Emily Tan
Sep 30, 2016

The inside story: Havas Media Malaysia lands Lenovo SEA

In this exclusive interview Campaign Asia-Pacific speaks to APAC CEO Vishnu Mohan and Malaysia CEO Andreas Vogiatzakis about the strategy behind the newly launched agency and its big regional win.

L-R: Andreas Vogiatzakis, Vishnu Mohan, and global CEO Alfonso Rodés Vilà at the launch party Wednesday.
L-R: Andreas Vogiatzakis, Vishnu Mohan, and global CEO Alfonso Rodés Vilà at the launch party Wednesday.

MALAYSIA - Havas Media Malaysia has been appointed regional media agency of record for Lenovo following a competitive pitch against incumbents MEC and ZenithOptimedia. 

The account, which is worth more than US$10 million, will span Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam, and will cover media strategy, planning and buying. 

Kenneth Low, head of marketing at Lenovo Asean, said in a statement that Havas was awarded the account based on its "strengths in business and consumer marketing, media strategy, business intelligence and research capabilities". The network was also selected thanks to its strong presence in all five countries. 

"With a team of proven industry leaders, we are convinced Havas Media will help us elevate the business to the next level," Low said. 

A regional win such as this, led out of Malaysia, was made possible by the full integration of the Malaysian office into the Havas Network, according to the company's Asia-Pacific CEO, Vishnu Mohan, and Malaysia group CEO, Andreas Vogiatzakis.

Until March this year, Havas Media operated in Malaysia via an affliate agency, Trapper Media. The six-year partnership ended due to "different directions" according to Mohan and Vogiatzakis said. 

Havas Media, which kept silent on the split at the time is now ready to speak following the launch of Havas Malaysia in June. 

"Having an agency from the start gives us the latittude and flexibility to build a talent-force that we believe could be the future of what we want to do, as opposed to appropriating something and then forcing our way through," said Mohan. "With the launch of a new agency that's wholly our own, we don't have to undo anything, per se, and so this is the natural choice."

In response to this article, Trapper Media Group CEO Sivanathan Krishnan told Campaign Asia-Pacific that it was Trapper's decision to terminate its contract with Havas Media. "We had different growth plans, and as the largest local independent media communications agency in Malaysia, we believed that unshackling from Havas would be the best way forward for us."

Overall, Malaysia's media market has been flat or in decline for the past two years, directly in contrast with its neighbouring countries, observed Mohan. "The market just has not been seing growth consistent with the rest of Southeast Asia."

Nevertheless, Mohan is confident that there are strong opportunities in Malaysia. "It's an exciting, social-savvy market," he said. "But to tap that you would have to create a very differnet model from what's already existing in the market. One that recgnises the ability to do something disruptive and break the stagnancy."

The right model, he added, would be a digital agency that also does traditional, rather than vice-versa. 

"There is a need for a holistic model that is able to conceive, create, ideate and distribute digital and mobile native ideas," continued Mohan. "There are players in the market that have some or more of these components, but they exist in silos."

Vogiatzakis, who officially started work on August 1, has been feverishly working to build a pool of talent that will fulfill this vision. Based on his decade-long experience as CEO of Omnicom Media Group Malaysia, he believes that there is a strong desire in the marketplace to have a truly full-service agency. As such, Havas Media's integration with creative arm Havas Worldwide was a strong draw for him. 

"Clients really want ideas and solutions that work for them. Frankly when you look at the agencies many are capable but can we do that collaboratively?" he asked. 

It was the opportunity to build something new, with the backing of a global agency network, that drew Vogiatzakis to the new role. 

"This sort of chance doesn't come along very often," he said. "I was very happy with Omnicom, but there is a freshness to the energy at Havas Media—possibly because it's still privately owned and doesn't have to answer to shareholders," said Vogiazakis. 

So far, Havas Media Malaysia has a dedicated team of 20, not including the back office. By the end of next year, Mohan expects the agency to double in size. The agency's key talent includes GM Christine Chang, formerly of Edelman, and head of digital, Roopal Julka, who joined from Accuen.

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