Creative, brand identity, and automation are just some of the most vital elements within any successfully working marketing strategy and campaign. The first two deal with external execution, while the latter refers to operational efficiency. 

In a rare opportunity that gathered Philippine marketing leaders representing diverse industries, MARKETECH APAC, in partnership with Celtra, delved into a discussion on how brands in the market best approach their marketing strategies in the region. In this discussion, we dived deep into what it takes to deliver high-performing creatives and unique brand identity, while harnessing the power of automation to achieve marketing agility. 

In the industry event which carried the theme, ‘Visual2Vision: Leveraging Creativity As Your #1 Marketing Performance Lever’, marketing heads from brands Cambert (Pilipinas), Inc., Canon Philippines, Cebu Pacific Air, Decathlon Philippines, dentsu Philippines, foodpanda Philippines, Generali Philippines, and L’Oréal Philippines each shared how they are keeping their brands top-of-mind in a period where digital has accelerated the bar for which brands are deemed worthy of support and favorability.

Roundtable Highlights: Watch the PH marketing leaders share the top insights from the discussion

Authenticity at the heart of the marketing creative 

During the discussion, marketing leaders agreed that at the core of any marketing creative is authentic narrative and messaging. Danielle Eleazar, foodpanda’s head of marketing for new verticals in the Philippines, said that it all boils down to authenticity because beyond making sure that any creative asset or communication resonates with the market, the consumer has to ‘understand’ the message.

“As long as that creative consideration lies [in] authenticity, it’s something that really resonates with the consumer,” said Eleazar. 

Canon Philippines’ Anvey Factora and Decathlon Philippines’ Jessica De Leon both echoed the said insight. Factora, Canon’s head of marketing communications, e-commerce and retail, said that amongst others, their topmost consideration on the creative side when launching a marketing campaign is building a strong and authentic narrative. Meanwhile, De Leon, Decathlon’s direct marketing lead, believes that a brand’s creative must be “memorable [and] authentic” with tailored messages based on audiences’ needs. 

Meanwhile, for L’Oréal Philippines’ Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Isabel Falco, building the creatives still goes back to whether it’s able to answer the ‘creative brief’ to be done.

“The topmost consideration for the creative is still going to be whether it successfully answers the creative brief or the job to be done,” said Falco.

However, marketing leaders also stressed the importance of balancing the genuine appeal of creative implementation with execution aimed at achieving business goals. It was Factora who said that in tandem with serving creativity, it’s important to make sure that the overall marketing and communications are aligned with the business direction. 

“At the end of the day, we will always be evaluated [on] the business results and impact,” he said. 

In the same vein, Patricia Bucag, Cebu Pacific Air’s marketing manager, believes that a marketing campaign must, above all, answer to the business need, which in the airline’s case is getting people to purchase. 

At a stage where brand awareness is already high for a company such as Cebu Pacific Air, Bucag said the objective of any marketing initiative becomes purchase-led results. 

Yet, brands today are struggling to meet the speed for campaigns to be launched across the funnel. Brand marketers don’t have the luxury of time to spend on the design craft for each and every asset while managing prompt campaign launch times. In order to meet the needs for personalised consumer experiences without burnout, marketing and creative teams must be equipped to successfully launch full-funnel campaigns at scale. 

Managing the branding identity of international brands

In a world where every impression is a brand impression, the PH roundtable discussion dove into the main topic of brand identity, the umbrella strategy which creative would fall under. 

A number of leaders in the discussion represented the PH leg of international brands such as Canon, and as expected, an entity like Canon Philippines needed to be very strict when it comes to the implementation of all things related to creative to ensure the quality reflects the brand at large. 

How Canon Philippines remains effective in its strategy, Factora said, holistic planning is key. 

“Coming up with a holistic identity is very, very important because Canon is not just operating in a particular segment or in a particular region, we’re operating in different continents in different countries,” he said. 

Factora believes that every great campaign remains to be backed up by holistic planning, and by this, he means integrating not just one function in marketing, but including those from, for example, distribution and sales. This is taking into consideration the sales agenda and channel mapping in the overall strategy.

Meanwhile, we also learned how a local arm of a global insurance brand decides on and manages its branding. For Generali Philippines, it’s all about making the brand’s purpose the compass to draw what steps are best suited to deliver its brand identity. 

Milca Javier, the brand’s head of marketing, said, “The purpose of everything that you’re doing in terms of the creative [and] in terms of your campaign [is important]. You want to craft something that emphasises or, you know, heavily promotes all elements of your DNA, of your brand DNA.” 

Javier raised questions like, “Do we want to evoke something?” and “Do we want to say something to the audience?” So for example, insurance is strong, but then the brand may want to show that it’s not too stiff or that it’s not too serious, and can also invoke fun, so this is where the little details such as typography and brand colour come to make a big difference. 

Ultimately, she said, the buy-in of the branding must come from within before it can even be accepted by the general consumer. 

