DAN’s CEO touts the importance of digital transformation

A shift towards disruptive technologies within the advertising marketplace requires a rethink by the big players to be more dynamic, nimble and agile.

We sat down for a chat with Ashish Bhasin, CEO for the Greater South of Dentsu Aegis Network and delved into the intricacies of this brave new world.

He feels that there is a dramatic shift happening within the advertising marketplace these days. The digital onslaught is forcing many advertising agencies and marketers to rethink their strategies going forward.

Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) is one of those of companies which was founded on the need to go down the digital route in a big way.

Bhasin is of the opinion that digital transformation is now the de facto standard for advertising agencies and marketers to stay ahead of the curve in this day and age.

He believes a lot of growth will come out of this region. India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos all come together in a huge population base that exceeds 2 billion.

“All the economies are hustling and bustling, showing tremendous growth, and it’s exciting…of course, there are a whole raft of challenges that come with it too,” he said.

He said that outsiders may look at this markets as being in total chaos, but there are great opportunities in these marketplaces.

In terms of technological advancements such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IOT), he feels that technology is an enabler, and there are two kinds of technology that are at play here.

“You have the first type of technology that permeates the life of a consumer, such as social media platforms; and there are other technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and others like 5G and IOT that have huge potential but are still relatively niche,” he explains.

“You’ve got to hedge your bets on what’s going to be more likely to succeed in the near future,” he added.

Bhasin feels that the success and failure of advertising agencies will also be determined by who can hold the client’s hands while navigating this tumultuous period of digital transformation, because that’s where the future is heading.

“Some clients fear digital transformation, akin to a ‘deer in the headlights’ scenario, where some are just woefully underprepared for this new digital age,” he added.

The ones who have future-proofed their business are also doing much better financially than others who have lagged behind in this digital era.

“One thing that I can safely say is that clients in 2019 cannot afford to think that it’s business as usual, because there is no such thing as business as usual in this rapidly evolving marketplace,” he said.

In terms of the Malaysian advertising marketplace, Bhasin feels that it’s a reasonably evolved market, and there is definitely a digital thrust that has been evident in the last few years.

“I think traditional media, like in many other countries, will come under pressure, and times are changing and consumer consumption habits are evolving as well,” he added.

He believes that print companies need to evolve rapidly, digitize their content to avoid being left behind, and prepare to cater to consumers that want their fill of the news immediately.

 “Making print, TV and digital work in a synergized manner will be far better than having a scenario where traditional mediums have to battle with digital channels for airtime and exposure,” he explains.

He feels that advertising agencies, media owners and marketers need to have a holistic approach to branding and communication strategies to ensure brands get it right for the consumer’s benefit.

In a related development recently, Sir Martin Sorrel revealed that his new venture, S4 Capital, will focus on content creation, first-party data and programmatic advertising to gain an edge in the marketplace.

He also said that “clients don’t care where the talent comes from”, they just want “results”. Furthermore, he feels that holding companies need to morph into service companies, like McKinsey & Co.

Interestingly, he feels that the DAN is “best positioned to accomplish this shift”. Sorrell is of the opinion that the management of individual agencies need to collaborate to best serve the clients.

Bhasin agrees with Sorrell’s assessment of DAN in this regard. In terms of holding companies morphing into service companies, he doesn’t think that needs to happen.

“Nonetheless, one of the biggest problems with agencies over the years were the creation of silos, and this made it very difficult for clients to manage their relationships and business concerns,” he expands.

In this regard, DAN’s current approach is the most focused and future proof model that has a single profit and loss reporting structure that what clients are looking for in an agency.

In the case of DAN Malaysia, its CEO, Nicky Lim, has the flexibility to pull required talent from disparate divisions to come together in a seamless manner that is agile enough to meet customer requirements.

“Being born in the digital era, DAN has a huge advantage as compared to its competitors in the marketplace, and this puts us in good stead for the future,” he concludes.

Be sure to check out our 2nd part of the interview at 

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