M&C Saatchi Performance has promoted Kabeer Chaudhary to APAC managing director, as former APAC MD Chris Steedman—who founded the agency in APAC in 2013—has returned to the UK.
Chaudhary has been managing partner for the past two years and joined the agency, then known as M&C Saatchi Mobile, in 2015.
Steedman remains with the network but will take a sabbatical before starting in a new role.
Chaudhary takes charge of an agency that seems to be firing on all cylinders. It now has 90 employees—including 20 new heads in 2020—across its offices in Singapore, Jakarta, Sydney, Bangalore, Delhi and Bangkok. Revenue grew 20% year-over-year in 2020, and clients include Grab, Tinder, Halodoc, Viu, BeIN Sports, Tokopedia, Swiggy, Myntra and Mobile Premiere League.
"Our growth story has mainly been driven from Southeast Asia," Chaudhary told Campaign Asia-Pacific, "mainly from regional clients that we have in Singapore, and also local clients that we have in Indonesia. We just opened our office in Bangkok last year, and we are looking to expand into other markets in Southeast Asia because we've seen the growth here and we understand the businesses here."
The agency specialises in serving digital-native companies, but has been branching out to more clients who are working on their digital transformations. Chaudhary counts the agency's dual expertise in both app marketing (the agency's original focus) and web-based marketing as a strength, alongside a commitment to agnosticism.
"While other agencies have gone around buying and building tools, we actually very consciously believe that the role of an agency is more consultative, rather than basically trying to be a part of the tech ecosystem," he said. "And I feel that's been very good for us, because when we recommend a tool to our clients, it's actually done because of the due diligence our teams have done, instead of doing it because we want a piece of the revenue."
Looking ahead, Chaudhary believes this agnostic mindset puts the agency in a good position to help clients thorugh the looming end of cookie-based marketing. Digital marketing will inevitably become less efficient and more difficult to measure than it is now, but, according to Chaudhary, that "doesn't mean that marketers don't need to or should not spend on digital marketing".
"As an agency, our focus is going to be help our clients traverse through that complexity and be able to make it as efficient as possible," he said.
Contextual targeting is tipped to rise in importance, and M&C Saatchi Performance is investing in this area. "Creating those best practices on how you go about contextual marketing in order to be able to use context rather than behaviour as your layer of efficiency is going to be key for us," he said. Likewise with the use of probabalistic measurement methods, such as incrementality testing, he added.
Bringing digital determinism to traditional media is another potential growth area, Chaudhary said. The agency has witnessed growing interest in digital out-of-home in the past year, for example. "We're not saying that we will go into traditional marketing, but what we are trying to do is to get the same aspect of measurement and analytics into offline media buys which we are able to do through digital," he said. Development of connected TV is another area of emphasis, as is working together with M&C Saatchi to go after 360-degree pitches, he added.
In a release, Steedman said he is proud of how far the agency has come since he started it. "In Kabeer we have a leader, and a trusted partner to our clients," he added. "The decision to appoint him as the successor was easy."