Media enlightenment at 3,000 feet above sea level

This piece was first published in MARKETING WEEKENDER Issue 356

BY THE HAMMER

GroupM’s hyper-fuelled SourceCode event belied the serene setting it was nestled in an 18th Century French-inspired seven-star abode. 

The perfect bouncing board for a hotbed of opinions which threatened my sanity in the hills at The Chateau Spa & Wellness Resort. 

188 industry players, including marketers, gathered over two days for an overnight brainbang amidst a 130-million-year-old rainforest. 

Only the singular nature of a Macallan could take my overeducation before the sun set on a day with my favourite number – December 13. No amount of data drooling and deep diving metrics could diminish me now…. the story… 

GroupM’s Chanchal Chakrabarty kickstarted Malaysia’s prestigious thought leading SourceCode event explaining why his hand was in a sling (I don’t think he gave the reason) … followed by a glimpse of what to expect in the coming two days. 

Soon after, advertising was turned on its head for 48 hours through the lens of media, marketing and structured mayhem. 

A healthy combustion of inconvenient truths and brain-bewildering arguments magnetised my mind without warning. 

Public Disclosure: I went to GroupM’s SourceCode event not because they paid for my one night’s stay (I paid cash for my room service meal, ok?), but because I wanted to learn more about the latest in the world of media.

So I showed up early, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and took the first shot with my COO Vishnu in front of this life-size backdrop of logos. Hmm…

Brands that mattered were all there to speak, share and spy. 

The conference began with a talk by Anita Munro, Regional Chief Investment Officer at GroupM on “Responsible Media Framework”. Long story short, she had a very compelling account about Sustainability and I almost fell off my seat wondering if GroupM was going to save the world. But this lady was serious, and she had the whole argument wrapped up with science and some amazing slides. A brain fire-starter for sure.

Anita instantly reframed my mind, while leaving my turban intact, as to what to expect at the conference: a rich tease of PowerPoint slides with revealing stuff (shockingly true) and a hunger for more. Get the picture? The backstory resides in the slides, so readers will do well to  ask for summarised versions of the presentations. 

OFFSTAGE BANTER: 

This sustainability, ESG, decarbonisation, green-washing talk which surfaced in the subsequent conversations tickled me and my old friend Ganesh Kumar Bangah, Executive Chairman of Netccentric to no end. He reached out to use a tissue from a box on the table and I reprimanded him to carry a handkerchief if he wanted to save the planet. 

Ganesh is a genius in my book. He started his first internet business, MOL AccessPortal, at the age of 20, developing it to become SEA’a top online payment gateway and the region’s first internet company listed on NASDAQ. In his hey days, he bought Friendster, with around 100 million users then, and made a play to combat Facebook. Champion! 

I enjoyed his stage presentation – but I think I asked him so many questions later that he avoided me during lunch the next day. 

Throughout the rest of the conference, I lost track trying to make notes, short of writing a book (another one). 

So here are some cryptic personal observations: I never knew the efficacy of distributing advertising messages effectively would concern so many people. 

I always assumed the media part was a matter of course. Isn’t that what technology is supposed to handle? 

  • The engine of performance is data and technology (I disagree, but it is a media event, so I shut the f*** up). 
  • Sweetest irony is that so many smart people are working tirelessly to help machines think better than them. 
  • As we get more definitive in our measurement, we discover there is more to measure. Surprise! 
  • Fragmented media produces fragmented reports. Don’t expect less confusion. 
  • Unified measurement is like a unity government. It is still work in progress.  

Quotable Quotes 

“Let’s not kid ourselves, marketers are not experts in everything. Trust your agency partners to do what’s right for your brand.” RHB’s Abdul Sani Abdul Murad. 

“While TikTok is perceived as a channel for the youth, this observation is not entirely true.” Viony Handojo, Marketing Science Partner, TikTok (I love her designation). 

“For the first time on the planet, audiences are driving brands and not the other way round.” Javed Jafri, Unilever. 

“Addressable Advertising has been highly favoured by our radio clients.” Kenny Ong, Astro Media Solutions.

Winners on my list: 

  • Best Speaker – Arshan Saha, GroupM Nexus, AsiaPacific. 
  • Crowd Favourite – Ganesh Bangah, Netccentric. 
  • Most Colourful Personality – Dato’ Manikandamurthy Velayoudam, SkyBlue Media. 
  • Most Chilled Speaker – Datuk Michael Chan, Media Prima Omnia. 
  • Most Lit Panelist – Vivien Chew, Netccentric. 

And the best use of swimming pool award goes to Tropical Rain. 

Finally, I want to thank Astro’s Kenny for saving me from PowerPoint poisoning. 

And to those who missed the SourceCode event, let me say this: I will surely attend next year.

For event pix gallery, click here


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