Nov 8, 2023

MediaWorks: Lessons for success

The 2023 programme’s mentors and clients explain how up-and-coming media agency professionals can succeed with critical hands-on experience in bringing a real client brief to life.

Mentor Anish Daryani and the winning team 'Heartstrings' from MediaWorks 2023 in Bangkok.
Mentor Anish Daryani and the winning team 'Heartstrings' from MediaWorks 2023 in Bangkok.

When 44 young aspiring professionals looking for a future career in media planning and strategy arrived at Campaign Asia’s MediaWorks in Bangkok earlier this year, many did not know what to expect.  

This actually may have worked in their favour. Those hoping to easily apply their current work patterns and strategies would have been in for a rough ride. 

“When you’re coming here, leave what you’ve learned behind and how you’ve been doing things because here you have to follow the unconventional way,” explained one delegate.  

MediaWorks is an intense three-day workshop in which delegates are split into teams paired with seasoned industry mentors and must come up with a comprehensive and well-planned media strategy and campaign in response to a real client brief under extreme deadlines.  

The brief

This year’s client was Mastercard, with a genuine business challenge for delegate teams to solve. Their media brief was very detailed and comprehensive, and while the exact contents remain confidential, it involved increasing brand affinity and awareness in a certain facet of their business across multiple markets. 

“It was a very good brief in the sense that it gave people the opportunity to express themselves in a very different way,” said Bala Pomaleh, a team mentor and CEO of Mediabrands Malaysia. “Some of them had a media interpretation to it, and some of them had a bit of a creative interpretation to it.”  

“It was quite intensive,” adds mentor Sudarshan Saha, managing director of EssenceMediacom Vietnam. “It was not only focused on media, but also it enabled the participants to think of end-to-end strategy, to reach out of their comfort zone and really figure out what can the consumer insights be.”  

Noting that most delegates were only familiar with their home markets, Saha said many were challenged by the need to make the campaign work across a broader region in a short time frame. 

Heightening this challenge even more was a late curveball thrown by the client to the pitch with only hours to close, which pushed teams to the max.

Team dynamics

So, what enabled the best teams to pull together and persevere? 

Hard work, for one. Every team relates how they ended up having extremely long nights until 2 a.m., 3 a.m., or even as late as 4:30 am in the morning when crunch time hit and often found themselves going back to the drawing board when a certain strategy ran into roadblocks on execution.  

“My team impressed me by their attitude of not wanting to give up,” says Anish Daryani, founder and president of M&C Saatchi Indonesia, who mentored the winning team ‘Heartstrings’ (photo above) and admittedly spent the first day gauging how tenacious they were.  

Daryani says he knew he had an amazing group with solid training, but when it came to implementing things on the ground, many found themselves outside their comfort zone. 

“That made it so much more interesting,” he says, praising how his team was able to understand and apply similar brand cases and situations to their work. “Their ability to adapt and adopt strategies to offer solutions was impressive.”  

“Teamwork was so important,” says mentor Youli Hooi, head of Spark Foundry Singapore and APAC client lead of her all-female team. “I’ve never seen such a bunch of girls who just gathered together and clicked” in response to a late curveball requiring them to shift plans.  

While the late nights and intense pressure can often lead to heated debate or personality clashes, OMD India CEO Anisha Iyer was very surprised to not see a single conflict within her team, which gelled despite its lack of pitch experience to form “outstanding chemistry.”  

Whether delegates were simply careful to hide disagreements or channel them more productively, it’s clear that this newer generation of young professionals are not simply out for themselves but bring a higher appreciation, understanding and craving for more diversity and inclusion among their team make-up. 

Many delegates spoke about the diversity of their team is key to their success.  

“Diversity was really meaningful in terms of team dynamics,” says one delegate. Everyone was synergized, working together with their eyes on the goal. My team had five different nationalities and I’m quite a bit older, but it was really nice to see younger talents really rise up and push a very dedicated recommendation. I think I was learning more from them than they were from me.”  

The maturity among talent was not lost on representatives of the presenting client, Mastercard. “It was amazing to see how delegates came up with such solid strategies in a short time span. It speaks so much of the talent we have in our industry,” said Snigdha Nandan, Mastercard’s APAC director of B2C and digital marketing.” 

Advice for next year’s delegates

“Please sleep a lot before you come here because you get so engrossed in the challenge at hand, you're going to have a few sleepless nights,” says Daryani. “But then enjoy the process of soaking up all the learnings because you're brushing shoulders with some of the finest talent across the region, so be a sponge and soak it all in.”  

“Go with an open mindset and never say no, and you will be amazed to discover a new side to yourself when you work with this diverse team on a very difficult brief under trying circumstances,” adds Saha. 

While keeping an open mindset and being adaptable is critically important, Pomaleh stresses that future delegates can and should still prepare themselves for the overall experience to make the most of it. 

“If you are selected to attend Mediaworks, you should do more homework about what to expect because this is a fast-paced, premium programme. You will be doing things that you will probably not do at most other trainings, and you get the opportunity to work with mentors who are very experienced. It is really an amazing opportunity for you to understand a bit more about yourself.”

A word from our sponsors

Once again, MediaWorks has cemented its position as one of the key calendar industry events of the year. This event absolutely must be considered a bucket list experience for all the ambitious rising stars in media across Asia Pacific! There is nothing quite like the buzz generated by a group of competitive, aspiring, (and sleep-deprived) media practitioners - and to feed off that energy is both remarkable and rejuvenating. If this year's cohort of delegates are the future faces of our industry, it's safe to say we're in good hands! 

-Alberico de Nardis de Prata, head of SEA & ANZ, LoopMe

“It was a pleasure for BBC Studios to be involved as a sponsor in MediaWorks 2023. BBC Studio’s recognises the importance of training the next generation of agency & publisher leaders in APAC, and MediaWorks, with its unique and challenging format is a great way for all delegates (& mentors) to test themselves against a real brief, from a real client & against the clock. Congratulations to all of the delegates that took part in MediaWorks 2023, and especially to the winning team.” 

-John Williams, VP Advertising, South & Southeast Asia, BBC 

Campaign Asia

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