IPG Mediabrands targets double digit growth with focus on content and analytics

It’s been around 3 years since Bala Pomaleh has been at the helm of IPG Mediabrands. A 28-year veteran of the industry, he took over from Prashant Kumar and has led the company to greater heights.

Marketing Magazine recently caught up with him to ask him about the current state of affairs in the advertising marketplace in Malaysia and beyond.

We are now already in September of 2019, how have things been so far?

Things have been extremely challenging as our market growth is rather flat, however, we have double digit growth targets to deal with. Positively, we are on track at this point due to organic initiatives and new business growth across our businesses. We have doubled in size in the last 3 years and grown in the areas we bet on, namely content, digital and analytics.

With all the focus on trans-formative forces within the advertising marketplace, apparently its been reported that APAC CMOs want to focus on long-term transformation. What’s your take on this?

I think it would be important to understand what is defined as long term. Long term plans have to be backed by solid short term plans. Clear milestones need be established for immediate wins versus achieving longer term goals.

Those who cannot articulate this are probably buying time. I don’t believe any plan longer than 3 years is viable in this day and age. We have enough data points to identify short term improvements vs longer term achievements. In Y1, you need to ascertain all the issues, and thereafter the focus should be on fixing these issues before embarking on more ambitious plans.

Bala and the Exco team

The rise of CX (consumer experience) seems to be signalling a shift in terms of where an agency needs to focus its efforts on, or is it just more of the same? What’s your take on it?

It is clear from various research that CX is the way forward. There is enough empirical data to suggest positive CX translates into brand recall and profitability.

Consumers now expect positive experiences across all their touchpoints – social media, mobile or in person. Most importantly, they expect immediacy.

At Mediabrands, CX is part of the whole customer journey. CX capabilities are embedded into our various agency teams including content, digital, technology, analytics and out of home, and our integrated teams work together to produce holistic campaigns to drive results.

Over the next few years we expect to invest further into this area in tandem with client needs for this expertise. Examples of our CX work includes the following cases from MMA:




Marketers are increasingly using geo-location and other data-centric measures for incredibly focused and targeted advertising these days, what’s your opinion on this?

Geography has always been a key criteria in media planning but with location data this has brought planning precision to a new level.

Location data has two distinct components – device location and venue location. It is critical to have the correct intersection between the device location and venue location in order to draw any meaningful intelligence from the data. 

However, the holy grail is not just location data. We believe beneath every brief there hides a business problem. The crux to solving this problem lies in the audience.

At Mediabrands, our philosophy behind solving the business problem lies in isolating the high value audience (HVA) from the target audience. The HVA, which is a subset of the target audience, can make a difference to the business bottom-line.

In a recent global survey of 1,000 CMOs and senior-level marketers on customer experience, conducted by the Isobar agency, 85% of respondents said that creativity and big ideas that “build the brand and that make create an emotional connection” are important to the future success of their business. How do you see this scenario playing out in the APAC scene?

I completely agree with this statement. There are too many forgettable ads in our ecosystem, and it is a complete waste of money as they provide little cut through. There have been conflicting reports of late that state that emotional content is being shunned in favour of practical information.

Whilst this may be true for more fact-based ads in relation to products and services, the same does not hold true when it comes to brand building. Ads that cannot elicit an emotional response – be it joy, fear, sadness, curiosity will give poor ROI. Effective ads also require less media frequency as they stick to minds much quicker.

At Mediabrands, ideation and creativity are a core part of our DNA. In the last 3 years we have tripled our creative resources. I’m pleased to say that we have managed to demonstrate consistent excellence across all awards up for grabs in Malaysia.

Bala Pomaleh, CEO of IPG Mediabrands

In your years of experience, how have things changed within the advertising marketplace in Malaysia?

I have now been in this industry for 28 years, which is close to 60% of my life! It has been an extremely exhilarating ride and experience, and I have seen the industry evolve significantly in this time. We were once full service, then un-bundled into specialisation, now we are re-bundling for better integration and cost savings.

The level of personalisation has increased drastically to the point where we can target an individual with customized messaging. The choice of media and how content is disseminated has evolved from analogue to digital, traditional print and OOH to digital.

We now have a way more complex level of planning as there are numerous platforms to consider with much more consumer insights and data analytics. There are now a whole range of new jobs and titles we never had previously – data scientist, CX planners , programmatic technicians, UI/UX etc

Finally, looking forward to the future, how do you see the evolution of IPG MediaBrands in a marketplace where its all about being flexible and adaptable ?

Being agile has always been a strength for us, and is a value deeply embedded in our culture. We have been quick to adept to market needs and conditions and have always invested ahead.

For us it will be about “#winningtogether” and this means greater integration to support winning together internally, with clients and our media partners as well.

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