“It’s really valuable that Generali Philippines, the colleagues that I have within the company, know the importance of the brand [and] the brand identity,” she said. 

“It’s very, very important that all of the people within Generali Philippines are buying into [our] brand identity. This is the core and we have to stay true to our core,” Javier added.

On the other hand, Cambert Pilipinas’ Jenny Arcellana, its head of marketing, shared about how, overall, marketing strategies, including putting branding identity in place, have evolved through recent years. Arcellana said it’s the influencers and the content creators of today that have been the biggest change. 

“So it’s still the same, you know, you have to drive awareness [of] your brand, you have to tell your audience what the brand is, [and] your product – why would it appeal to them, to the target market,” said Arcellana.

But that the change, she said, has been with how you promote the brand and the media available. As a leader in trade marketing, Arcellana commented that amidst these changes, availability and visibility in trade are still very important because a product that cannot be seen cannot be sold. 

“But of course, you have to talk to the right person to whom your brand or product is relevant to,” she said. 

The power of automation in building personalisation in marketing

Realising creative and branding initiatives cannot be discussed without talking about the role of automation in their development. With a wide range of tools and marketing tech platforms at marketers’ disposal, the matter isn’t whether to utilise what but how to strategically harness these enablers to deliver a brand’s marketing strategy best. 

The marketing heads were in unison to say that personalisation is what is made possible by automation–and at scale. Isabel Falco, L’Oréal Philippines’ chief digital & marketing officer, said that there are many different ways to communicate a product’s relevance to a consumer and automation helps in creating many different versions of a creative or marketing campaign to find what is best fitted to a specific audience. 

“We really see the value-add of having the capability to automate, [enabling] us to [do] A/B [testing] at scale,” Falco explained. 

The power to automate tedious design tasks speeds up time for marketers looking to amp up their ​​creative testing roadmap. With tools like creative automation, brand marketers can iterate and update their highly-customised creatives independently without losing time on manual updates for individual creative versioning. By allowing teams the freedom to produce creative variety at ease, marketers can get campaign refreshes out of the door and initiate the purchase journey quicker. 

For Mako Chaves, dentsu Philippines’ MD and Head of Media, one of automation’s top benefits is being able to gain and firm up the ‘audience understanding’, which he believes is the foundation of all great campaigns. 

“It all boils down [to] one thing, which I think is consumer truth. And at the heart of every campaign that we do at dentsu is about deep consumer understanding,” said Chaves. 

He added, “Without every campaign latching onto a deep consumer insight, I think everything will fall, everything will not be genuine and everything will not be authentic.”

Meanwhile, Decathlon’s De Leon wanted to emphasise how automation eventually gives way for the team to have a seamless and smooth working process. 

She said that just like being a brand for sports, efficiency and performance are important to them and utilising the tools that are available makes it possible to deliver personalised and targeted ads to customers.

“Automation really empowers the team to be able to clearly see their next steps and to be able to analyse what’s working and what isn’t…automation allows us to be able to make the work not just efficient, [but] also sustainable for our future customers,” stated De Leon. 

In the PH-focused industry discussion, while marketing leaders shared their customised approaches to creative, brand identity, and automation, common themes remain such as balancing ingenious creative campaigns with business-oriented marketing communications. Marketing leaders have also spoken that although brand identity is the main responsibility of the marketing team – effective branding that resonates with consumers is one that is developed and integrated through the cooperation and buy-in of other functions within a company – proving that belief in the brand identity must emanate from within teams, empowered by tools that aid brand governance. 

Amidst marketing leaders lending their views and thoughts on external execution, the brand and agency heads also shared what role marketing tech like automation play in bringing marketing campaigns home. While leaders cited different areas of marketing they see automation being the most beneficial, they all agreed that essentially, it’s the ability to deliver targeted and tailor-fit campaigns to consumers that makes it easy for brands to achieve marketing excellence. 

Roundtable Highlights: Watch the PH marketing leaders share the top insights from the discussion

Shanghai, China – Global media agency Wavemaker has launched ‘Intelligence Engine’ (WIE) within its own network, an automation software technology, which primarily aims to free its employees from repetitive yet necessary routines, allowing them to focus more on emotionally and intellectually rewarding work that cannot be handled by pre-programmed software.

Wavemaker said that with WIE can sustain its operations 24/7 without interruption, in turn eliminating human error to help the agency better serve all of its stakeholders. 

The company has been optimizing its business processes and increasing its overall capability since the technology’s first implementation, as automation modules can automate repetitive yet basic marketing tasks such as advertisement and campaign monitoring with impressive accuracy, while also being proficient in handling work that require higher levels of coordination such as invoice generation, email communications and processing.

For Henry Wang, chief product officer at Wavemaker China, they developed the software to help their employees, partners, and clients to release more energy to push boundaries, to transform the work they do, and the future value they provoke.

“With the help of our Intelligence Engine, every passionate Wavemaker comes together more often to strengthen our collaboration and provoke ever more innovative solutions for our clients. Also, we hope this technology can help future-proof our business and support our goal to achieve better sustainability in human resources and finance functions,” Wang stated.

