The spotlight shines on Malaysia’s Creative Technologist Emir

Emir YandR thumbnail

Emir( – Emir Shafri, Y&R Malaysia’s creative director, has been featured in trade publication Little Black Book Celebrating Creativity ( as one of the six ‘Most Exciting Up-and-Coming Creative Technologists’ in Asia.

Emir was the only Malaysian creative featured in the article which had top creative heads from Shanghai, China and Singapore.

In the feature, Emir shares his thoughts on the ad and tech scene and predicts the top piece of technology which would impact the industry.


Check out his interview with LBBonline below:

What makes Kuala Lumpur so exciting right now?

The ingredients for any good tech ecosystem are savvy users, a pool of inspired local makers and a decent infrastructure to support the tech.

First off, Malaysian consumers have become extremely savvy, especially with mobile technology. In fact, the mobile penetration here is higher than the United States (UBS, 2014). And more Malaysians actively shop online on their mobile than the Americans, the Brits, the Germans and the Australians. Naturally, Malaysians have been extremely open to adopting new mobile-enabled platforms and technologies like wearables and VR.

On the one hand, savvier users mean they are more discerning , so everything from usability to development has to be thought through well. But on the other hand, this means that creative technologists in Malaysia have a bigger opportunity than ever to experiment and create for the Malaysian user.

Secondly, our pool of local makers has been exponentially growing. We’ve got public agencies like MaGIC, as well as organisations like Founder Institute and Lean Startup Machine helping to create a healthy startup ecosystem by identifying, training and celebrating local startups. And with coding being added to the school curriculum next year, a very constructive local community of creative technologists and makers, and of course, the accessibility of knowledge nowadays on the Internet, our community of tech makers will continue to grow. We’re already home to Southeast Asia’s largest unicorn (billion dollar) startup, Grab. We’re bound to give birth to more unicorns soon, as well as more talented local makers.

Finally, the country has been investing heavily in its connectivity infrastructure to help support all these tech platforms. 4G LTE coverage has become more available and accessible. In fact, one of the biggest telcos here has just announced an unlimited 4G plan going at just RM79 a month (that’s less than US$20). Malaysia also recently committed to beefing up its Internet of Things ecosystem by establishing a nationwide wireless wide area network technology for low-bandwidth devices, like IoT sensors and appliances, using the LoRa protocol.

It’s going to be exciting times for the local creative tech scene!

Which other city in Asia is exciting you? 

There’s a lot of friendly sibling rivalry between Malaysia and our neighbours down south, so at the risk of losing my passport, I’m going to say Singapore. And not just because I’ve spent several years working there (I previously was the Head of Digital back in Y&R Singapore prior to returning home to take up my current role).

I think what they’re doing with the Smart Nation initiative is amazing, which went beyond just developing advanced infrastructure, attracting great tech talent and building a robust startup ecosystem. They’ve been investing in a lot of brilliant cool initiatives, like their open data project, a positively surprising initiative from a government that some may view as “closed”. The open data initiative allows any company or citizen to access data sets and real-time data APIs from all sorts of public agencies, ranging from transport providers to the Public Utilities Board, so they could co-create solutions to improve the nation with the government.

One of the main drivers of this Smart Nation initiative is the very un-government-like Government Digital Services team. They employ data scientists, UX designers, hackers, coders and makers who work together to develop solutions for a smarter nation in t-shirts and jeans, in a building that’s inspired by the Sandcrawler from the Star Wars universe. They use tools that seem more at home in a startup than a government agency, like GitHub to collaborate, competitive coding to hire talents, and the agile methodology to fail fast and keep iterating.

We’re talking about a civil service that has a reputation for only hiring top university scholars with perfect GPAs, embracing failure as a critical part of building a smarter nation. That surprising change in itself makes Singapore deserving of the “most exciting Asian city” spot.

Which piece of technology do you think will make the biggest impact on the ad industry in the next year? 
I think location-powered tech would be making an increasingly bigger impact in our industry in years to come. Firstly, we’re seeing greater mobile penetration rates, more affordable high-speed mobile data connectivity, savvier mobile users and greater availability of Beacons (which enables the app to figure out where it is indoors, amongst other things). Secondly, with games like Pokémon Go, using location-based utilities and games have become normal behaviour for users. Heck, they’re willing to stop traffic and walk for miles in the hopes of catching a rare Pokémon.

