Gabey Goh
Nov 3, 2016

Publicis Media’s NextTECHnow makes Singapore debut

Global initiative launches in its third market with mission to connect startups and brands.

From left: John Ng,head of innovation and partnerships; Ian Loon and Christopher Harrison, co-heads of business transformation at Publicis Media Asia Pacific
From left: John Ng,head of innovation and partnerships; Ian Loon and Christopher Harrison, co-heads of business transformation at Publicis Media Asia Pacific

SINGAPORE - Publicis Media has officially launched NextTECHnow, its initiative aimed at building connections with startups and connecting them to clients, in the island nation.

This marks the third market to launch this initiative, after London and Shanghai, with clients such as Heineken, Visa, and P&G on board.

It is part of a larger initiative that included the company’s pledge to invest in 90 digital startups to commemorate its 90th anniversary in January 2016. In June this year, Publicis Groupe also unveiled its Viva Technology Paris, an event devoted to startups and innovation, held at Porte de Versailles in Paris.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, John Ng, head of innovation and partnerships, business transformation, at Publicis Media Asia Pacific, said that this is “the right time” for the launch in Singapore, as the platform fills a “genuine need for activated innovation”.

“Regardless of location, most clients are apprehensive of disruption, but we do see them accelerating their test-and-learn agendas,” he said. “Publicis Media Singapore clients are no different than elsewhere.”

Ng said that while there are many places where startups are disrupting traditional businesses, NextTECHnow’s primary focus has to be where startup tech can make the most impact, and that is for brands in the airline, tourism, hospitality, financial-services and consumer-goods industries.

Through this initiative, Publicis Media intends to serve as an agnostic connector for the startup community, to build upon business and marketing opportunities and resolve challenges for Publicis Media clients.

Clients across the four agencies will have access to startups that can deliver innovative technologies to re-engineer their customer experience, such as development of artificial intelligence, chatbots, augmented reality, or deep form-level insights for lead-generation campaigns.

“While we focus on emerging technologies, it is always strategic so to ensure that client businesses are future-proofed,” said Ng.

Lessons and challenges

Ng shared that based on the initiative’s rollout in other countries, the agency has learned that the success of the programme depends on having a clear brief against the business challenge and for clients to be specific in their project scope. 

“Having an open mindset, long-term vision and tolerance for risk is also crucial in the implementation of the project,” he said.

Looking at the number of corporate accelerators set up to date in Singapore, Ng believes CEOs are taking startups seriously.

“The challenge we hear most often is that they do not know where to start,” he said. “And when they do, they will find that there is a lot of work that goes into connecting, evaluating, filtering and managing startup relationships.”

This is the role Publicis hopes NextTECHnow will fill, identifying the right innovation partners and working seamlessly with the teams responsible for brands to ensure that the individual client needs are addressed.

As one of the top concerns for marketers and brands would be the credibility of the startup and the viability of its technologies, Ng said NextTECHnow would do all the heavy lifting in evaluating the startups. This will free up marketers and brands and enable them to focus on “more strategic conversations with Publicis Media.”

As for the benefits for startups, Ng said that conversations with potential partners highlighted common challenges, such as a lack of knowledge about brands and their needs. Because of this, startups spend a disproportionate amount of time pitching and trying to respond to questions about what they do and the value they bring to the table.

“With us, we already know what the client priorities are, and being able to share what we know about the startups across our network means these startups can spend more time developing their products,” Ng said.

Asked about what metrics will define success for the effort, Ng said the goal is to help clients fulfil a greater transformation purpose. Success will then be defined by the agency’s ability to solve business challenges for the C-suite and marketers. 

“Business models evolve constantly, but the cost and risks associated in developing in-house tech remains high,” he said. “NextTECHnow will also help fill the needs of brands that are currently not met by the ‘big tech’.”

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