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|Radical thinker brings creative marketing solutions to media game!|
|Monday, 11 October 2010 03:19|
In the last two years, since Prashant Kumar rose to become CEO of Universal McCann, he turned the agency into a strong contender with a strategic and creative edge. The company has in the last two years retained all its major clients, tripled their overall billings, pioneered social marketing through their unique structure, tools and talent and produced more than 3000 minutes of programming including a dozen branded TV dramas and six music videos. Now that’s what we call working the mojo!
One of their recent success stories is Cerebos. BRAND’s Essence of Chicken by Cerebos considered a traditional Chinese health medicine eager mothers forced upon their children during exams to increase mental alertness, needed to reposition itself among the Malay youths as a lifestyle brand to avoid over saturation in their current market. UM created an expression, ‘Generasi Hebat’, to appeal to the target market. (creative agency)
With a clever twist of branded content, they promoted it through a song “Juara” sung by Malaysia’s 5 Akademi Fantasia stars, produced a music video, and distributed the “Hebat” tie which became a shared symbol of all BRAND’s fans. They used platforms such as TV, radio, concerts, blogs and a Music Video Facebook application on their fan page allowing fans to interact with the brand by superimposing their pictures into the music video.
This resulted in more than 16,478 Facebook fans during the campaign period, 80% of which were Malay youths, 80,000 video views online, 974,003 Yahoo! Search results for ‘Generasi Hebat’, “Juara” rated one of the Top 10 requested songs on Hot.fm, voted as one of the Top 10 youth campaigns by 8TV viewers and delivered a 15% sales growth.
THRIVING IN THE RECESSION
Being media-neutral and client focused helped
As the new CEO, Prashant was immediately up against downtime challenges of the recession and a transitioning management. Some considered him too young for the task but he proved them wrong. Instead of cutting prices and trimming staff, he added value to client’s business through media creativity.
Keeping a steady eye on delivering results, Prashant also put high performance delivery at the centre of UM’s business model. Performance compensation is an important component of every business deal based on sales, market share or brand preference performance. They also earn remuneration based on negotiation power.
The model saw UM taking a shared risk with their clients proving themselves as business partners. Prashant admits, no number of fancy ideas can dilute the fact that ultimately it is about the business. Whether it is driving revenue, brand preference or awareness, goals are met when every team member has his or her eye on the deliverable. Either negotiation or strategy, all teams have to deliver on the marketing objective.
“You may have a brilliant connection platform but if you do not get a great deal you cannot afford it. You may also have a fantastic deal but if it is not relevant to your target audience then it is pointless. Our success stems from the symbiotic relationship between the negotiation leader and strategy leaders. We ensure both these leaders have knowledge of the other’s skill.” He adds, “I see them as the glue; the play makers of communication.”
You don’t have to be a digital native to play the game
According to Nielsen’s adex figures, Malaysia’s Internet adex stands at a meagre 0.9%. A pathetic comparison to UK’s 10% which has overtaken TV. On the contrary, Universal McCann tripled their 2009 digital billings with search marketing contributing to 12% of their digital billings. Going back to the heart of the matter, Prashant reiterates, “All conversations must start from the marketing objective.”
“People talk about digital like marketer’s ambition is ultimately to do digital regardless of their objectives. We have to bear in mind that marketers are not looking for ideas but sales, market share and brand preference. They should realise digital does not operate in isolation but is an integral part of the solution. Digital conversations need to move from digital terrorism to the role of digital in driving client’s business.”
Known for their progressive work in the Social Media arena, UM possesses a proprietary social media tool called ‘Tune In’. They saw the need for a localised social media tool as many global tools had issues with understanding the nuances of local language, incapable of deciphering the relevant readings and insights from the conversations captured and were quite expensive. Global tools however are still an option for clients.
Tune In as the name defines, plugs in to conversations in the social media circle. It helps to map sentiments and see how brand preferences are built or diluted and measures media dollar investments and returns. With Media 2.0, earned media is taking over the ranks of paid and owned media.
The significant emphasis they place on social media is evident through what went on to become the biggest social media campaign in Malaysia. The ‘Everyone Connects’ campaign garnered 1.16 million unique viewers during the event, 6, 000 user-generated content pieces, more than 30,000 fans on Facebook during the campaign, 22% increase in brand loyalty among youths and 16% increase in sales of TM’s broadband packages. goviral.com voted it as one of the top 10 viral campaigns in the world for the year 2009.
