HOW THIS AWARD-WINNING AGENCY IS AMPING UP THE GAME TO GO GLOBAL!

HOW THIS AWARD-WINNING AGENCY IS AMPING UP THE GAME TO GO GLOBAL!” was first published in MARKETING WEEKENDER Issue 345

Ampersand Advisory is embracing data-led solutions for five years running now. 

Ampersand Advisory is having a stellar year, and no other media agency has displayed this level of performance across 3 important award shows in 2022.

So what exactly is driving excellence at this agency that celebrates its 5th anniversary this year? 

We spoke to their team, and here is their secret sauce, in their own words.

What drives this award spree? 

Sandeep Joseph, Co-Founder and CEO:
We’ve been working hard trying to live up to our motto “business results, now!” That tagline comes directly after conversations with branding legend and our Chairman, Tan Sri Vincent Lee. 

We have never focused on awards: our focus has been trying to do the best things for our clients’ businesses, and to look after our people. But after growing steadily for the first 3 years and doubling our size in the pandemic, we wanted to test ourselves in the sphere of awards. 

Our logic was simple: let’s see if we have what it takes to compete against agencies with more people, more resources, more clients and more money to invest in award shows. Awards are a gauge of how good we are compared to our peers, and how much value we can bring. 

We decided this year we wanted to prove ourselves across different award shows, each with their own judging criteria, their own evaluation methodology and their own set of diverse judges, whether agency personnel or client side or a mix of both. 

Our performance clearly shows “It’s not a flash in the pan”. One award show can be a blip. Some agencies only focus on one award show, and flood it with many entries. But if we are winning strongly across all manner of awards shows, it’s a clear sign that we are bringing serious value to our clients and their businesses. 

This is the first time in our history that we entered Media Specialist Association Awards and the APPIES. Our people had to present to, and be grilled by a jury of agency experts and clients with deep marketing expertise. In the case of the APPIES, the judges were from across Asia, ranging from India to Japan and everywhere in between.

And even though we were debutants, we won big at these award shows. So the bar is really set high for next year.

What is our secret sauce? 

Sandeep: We’re data-led and business-driven. Which means we don’t indulge in media or creative ideas for the sake of it. The leader of our creative business, Janice Kiew, will not go forward with ideas she does not think will drive the client’s business, even if it is the prettiest visual or a path-breaking idea. And our media people, led by Lee Tse Yoon, will have a big say in what rolls out, because we ensure that media has informed, underpinned and strengthened creative thoughts. Ampersanders know which creative format works best, what are the benchmarks, what does not work and what must strictly be avoided. We’ve built a databank of norms and we run Bayesian simulations to understand how best to combine creative and media. 

It’s not the easiest approach to implement, but we have always believed that integrating creative and media, underpinned with smart data analytics, is truly the best way brands can get the most of the changed communication landscape.

EXPLORING NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE NOW 

Everyone talks about Virtual Reality, NFTs, the Metaverse. 

But what are they doing in that space? 

Are they able to impact their client’s business? We deploy new tech to drive business.

Let us share with you a case study of our work for Shiseido Malaysia that has won 16 awards this year, across multiple award shows.

The Challenge Facing Our Client: 

Mira, Senior Strategist:
One year into the pandemic, Malaysian women had adjusted skincare rituals, sought new brands, simplified routines as they WFH and traded down to hedge against an uncertain economy. Traditional channels like department store retail counters were closed.  

Shiseido’s competitors were outspending them and conventional E-commerce platforms offered little branding and differentiation. 

Facing these challenges, we had to re-launch Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate. 

The Ampersand Advisory approach: 

Due to limited budgets, it was critical to find the right audience and create a differentiated proposition for our relatively expensive product. 

Three key data insights drove us: 

Insight #1 — Malaysians flocked to online entertainment and gaming, viewing increased 5x for casual gaming videos from March 2020. (source: Google Malaysia) Women outnumber men for casual games by 3:1. (source: YouGov)

Insight #2 — Skincare searches include growing informational intent, signaling a behaviour shift towards self-discovery fuelled by the rise of ‘prejuvenation’ — preventing tell-tale signs of skin aging before they begin. (source: Google Trends) 

Insight #3 — Covid-19 cases soared in Q12021. Consumers were more pessimistic about 2021 vs 2020. (Invoke poll: Statista)

Honing In On Ultimune’s Prime Prospects

The gaming tribe had high affinity for skincare, wellness, technology and had strong passion for understanding how things work. They admire brands that innovate, embrace trends authentically and actively empower. 

The Strategy: /* Lifting Brand Prestige Through Transformation Of Ecomm Journey */ 

Janice Kiew, Head Of Creative Services:
The challenge for our e-commerce was to create engagement that drove purchase. Traditional digital marketing would follow a funnel: run ads for reach on other media channels, generate some engagement with a trickle down to sales on client website. Instead, we decided to broaden the funnel and Reimagine it: high engagement in a seamless new Virtual Reality Digital Space where product experience is similar to a real-world store, and purchasing can happen seamlessly on the client’s website with one simple click. 