We’ll start seeing more brands combining location data and gamification. For example, shopping malls could offer points and deals the more you explore different stores in the mall, in order to increase footfall in an age where people are increasingly shopping online.

We’ll also see location data being used for analytics, so the same mall could create a heat map of visitors – like a physical “Google Analytics” – to improve its layout and retail mix, as well as allow tenants to test the effectiveness of point-of-sale marketing in pulling in customers (much like A/B testing for online ads).

Online ads will use more specific location-based targeting to gain context, so for example, a visitor at the shopping mall who’s spent time in a women’s apparel store could be given an offer with directions to a cosmetics store to complete their look within the same mall.

Location information will also continue to play an important role in enhancing technologies, including AR and VR technologies. And with more location-based games and utilities encouraging us to explore the physical world, location-powered tech will probably be making a big impact on our waistlines too!

What is your all-time favourite piece of tech?

Definitely Artificial Intelligence.

It has the potential to make the work that we do smarter, and faster.

Imagine applying Machine Learning to help user interfaces “learn” and adapt the more people use them. Based on how other users like you use the interface, it would then adapt the layout and information architecture to serve you an experience and content that you would likely find more useful and usable. And as you’re using it, it’s constantly learning how to improve itself better, with minimal to no human interference needed.

Another thing I’m looking forward to is A.I. combining with natural language processing and image recognition to understand the human psyche from the wealth of social data out there. Imagine content that would naturally adapt itself based on how you’re fee
ling. Or algorithms that learn from the images the target audience likes and the comments they make on these images to judge and recommend layouts and interfaces, and even guide our talent casting decisions.

We’re also seeing A.I. that’s able to create. There’s A.I. created art, and even A.I. composed music. We also have self-modifying programmes that can constantly refine and build on its own code, with limited human intervention.

With initiatives like Facebook’s FAIR and Google’s DeepMind, as well as the exponentially increasing pool of data from digital platforms, devices, IoT appliances that will help A.I. understand our inner workings better, A.I. will only get smarter.

Pretty soon, we’ll have A.I. art directors, A.I. content writers, A.I. casting directors, A.I. composers and A.I. developers working alongside us. That’s not to say they’d replace our jobs. Like any tool, these programmes would still be reliant on our humanity and instinct to make creative leaps. For the near future, that is.

To reference The Simpsons, I for one welcome our new robot overlords. 

HANDO speaker

The 5th Malaysian Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) Conference is a full day journey into the minds of some of the sharpest and most inspiring minds in the business.

The market is in a state of flux. Media fragmentation has gone wild. Digital is exciting but also a minefield if handled wrong. Marketers need stamina, focus and a scalable approach to strategies. ROI has never been more confusing.

Hear from these dynamic and feisty brand leaders on how they are facing the New Realities:


• Loh Keh Jiat – CMO, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd
• Raja Teh Maimunah Raja Abdul Aziz – MD & CEO, Hong Leong Islamic Bank Berhad
• Sulin Lau – Head of Marketing Services, Maxis
• Cyril Dhenaut – Head of Marketing, KFit
• Timothy Johnson – Senior VP of Marketing, INTI International University & Colleges
• Eric Wong – Marketing Director, IBM Malaysia
• Srikanth Ramachandran – Executive Director, Moving Walls
• Spencer Lee – Head of Commercial, AirAsia Berhad
• Bala Pomaleh – CEO, IPG Mediabrands
• Rachel Lim – Co-Founder of Love, Bonito
• Edward Ling – Sales Manager, Waze Malaysia
• Santharuban T. Sundaram – Group Marketing Manager, Etika Holdings (formely Permanis) 
• Dato Seri Vida – Founder, Pamoga & Qu Puteh
•Rafiq Razalli – CEO, Media Prima Digital Sdn Bhd 

Date: September 6th, 2016 (Tuesday)

Venue: Sime Darby Convention Centre, Jalan Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

For details, contact Ruby on 03-77262588, [email protected]

Download event PDF here

More details 

MARKETING Magazine is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising scene