Mitsuyuki Nakamura, chief executive officer of Dentsu Media Thailand and president of Dentsu Media Southeast Asia, said the DM Lab is a global initiative designed to accelerate the development and exploration of new technologies to build new experiences connecting people and brands.
“It is not only innovative extraction of cutting-edge global technologies, but also to generate opportunities for Thai startups to experience and collaborate with experts to push the boundaries,” said Nakamura. “In short, our ambition is to deploy world-class technologies in local context together with local business partners in each market.”
Nakamura also noted that the agency has had a lab in Taiwan for years with similar concept and has been successful in launching unique technological platforms for clients in several countries in Southeast Asia region as well.
DM Lab is composed of two key pillars: Local incubation and ‘Gateway to Global Innovation’, an initiative led by Dentsu Aegis Network.
According to Norasit Sitivechvichit, executive director of digital business, Dentsu Media Thailand, the agency is working with Thai and regional startups in order to scale up and expand mutual opportunities for business to launch locally, regionally and globally.
“And this platform enables our partners to access a pool of knowledge, consult with business professionals, tap into new revenue streams, and access funds through the Dentsu Aegis Network investment arm,” he said.
In response to queries from Campaign Asia-Pacific, Dentsu said it takes several approaches to investment, providing funding via an individual operating company, via Dentsu Inc. or via a Dentsu investment arm, such as Dentsu Ventures or Dentsu Digital Holdings (DDH).
The agency declined to share details on the value of its investment arms or funding parameters.
Last year, the agency held a pitching competition in Thailand called 'Startup Pitching Idea For Business' with Thumbsup, a marketing and startup vertical website, to encourage innovation in Thailand. After this collaboration, the agency began working with several startups.
For example Rootan, an open social-monitoring platform, claimed to enable marketers to not only listen to brand voice but also foresee social trends. Another startup is Wireaction: A data-management platform to record offline data for multiple usage applications, it enables editing of TV metadata, which will also be used to sync with online data.
The agency shared that other O2O (online to offline/offline to online) ideas have come out of the startup competition and are tentatively slated to launch by the end of this year. Dentsu declined to share additional details, citing non-disclosure agreements.
Another component of the lab—‘Gateway to Global Innovation’—is an original Dentsu Aegis Network innovation project, launched in Thailand in June 2015.
DM Lab recently introduced a neuro technology to the Thai market, claiming the system can detect emotions based on brainwave analysis.
“We can quantify emotional information by sensing brainwaves, which we could not before,” said Norasit, adding that other technologies being developed include data visualization and robotics.
Norasit declared that the technology would change the way we conduct qualitative research, develop creative ideas and perform design.
One notable project was Kirobo, a collaborative effort between Dentsu, the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in 2013.
Dentsu Inc. recently conducted a seminar titled “Creativity in Pre-Singularity Age” at the Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity 2015, where ECD Yasuharu Sasaki showed the agency’s work in this field, such as “Fencing visualized” and “Matsuko-Roid”.
Norasit added that the agency sees a lot of opportunities for these technologies, which can be adapted and developed further in the Thai market.
Nakamura said DM Lab is not only a unit in Thailand, but also a network, which is expanding both regionally and globally.
“Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are potential markets to launch DM Lab shortly, where we have unique and innovative significance of existence in diversified service area,” he said.
No specific timeline was provided for the expansion of DM Lab to other markets, but Dentsu noted that it has already had related achievements similar to Thailand.
“We are aiming to boost our actions by taking the opportunity presented by the lab’s launch in Thailand,” a Dentsu spokesperson said. “As you see from Cannes Lions or Spikes Asia, leveraging technologies plays one of indispensable elements in order to solve our clients’ challenges or social issues.”