Effie Malaysia’s 2023 Agency of The Year: Fishermen Integrated – An Inside Look

Disruptive. Entertaining. Inspiring. Impactful. These are words commonly used to describe campaigns headed by Effie Malaysia’s Agency of the Year for 2023, Fishermen Integrated.

11 years in the making, this astounding achievement by one of Malaysia’s finest has been slowly brewing, thanks to the many collaborations it has established with renowned local and international brands over the years.

Through strong local insights and bold creative ideas, Fishermen have produced brilliant, locally-driven campaigns  for its clients that resonate with Malaysian audiences.   

A Steady Growth

Local with a global heart and a presence in Singapore, Fishermen Integrated is the first locally-owned independent agency to take home the Effie Malaysia Agency of the Year Award, beating out some of the more established players  in the country.

Apart from clinching the top agency award at the 2023 Malaysian Effie, Fishermen also scooped up 4 Silver and 2 Bronze awards at the same event for its work on campaigns for TIME Internet, Grab, Gaviscon and WONDA Coffee.

With these achievements, Fishermen has reinforced its position as a small yet powerful presence that commands the attention of the industry. Apart from the Effie, Fishermen has won the Kancil Awards’ Golden Kancil twice (in 2015 and 2019), as well as a Kancil Gold for Creative Effectiveness.

It has also been honoured with the Grand Prix at the Malaysian Digital Association’s (MDA) d-Awards in 2022, and named Advertising Agency of the Year at the APPIES 2022 Malaysia Marketing Campaigns Awards.

Looking back at their steady growth, the team at Fishermen is immensely grateful for the trust and confidence given to them by their clients, as well as their partners — Reservoir, Graph Studio, Think Tank, 30 Grid, Societe Films and Green-i — who have helped bring their ideas to life.

For Joyce Gan, co-founder and Group Brand Director, Fishermen’s journey may seem like a pretty amazing ride, but the team has also encountered its fair share of challenges and obstacles.

“Fishermen’s evolution is not one of a sharp incline. Our 11-year journey consisted of several developmental phases, beta testings, experimentations, and even a puberty phase.

These led us to where we are today, and we are grateful for this journey which was made possible through our clients and partners who took a chance on us and believed in our capabilities.”

Regardless of the challenges that lie ahead, Fishermen is ready and looking forward to more exciting years with new partnerships and new opportunities.

“We are all geared up and thrilled to be heading into the second decade of our journey. At Fishermen, we call it the teenage years. We promise our clients (present and future) that we will continue to hone our craft and develop our skills in this unchartered world that’s full of potential,” she added.

Merging Local Insights With Entertainment

Fishermen has come a long way since its humble beginnings. What started off as another creative and digital agency in Malaysia’s very competitive advertising industry, is slowly but surely making its mark, particularly in the branded entertainment zone.

“Creative businesses are never easy in this fast changing landscape, especially for a young agency like Fishermen. From the get go, our creative philosophy has always been about combining honest insights that are locally relevant, and executing our ideas in the most entertaining way possible to generate talkability. Of course, it’s easier said than done.

Fortunately, our creative philosophy has been well received by our clients. We created work that drove talkability for brands like Bank Simpanan Nasional, TIME Internet, Grab, BFM 89.9, Nando’s, Pizza Hut and many more.

Our work was also well received by our industry peers through our wins at the Kancils, Effie, APPIES and the Marketing Excellence Awards, among others,” said Andrew Tan, co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Fishermen.

Web Development, SEO and Conversion Optimisation

Fishermen also has a web development division led by Stephanie Vincent that is dedicated to assisting clients in constructing a meaningful online presence in the vast digital landscape. It also assists clients in devising digital solutions aligned with their specific business aspirations.

Beyond the usual website development scope, Fishermen is committed to creating user-centric experiences that resonate genuinely. This dedication to innovation is evidenced in collaborations with respected Malaysian brands such as PETRONAS, Sime Darby Oils, Gibraltar BSN, BIX Malaysia, Sharp Malaysia, and the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER).

While many agencies overlooked the SEO and conversion optimisation factor, Fishermen equipped itself with the analytics expertise, allowing it to gain the trust of its clients in keeping their websites and SEO in good standing, some for over five years.

For David Alan Bates, co-founder and Managing Director of Fishermen Analytics, improving the customer experience goes a long way, and looking back at their steady track record, they have been able to help their clients, who come from a variety of industries, increase their clicks by over 300% because they were attentive to the gaps that needed better brand storytelling.

“The decision to put emphasis on analytics to drive our decision making, even creative ones, came ten years ago when the analytics team within Fishermen was formed. This was when many brands were not even looking at their website data with any consistency, much less anything else.

But we strongly felt that the industry as a whole was going to undergo a big shift towards being more data driven, and thankfully we were prepared with a strong team, and also the trust of our clients who shared the same belief and the ‘big data dream’ that we had,” Bates added.