DEFINING THE INDUSTRY’S ROLE
Holistic always works
His charm offensive coupled with digital savvy skills and flexible working style, gives Prashant the perfect competitive edge. As the lines between media and creative blur, integrated communications is a natural evolution of the media scene. Prashant explains, “The culture nurtured in Universal McCann is fluid, multi-focal, non-hierarchical and play-and-learn oriented. Assembly lines do not work any more.”
He adds, “We are moving towards an open source architecture. We have a dedicated team of integrated planners working with each client but the additional skill sets are added or removed when needed. For example, if there’s a campaign built around social media, then the Social Media Director will take the lead.” Ad dollar value is also of concern. RM1 in adspend today compared to the year 2000 is much less effective due to increased media message clutter. “The only way to maintain ROI is to find new channels, insights and ideas that can capture the audience and be executed in a platform neutral environment.”
A NEW DAWN
And the best is yet to come
Prashant Kumar has taken Universal McCann to great heights and shows no sign of stopping. His efforts to-date has yielded results, some of which was celebrated at Media Specialists Association Awards 2010. UM walked home with the Grand Prix award, Agency of the Year award and also bagged the most number of awards - 14 in total. Their client TM, won Advertiser of The Year.
UM has come a long way in the last two years. As they continue to top themselves and deliver over and above client’s expectations, Prashant summarises their goals as gaining the respect of a McKinsey, delivering new age story-telling akin to Pixar and attaining data centricity of Google. UM is determined to prove media as a transformative force in marketing.
PUTTING PRASHANT IN THE HOT SEAT
As you have mentioned, you take shared risks with your clients through performance compensation. What makes you confident to deliver on your promised ROI?
ROI is a much misused term. At UM we have ROBI (Buying) and ROCI (Communication). Buying refers to how great a deal one can negotiate for media value. For example, I pay RM100, 000 and gain in return RM500, 000 worth of spots. ROCI is the brand or sales value. For us, when calculating ROI, ROCI should take precedence, followed by ROBI. ROCI requires analytical skills that are a scarce skill in the market. Many equate ROI with ROBI but our remuneration is tied closely with ROCI.
There has been talk that media agencies should be combined with their creative agency’s network to offer a holistic service to clients. How many of your current clients are from Interpublic’s creative agencies?
The sad reality is, some creative agencies want this, but I think they should move on. We do not need to be one company but rather foster collaborative, seamless efforts through mutual respect and synergy. Great ideas should be the unifying force. The new mantra is not dependence or independence but interdependence and interoperability. Regarding our dependence on Interpublic’s creative agency, less than 5% of our revenue is from shared local contracts. 95% of our contracts are independent. Having said that, we are close to our IPG sisters and are proud of our shared DNA.
There have been rumours that you are leaving UM Malaysia and moving on…
(Laughs) For last two years people have been telling me that I am going somewhere. I have been rumoured to be going to Philippines, Dubai, China, New York, London, Bali and back home to India (my wife liked the Bali one). My reactions have moved from surprise to amusement to a philosophical ‘whatever’. Our detractors have even tried telling prospective clients in pitches.
Today, at every level in UM we have half a dozen talent, who are so much better than me. Ours is a success that we all own and have built together. So all this motivated speculation is pointless really. I have been in Malaysia since 2003 and I have chosen the country twice. My wife loves the country, so do I and my children are made in Malaysia. Malaysia is the chosen home.I am not going anywhere! Not for a long long time. Period.
UM is moving towards marketing solutions and not just media planning and buying. How do you see the media landscape panning out in the next five years as agencies become more integrated in its offerings?
Most immediate will be the development of more socially infused digital media. Location will also become a default backdrop on social conversations enhancing mobility. Personalised search will be all the rave as search history of your friends from Facebook will have an influence on your results. Add to that less agnostic search results and more intention fared. Every time you click on something online, marketers can learn more about your preferences and marketing messages can be planted according to your intentions. Due to this, the privacy debate will become more focused. Visual searching instead of just word searches will be made an option.
Are you someone your peers love to hate?
(amused laugh) I would rather it be, hate to love. I believe our industry’s challenges are not so much internal, pitting one player against the other. The biggest challenges come from outside. The pie is so big that there’s a whole lot for everyone if they get their act together. There is also definitely many opportunities for competitors to collaborate to push the industry forward.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 24 October 2010 15:09|