Sophie Chen
Jan 10, 2013

Q&A: XM Gravity’s Kevin Mintaraga on digital advertising in Indonesia

Campaign Asia-Pacific speaks with Kevin Mintaraga, co-founder of Jakarta-based Magnivate (now XM Gravity) about the quick rise of his company, the future of digital and mobile advertising in Indonesia and attracting and retaining digital talent.

Kevin Mintaraga
Kevin Mintaraga

Kevin Mintaraga co-founded Jakarta-based Magnivate (now XM Gravity) in 2008, which grew to be Indonesia's largest agency in just four years. When it was acquired by JWT's XM Asia last year, he became WPP Group's youngest CEO at 26 years old.  

What led you to start an agency at such a young age?

It was the opportunity I saw in 2008. A friend of mine who was working for Nokia at that time had a hard time finding people who could do interactive marketing. It raised a question in me “if a big company like Nokia can’t manage it, there may be an opportunity here.” Through self-learning digital marketing, in 2008, my partner and I founded Magnivate, which was acquired by XM Asia Pacific last year.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for us at the early stage was how to accelerate our credibility, especially the digital market just started in Indonesia at that time. To overcome that, I put our team in a unique position that is all about innovation and technology. We built an attractive website with nice portfolio and approached people actively.

I worked with Paul Soon, CEO of XM Asia Pacific, on clients including HSBC and MasterCard. Then we did a campaign for Nokia, which added to our credibility, and started to expand from there.

How do you attract and retain digital talent?

The biggest obstacle in this industry is talent. There is no proper university education in digital advertising in Indonesia. We use innovation to attract and retain talent, such as an internal mobile app that we use to interact with employees, and internal challenges to motivate everyone.

I believe only happy people can make other people happy. Everything we do is connected with social media. When I keep my team happy, they spread happiness through social media, which will attract more talent.

What is the key to digital success in Indonesia?

The key to success in this business is to understand the clients’ business objectives, set the agreeable metrics with them, and tailor the strategies with an integrated approach to fulfill the business targets.

Also, management should be highly approachable, which enables employees to communicate horizontally.

The purpose of what you are doing should be making effective changes to the market itself, rather than creating a Facebook page or a single campaign only.

What’s the idea behind your Indonesia startup accelerator initiative, Project Eden?

Through my own business, I understand what works and what doesn’t in interactive marketing. There are many Indonesian entrepreneur-wannabees. So we decided to get them along and help this community. This also helps strength the middle layer of the market and prevents us being affected by the market shifting.

What are your suggestions for startup entrepreneurs in this business?

Passion is the key ingredient. I’m also a believer of creating sustainable business.

Startups need to be open for advice, gain access to the market and understand the business model, which is still mainly B2B in Indonesia.

In your opinion, what drives digital advertising/marketing in Indonesia over the next three years?

Internet infrastructure, which is being rapidly developed in Indonesia, will play a key role in the form of digital advertising in the next few years. Due to the weak infrastructure in the country, forms like video advertising are still lagging behind compared to many other countries in the region.

We are also seeing a shift to mobile advertising in Indonesia because of increases in smartphone adoption and heavy investment in e-commerce and social-commerce. With the increasing mentality of share-of-screen, a lot of agencies are playing catch-up now. Before, we looked at digital advertising in a more centric way, now it’s a share-of-screen type of approach.

Most Indonesians first see things and access the Internet through mobile phone. We will see more mobile advertising come in place, and most global initiatives now are application-based, which will complement the existing platforms.

In addition, advertisers are keener to leverage digital advertising. Video advertising on web and mobile will play a major part, and social-commerce will be really taking off.

What are your ambitions for the future?

While prioritise my family in the next few years, my ambition from a career standpoint is XM Gravity dominance, not just in Indonesia. I want to see more Indonesia people and also the other country offices play a bigger role in the region. My biggest satisfaction is to see my employees make achievement.

Campaign Asia

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