The Hook: Connecting Influencers With the Right Brand

Fishermen has also branched out into influencer marketing recently via its new division — aptly named The Hook — which focuses on working with key opinion leaders to promote brands and services more effectively.

Formed in response to a steady demand for influencer marketing in the country, The Hook is envisioned as the bridge that connects the right influencer with the right brands, paving the way for a seamless 3-way relationship between clients, influencer and agency.

The Hook is led by Tan Lih Wern, a dedicated and talented member of the Fishermen team who has played an instrumental role in the company’s growth. Recent notable campaigns she oversaw include with Jenn Chia for Alcon’s PRECISION1 campaign; xNova, Malaysia’s top eSports athlete for the Goodday Charge re-launch; and Ms. Puiyi for the Durex Academy.

The team also has plans to integrate AR/VR and other tech solutions for their clients in the near future.

Layan Studios, Jom!

Fishermen has also expanded their team to include another new brand called Layan Studios. Getting its name from a Malaysian colloquial term that means “relax” or “sit back and enjoy”, Layan Studios is Fishermen’s own in-house production team which focuses on churning out insightful and impactful social media content and film production.

Kimberly Hii, Fishermen’s own in-house director,  leads a team of content creators and video editors to realise the dreams of their clients in the best and most creative ways possible.

Fishermen Singapore: Creativity Meets Entertainment in the Lion City

Moving across the border down south, Fishermen Integrated’s presence in Singapore, led by co-founder and Executive Creative Director Adam Miranda, aims to fill the gap in the country’s advertising industry and bring vision to reality for clients across the border…and even beyond.

“From Day One, our adventurous plan was to sail as far as our little boat could take us. After setting up our Malaysia office, we opened up our Singapore office a year later.

Both sides have steady foundations with talented people making ‘unboring’ creative work. And we run both sides like it’s one office. In the near future, we will be looking for our next venture beyond Malaysia and Singapore. That’s all I should be saying right now on that topic,” Adam teased.

Some of the current clients under Miranda’s purview include Nando’s, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Jollibee, Betadine, Yeo’s, Shake Shack, and many more.

We look forward to more engaging content down south, as Miranda and his team weave the classic Fishermen magic.

People, the Driving Force to Success

For Fishermen, people are the driving force behind its success, be it their clients, the audience or their team.

The agency makes investing in its own talent a priority — many of its team members have in fact grown from junior roles to heads of departments.

Mark Darren Lee, co-founder and Managing Director of Fishermen Integrated, affirms the importance of nurturing its talent to see them grow with the company.

“It’s always been about the people for us. Our team members are the true heroes, crafting ideas that bring smiles to our clients. That’s why it’s important that we nurture a workplace where it’s not just about work, but also about building friendships while growing in knowledge with like-minded people,” Mark said.

At their headquarters, Fishermen applies an open concept and flat structure work process. They adhere to the needs of their team members and are constantly looking for ways to harness positivity in their daily work life.

They are ideas and solution-driven people, and hope that both their staff and clients can be proud of the work they do and the accolades they receive.

Fishermen will soon be moving to a larger office space to cater to the demands of a post-pandemic work culture. The new workspace will include an in-house mini studio, a play area, and open spaces for brainstorming.

And in line with providing more rewards for their long-term staff, Fishermen is also looking to implement up to one month of paid leave for their team members who have been with them for three, five, seven and ten years. “A longer break will help refresh and reinvigorate their minds further before coming back to work,” said Mark.

The team is also taken for yearly retreats to Club Meds in the region for a fun time away from work. Staying true to the theme of “work hard, play hard”, the Fishermen are also no strangers to quarterly parties for a boost of positivity. Fresh minds = fresh ideas, always!

With a firm footing, a solid foundation and a clear vision of what they hope to achieve, Fishermen continues to strive hard in their endeavour to become one of the best agencies, not only in the country but also across the region.

Proudly Malaysian and relentless in spreading the Malaysian pride to the world through their work, it is undeniable that Fishermen is well on its  way to creating more awe-inspiring masterpieces that will tug on your heartstrings and tickle your emotions.

“To all our clients, we say a big thank you. Your trust in our work means the world to us and we are committed to keep finding new ways to achieve your goals and excel even further together!” concluded Mark.

This article was first published in MARKETING Weekender

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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

This is the only event where Live Presentations meets Live Judging.

Similar to TED Talks, The APPIES is the chance for great presenters with outstanding work to show it off to some of the industry’s most important industry leaders.

This year’s winners will receive Gold, Silver or Bronze trophies for 21 categories, and 6 special Best of Best categories (red trophies) that require no submissions!

Campaign entries must have run between June 2023 to May 2024

Submissions Deadline
30th June 2024

APPIES Festival – Judging & Presentations
11th – 12th July 2024 (Malaysia)


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