Given the target audience (ie. gamer girls), the experience needed to be smooth and engaging, wihout the drawbacks of traditional video (don’t convert, slowburn) we worked hand-in-hand with our passionate and committed client to bring the glamour and style of Shiseido’s flagship store in Tokyo to Malaysia. We collectively decided to launch a category first Virtual Reality Tokyo Ginza Street, an E- commerce enabler that would excite interest and boost better conversion on their existing Shiseido Virtual Store. 

How: Re-Engineering Brand Delight 

We crafted a premium, cool yet geeky experience with gamification for skincare edutainment, instilling charm together with science via a new, interactive, immersive medium.

Our VR world had 7 engagement levels: 

  1. The Ultimune Museum  uncovered the secrets behind previous generations of this prestigious product, creating credibility.

  2. In the Botanicals Boutique, users interacted with key Ultimune ingredients learning of the brilliant anti-aging effects of Reishi Mushroom Extract and Roselle Extract, to help achieve their personal skin prejuvenation goals.

  3. The Beauty Lab provided users a front seat into understanding Shiseido’s technological prowess in science and botanical expertise fusing together in pure skincare synergy. Users were then quizzed to give them a chance to win the product itself.

  4. Shiseido Virtual Store gave users a novel experience of shopping in a VR world. At the beauty product bar a user could browses products just like in a physical store, and buy immediately.

  5. To lower the barrier to entry, samples were offered. Prospects could register when they learnt of Ultimune’s key USP of ‘visible change in 3 days’.

  6. We built an Entertainment Hub, a virtual arcade ‘Red Power Game’ situated on Tokyo Ginza’s Game Street for the Girl Gamer Tribe to try their hand at winning prizes worth RM450 each.

  7. Recognizing women’s interest towards holistic wellness, the platform offered invites (FOC) to real world Flow Studio Pilates and Yoga Classes. 

Mandy Chan, Head Of Performance:
We drove traffic to our VR platform using paid search, Facebook and Instagram ads, targeting the Gamer Girl Tribe by age, gender, geo-locations, handset type, psychographics, and more. 

We constantly optimized the media process, based on feedback data from our platform, to drive better quality traffic. By using re-marketing, lookalikes and other custom audiences, we could find the highest quality audiences not based on last click attribution, but based on conversion and business ROI.

Reaching Goals And Crossing Borders

Lee Tse Yoon, Head Of Media:
The virtual world surpassed all expectations within the campaign period. We overachieved all our targets for video views, campaign reach and traffic to the VR experience. Sampling goals were achieved, and the growth in e-commerce was gratifying.

What started as a challenge caused by the pandemic had become a Category First Reimagined Consumer Funnel via VR. 

But that was not the end of the story, there was a beautiful twist to the tale. 

Our work caught the attention of Shiseido Japan and Shiseido Europe and we are currently exploring a very exciting project where we adapt and augment our Virtual Reality work for several countries in Europe. We can’t say much more at this stage, but it does prove Ampersand Advisory, a Malaysian company, can do world-class work for a progressive, global client.

What Does The Future Hold For Ampersand Advisory? 

Sandeep: The first 5 years of our company have been action-packed. We have recently started buying media for clients in Singapore too, and we are thrilled at the possibility of exploring that new market and making a mark. 

Now that we’re growing our reputation, we need to be able to scale effectively. The engine of our growth is our people, and we need to ensure that our growing team of 60+ talents stay passionate and stay together. 

As we forge new experiences for consumers, we want to attract open-minded clients who want to do something bold, modern and different. With our background in data and insights, we can de-risk the uncertainties of the future for them. And we ensure for our clients we deliver business results now!

Awards won by Ampersand Advisory’s Shiseido Virtual Reality campaign… 

APPIES Asia Pacific 2022
Best in Marketing Innovation – Gold
Best In Customer Experience – Silver
Best in AdTech/MarTech – Bronze 

MARKies 2022
Most Creative Campaign Pivot – Silver
Most Creative Launch/Relaunch – Silver
Most Effective Use – Consumer Insight and Market Research – Gold
Most Effective Use of Mobile – Silver
Most Effective Use – Experiential – Bronze 

Media Specialists Association Awards 2022
Best use of MarTech – Gold
Best use of E-Commerce – Silver
Best use of data & analytics – Bronze 

MDA d Awards 2022 (Malaysia Digital Association)
Best Platform Development – Silver
How business beat covid – Silver
Best use of Digital Innovation – Silver 

Marketing Excellence 2021-2022
Excellence in Customer Engagement – Bronze
Excellence in Marketing to a specific Audience – Silver


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