Energising brands is an infectious way to succeed

September 7, 2018

A MINIMALIST work space greets visitors and a creative vibe is felt instantaneously when walking into the open office area. The uniform: T-shirt, jeans and plenty of character. The motivation: To be bold, brave and fearless.

Reprise is a brand that needs no introduction. The digital marketing agency just got stronger after IPG Mediabrands rolled its agencies Society and Ansible under the Reprise banner – a move that makes plenty of sense given the current landscape.

IPG Mediabrands chairman and chief executive officer Philippe Krakowsky was recently reported as saying the relaunch of Reprise will allow the company to harness the expertise of three of its leading specialist agencies –Ansible, Society and Reprise– to deliver a full spectrum of performance media capabilities that is united by a connected strategy.

As a full-service performance company, Reprise is breaking new ground on how digital marketing is monetised with innovative buys that help create meaningul brand interactions into full blown sticky campaigns.

TNB’s recent “Rumah Epik Fantastik” raya campaign is a case on point that effectively demonstrates the bridge between technology, creative content and performance media capabilities that weave a connected strategy. Reprise, being a non-4As agency, hogged the spotlight recently by winning the prestigious Golden Kancil award for its KFC campaign “The Other Sanders”.

The campaign drove home a strong message in commemorating International Women’s Day by promoting Claudia Sanders, wife of KFC founder Colonel Sanders who played a vital role for the brand to become a global icon. Reprise also won two Gold, two Silver, one Bronze and five Merit awards en route to becoming the second most awarded agency at the Kancil Awards 2018.

But the team behind Reprise is far from repeating passages of its own music – as its name suggests. The talented folk within the company constantly challenge themselves to create new out-of-the-box elements that push boundaries at every level. Those who know Reprise group managing director Darren Yuen and managing director of creative content Stanley Clement, describe them as fun, easy-going and living in a comic cosmic.
The duo, however, showcased their other side – as thinkers and rightful thought leaders of their industry – during a recent chat at their office at Wisma LYL in Petaling Jaya.

“It’s not easy. We often do things out of the box, but everything is calculated and presented to the clients in a language they understand … when we are on the same page, we then embark on fruitful conversations,” said Darren, who turns 42 soon.

“Yes, the decision makers are often from a certain age group. But we don’t tell our clients what we think is right. We let the data we have compiled speak for itself. Every move we make is justified through data.”

He calles the journey “enlightening” as clients will never turn away new ideas if they see their potential backed with data. “Clients want to know how best a campaign can work to their advantage and how it will increase revenue. The data we have and the campaigns we strategise meet their demands. Now with Society and Ansible under Reprise, there will be a holistic view and seamless approach on how we do things.”

Darren said the convergence landscape must happen as many outfits work in silos. Stanley loosely called the convergence as a “one-stop centre” concept.

“That was what advertising firms were in the past. They did everything. Over the years, branches were created … different people played different roles but given the advancement of technology and with plenty of data, there is a need for a holistic approach and doing so is to converge all entities into one,” said Stanley, who turns 41 this year.

He insists mass appeal will never die but that conversations must be held at every level to ensure continuity.

“You can throw a rock into the water and it creates a big splash. And then what? There must be some form of continuity.

“If you’re selling jeans, you need to create conversations about the jeans. And then you need to create conversations about the different labels you have. Which cut will suit which individual is based on the data compiled. For example if you are a rider, you would prefer the boot cut for obvious reasons. It’s more comfortable when you’re seated on the bike,” explained Stanley who rides a Harley Davidson Road King.

“And the data we get is also about conversations that are happening right now to keep us on top of the game and relevant.”

Darren, however, was quick to add that the advertising scene today is different in many ways from decades ago. “Then it was linear. Today it is agile … it’s 24 hours prime time.”

Stanley added there should be a balance between getting the consumer’s attention and educating him or her about campaigns.

“The attention span has dropped. It’s all about mobile now and you have to create an impression within the first three seconds. If you don’t, you’ll be at the losing end.

“Once you get someone’s attention, you then proceed by informing him or her more about the campaign or product.”

“I’m not sure if this is the best example but look, if you’re going to start a conversation with someone about economics or how to save the world, they would just say ‘What the …’ But if you start with something light and then engage in a more educated conversation, then that will win their attention. So you can have slapstick and quality content in one go if it fits.”

