VIETNAM – Having opened its doors in April of this year, digital performance agency Red2 may be a new player in Vietnam’s burgeoning market but hopes to make its presence felt beyond just fulfilling marketing objectives.
Co-founder and CEO Luke Janich moved to Ho Chi Minh in May, after having served as the managing director of iProspect Singapore for five years. Another founding team member is Oliver Woods who ran both regional social media director for Leo Burnett’s Samsung business across APACMEA, and was head of social for Malaysia.
The agency’s mission and vision is touted to be in contrast to much of the industry's current digital marketing, where the focus is often on producing creative work rather than performance.
In an email interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Janich said one of the key ways the agency has sought to differentiate itself is a focus on emerging disciplines underpinned by performance.
“We see the local market—and, indeed, the Southeast Asian market—as the perfect place to launch this new breed of agency,” he added. “When we founded Red2, we sought to embed innovation in our culture. Many agencies say this, but do they actually follow through? Our biggest innovation was rethinking what an agency could do and be.”
Janich said that this started with the agency’s office space, which provides a communal space to meet and share ideas.
“We noticed the lack of digital expertise in the marketplace, so we kickstarted a digital community by providing a communal space to meet and share ideas,” he added. “This is a space others can use, from techies, creatives to hackers…everyone's welcome.”
Janich shared that to support the community further, the agency hosts open events and that this year's calendar features presentations, training and networking events to bring “cutting-edge digital thought” to Vietnam.
He reported that two events were hosted in August around content marketing and real-time marketing, with roughly 40 to 50 attendees in each session.
“We are aiming to add value to the digital tech community, and in the process hope to find the brightest talent who are interested to join us on our journey,” said Janich. “To overcome the challenge of sourcing the best digital talent, we created a one of a kind programme for Vietnam's digital natives, for our size, shows the value we place on fresh talent.”
According to him, the agency’s approach has already starting to garner results, on its culture and work—and for attracting prospective employees.
“For instance, our inaugural internship scheme aims to nurture fledging techies and digital natives while giving them their first job in the industry,” said Janich. “It's also providing us with a pipeline of quality talent for the future. It's a new approach to honing digital talent in Vietnam.”
One of the things the agency is trying to achieve is to bring the latest digital thinking—from some of the top global networks—to Vietnam.
“Our team includes digital expertise from North America, South Pacific, and the APAC region, we’re a local agency with a global mentality,” said Janich, adding that the current make-up of the team is 75 percent local talent and 25 percent, international.
One of the current gaps being filled by the agency is its offering of AI development to clients, after noticing “no one in Vietnam, and indeed the wider region, was focusing on AI yet.”
“As one of the first movers in the area, we're already building intuitive AI chatbots for our clients, and these have huge potential,” said Janich.
He added that chatbots offer online customer service that remembers every past interaction. Or online food orders that build your order with you. And, even, targeted sales that no longer feel like selling, as we know it.
“It's just one area we're spearheading innovation through our expertise in technology and big data,” said Janich.
To date the agency already boasts a list of founding clients that includes global fitness company California Fitness & Yoga Centers, beauty and skin treatment brand Eri International and modeling agency, CA3 and luxury Fitness Equipment Technogym Vietnam.
The latest brand to join the portfolio, is global brand UFC, with the first UFC Gym in Asia having recently launched in Ho Chi Minh.
Over the next five years, Janich said, will see huge growth in the digital space as more and more consumers go online.
“The need for agencies like ours is only going to grow,” he added. “Brands need agencies that are specialists in not only traditional or digital marketing, but in a whole range of emerging specialist services. A key part of our strategy is to apply our approach to performance across all kinds of channels.”
Janich said for now, the team’s priority is Vietnam, though the mission is to grow its brand and works across Southeast Asia.
“We are already working with a few brands in Singapore, and some opportunities have recently come up in Malaysia and Thailand,” he added.
One more area of focus for the agency, in line with its mission to plug the lack of digital expertise in the market is the support and nurturing of local startups.
“Many of them see marketing as an optional added expense, whereas we show them that successful businesses are driven by successful digital marketing,” he added. "As long as we keep focusing on performance, we'll keep shaking up this market. It really is an exciting time for us—and for Southeast Asia."