become reality.”
The larger and more immediate issue to be tackled is helping clients grapple with the data onslaught and get their house in order.
In August 2015, Mindshare launched a new regional data hub called FAST, short for Future Adaptive Specialist Team. Located in Singapore, London, New York, Shanghai and Mexico, the team is designed for clients with centralised needs.
Some FAST solutions from the Singapore hub are being deployed in Malaysia, most notably its data-management process.
“In Asia, different clients are in different levels of data adoption,” Raina said. “The basic thing of managing data has be to established first, before we go on to things like performance, programmatic, analytics and big data.”
While FAST is currently run out of Singapore, there are plans to launch a local chapter of the hub, with Mindshare sharing that it is slated to be up and running by the end of the next quarter.