One island of desks is occupied by the editorial team, tapping busily away at their computers while in another corner, a screen shows CGI renderings of T-cells defending against infectious agents being carefully nursed into being.
“For a PR company, it’s often a surprise to clients that we have this quality and type of talent,” said Chris Perry, global president of digital for Weber Shandwick. Besides the CGI talent, Asia’s first Mediaco office also has a creative director,who moved over from DDB, and editorial veteran, Michael O’Neill.
Although the launch was just last month, Mediaco in Asia has been in the works for nearly a year thanks to the efforts of Jon Wade, head of digital for Asia-Pacific. It just didn’t have a name. When New York launched its offering under the Mediaco brand in April, it seemed prudent to converge the two shops under the same brand. It’s understood that Jye Smith, vice-president of digital, Asia-Pacific, will be helming Mediaco Asia-Pacific in the near future.
According to Perry and Jason Wellcome, global head of Mediaco, the content unit wasn’t born fully formed but was the result of uniting capabilities the communications firm has had for “seven to eight years” under one roof, and then adding more capabilities.
Or as Perry put it, “Mediaco brings all that heritage of content creation together under one practice, which is an important perspective in the marketplace as it is a sustained holistic approach rather than just a one-off.” He added that the unit was also the result of the firm’s ‘re-engineering’ over the past five years to respond to the changes brought on by the digital revolution.
Wellcome added that the unit was also formed to “hit production levels of velocity, quality and agility in a sustained fashion that impacts the business”. “With a converged approach, where creative, production and distribution are housed under one discipline, it enables a virtuous cycle of feedback critical to a project's success in which we can gauge what is working and what isn’t,” he explained.
What Perry and Wellcome are not saying is that at a time when even sister IPG group Mediabrands has launched its content marketing unit, Mediabrands Publishing, the group’s communications arm would do well to have its own brand—and to market said offering.
The unit’s development has also been largely organic, said Wellcome, as it's been built on the back of client work. “The work has indicated a blueprint of how we can go to market on this and as projects come in we’ve turned on the studio, editorial and staffed accordingly. It has been a build-and-they-will-come approach.”
Besides the production of content, Mediaco’s services also include building in-house brand journalist teams for clients, depending on degrees of need. “Not only do clients not have the headcount, they don’t have a clear sense of how to staff newsdesks. We are happy to partner with clients on building this capability, helping them make the move,” said Perry.
In North America, Mediaco's client list includes Unilever, Verizon and Pepsico.
The top questions the team faces from clients, continued Perry, revolve around addressing the constantly changing space of digital communications, not around fighting the need to do so. “Their questions in North America are largely practical, should the brand be on a platform or not? Will what we’re doing today, work tomorrow? How should we plan for this, staff this and measure this?” he said.
In Asia, the questions apply “more than ever” commented Wade. “Some of the media environments our clients are operating in, such as Mainland China and India, are incredibly fragmented, making it hard for clients to get their message out. Adopting a publishing model and going direct to the consumer is an easy win for them.”
By and large, consumers are responding well to this approach, said Wellcome. “A point of view is that branded content is about identity, people want to identify with forms of media they can republish and share,” he said. For example, in India, according to a study by McCann published last year, over a third of respondents Google themselves more than once a month to see how they’re doing online.
In this environment, Mediaco expects to expand rapidly. Besides Hong Kong, it is already present in Beijing, Singapore and Australia and expects to launch soon in India. “We started with a team of five in Hong Kong, which is now 18 and 45 across Asia-Pacific,” said Wellcome. “There are three or four more cities we’re considering based on talent and client proximity.”