Darren quickly added the slapstick approach may not be all bad.

“Look at it in detail and you will find valuable messages or insights. It may be presented in a funny or humorous manner but there’s often a powerful hidden message.”

Reprise serves some of the biggest brands and household names including Sime Darby, U Mobile, TNB and Nestlé. The company is also embarking on initiatives to encourage small-medium enterprises (SMEs) to invest in digital marketing. Late last year, the company launched Pasar Media to serve SMEs in Malaysia. Darren, a paintball enthusiast who has taken part in almost every paintball competition nationwide, spent 19 years with Carat Malaysia in his first job, climbing up the ladder to become its chief executive officer.

“I saw the opportunity in IPG Mediabrands and felt like this was an organisation where I could push boundaries. That’s why I’m here,” he says.
Stanley too has enjoyed stints with several big names – from Limkokwing University to the Malaysia Design Innovation Centre. But his most intriguing gig was as a brand manager in the Nation Branding Division of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Setapak boy, who is a proud Johannian (alumni of St John’s Institution), was there from July 2012 to November 2013 before joining IPG Mediabrands.

“I was working on the ‘Endless Possibilities’ project under the Prime Minister’s Office and it was an eye-opener.”

“We worked closely with the International Trade and Industry Ministry and Tourism Ministry, among others, to reposition and brand Malaysia to the world,” says Stanley, with a glint in his eye.

Looking back on their careers and life journeys, would they have done anything differently? Darren and Stanley gave a firm no. And their life stories somehow uphold the Reprise motto of being bold, brave and fearless.

“I aspired to be a tennis player but that didn’t work out,” says Darren, who looks the part.

“But no, I’ve never envisioned myself doing something else. I’m not the type of a person who is desk-bound and stuck doing the same thing day in day out. I love the freedom this industry offers and have zero regrets doing what I’ve been doing all this while,” he remarks.

For Stanley, his journey in this industry is his way of “changing the world”.

“As clichéd as it may sound, it is the truth. Everything we do today is our way of changing the world, of making an impact.”

“I applied to be a clerk for Maybank and got the job but I didn’t show up. I don’t know what life would have been like if I had taken the job. No disrespect to those in the banking line but I just can’t see myself doing anything else but this.”

Reprise eager to raise the bar

Long drives clear his mind, says Anwer…And it is with such clarity that Anwer Khan is able to foresee what works best for Reprise, its clients and the industry as a whole. IPG Mediabrands recently rolled its agencies – Society and Anisible – under the Reprise banner. The company is eager to be bold, brave and fearless. To Anwer, the motto should not be misconstrued as arrogance but serves as motivation to push the standards within the industry.

“This company has a lot of potential,” said Anwer, who is Reprise vice-president (strategy and integration).

“People are still trying to understand us but we are on the move and they are taking notice of us. They are now also seeing us in the market and noticing our work too.”

Anwer, who is from India, said Reprise winning the Golden Kancil award recently has created a “foray in the market”. “And by us taking on some big clients recently, it shows the market that we should be taken seriously.”

Anwer added that if Reprise was doing certain solutions for the market, it created an opportunity for others to take the same step. “And the learning will happen across the sphere because we all know in the media business, margins are small, so we have to think about innovation, how to serve clients better, get better insights … getting all these answers and putting them on the table is good for everyone.”

“We are pushing the bar up for everyone. It’s a good thing for the industry.” Anwer, having invested his time in Information Technology (IT) and investment banking, has come a long way to becoming a key member at Reprise.

And he is glad with the move of placing Ansible and Society under the Reprise brand. “When this concept was sold to me, I knew it would fly.”
“Now we see a lot of mingling within. The talents are sitting together, brainstorming together. All those minds when together on the same floor … obviously we will get the results much to the client’s interest.”

The car freak would like to embark on another long drive. “Back in India, I was working on a multimillion dollar pitch. It was 4am and I finally finished my work. I gathered some friends, we got into the car and drove from Delhi to Goa. That’s some 4,800km up and down. “There was once that I thought of driving from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh. I then made my way to Penang but went beyond and only stopped in Kangar (Perlis). These long drives are great to clear my head,” he said.

And with another long drive in the books, accompanied with tunes from the 80s, Anwer is set to find clarity as he seeks to strategically place Reprise further up in the competitive market.

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