The software enables Wavemaker to channel more individual time and energy to performing creative tasks and generating additional value for both the company as well as its clients – something that is of vital importance for a media agency. The newly released potentials, in turn, creates considerable space for further staff talent development.

Singapore – Global customer experience (CX) platform has announced the conclusion of its Series C funding, which has raised around US$78.15m, which brings the total funding raised so far by to US$102.15m.

The company aims to use the funding to strengthen its leadership in more than 50 countries including India, Southeast Asia, UK, Middle East, and Latin America, as well as establishing a strong presence in the U.S., adding 70 employees to its more than 500 global headcounts.

Said funding was led by WestBridge Capital along with Sapphire Ventures, and Salesforce Ventures, as well as renewed participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

For Raghu Ravinutala, CEO and co-founder at, the company has ‘broken out’ of the crowded virtual-assistant market with its automation-first with a human-assist model, to deliver a higher customer satisfaction and incremental revenue growth to it’s enterprise clients. 

“With our rapid client and revenue expansion in Singapore and across the world, we’re geared to becoming the global leader in the CX Automation space and are bullish on building our product, partnerships, teams, and community to truly democratize AI in the near future,” Ravintula stated.

With the fresh infusion of capital, will deepen investments towards global expansion, hiring top talent across regions, and applied research and development (R&D) in hyper-automation. Currently, the company’s AI-powered bots deliver automated CX on more than 35 chat and voice channels, across more than 100 languages, handling billion interactions every quarter. 

According to, one international financial services company was able to leverage its virtual assistants to generate US$100m in upsell revenue in three years.

As part of this large endeavor and to support the global war against COVID-19, also launched ‘yellowAI Cares’, a CSR initiative to empower organizations with COVID-19 help-related omnichannel chatbots. With no prerequisites or conditions attached, any NGO, hospital, support group or business in SEA can get an AI chatbot built by to drive crisis efforts. will provide access to an omnichannel chatbot on any text platform for COVID-19 related use cases. These could support real-time services like providing medical information related to plasma donation, oxygen/hospital bed availability, vaccine registrations, scheduling appointments, collecting patient data, mental health assistance, handling insurance queries and more.

When designed and deployed effectively, chatbots may help prevent misinformation, aid in symptom detection, engender infection-limiting behaviors, encourage positive health impacting behaviors, while reducing psychological damage caused by fear and isolation.

Singapore –, a global conversation customer experience (CX) automation platform, has announced that is rolling out its newest AI-powered voice virtual assistant features across markets in Southeast Asia, a direct response to adding more channels to their existing text automation channels such as those in-site and in third-party messaging apps.

The human-like voice AI bots can understand sentiments, intent and past behavior, and also modify pitch, tone, excitement, and more, to suit customer sentiment and intent on channels like Telephony, Google Assistant and Alexa. The company’s bots can natively converse naturally in more than 100 languages across text and voice, such as Bahasa Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Mandarin, English, Tamil, and more.

According to the company, with the growing demand for hyper-automation and on-demand resolution by customers in Singapore, adding voice AI capabilities to’s rich customer experience automation platform is a natural evolution to realizing a vision of total CX automation.

This is supported by a statement from Raghu Ravinutala, CEO and co-founder at, who explained that conversational interfaces are changing how we relate to brands and voice is playing a key role in enabling smarter brand-to-consumer interactions. 

“Today, growth and success in every business are highly indexed to creating personalized and differentiated customer experiences. At, we are dedicated to enabling human-like, engaging conversations with our conversational CX platform, which is the ultimate balance between human + AI capabilities,” Ravintula stated.’s launch of these features follows after recent findings by Gartner, in which they predict that by 2025, 40% of all inbound voice communications to call centers will use voice bots. As a company who has worked with over 109 brands in the region, offers enterprise-grade chat and voice bots, weaving in the best of AI and human intelligence to deliver highly differentiated elevated customer experience at a fraction of the current operational cost.

“With us, enterprises can successfully automate customer experience while elevating the quality of customer interactions. Now we are actively expanding our strategic partnerships and offices around the world, with Singapore as a key market, in Southeast Asia. We are delighted to extend our repertoire in the region with ‘conversational voice AI’, the future of CX,” Ravintula concluded.

Mumbai, India – As more and more brands look for more ways to engage with their customer base online, creating surveys poses to be a simple yet effective way to gather information from consumers, from collecting consumer opinion for market research to real-time feedback. To make it easier, new platform player Merren offers brands a way to easily access their customers through chat-integrated automated surveys.

Merren is a global end-to-end platform for messaging-app based surveys that allows one to build fully-automated surveys for messaging apps like Whatsapp. Being a holistic messenger-based research platform, Merren enables firms to create, distribute and analyze surveys on a single platform.

Through the platform, users can create accessible surveys, deploy them through a simple shareable link, collect and store validated data online and automate analysis in five easy steps. The platform also offers clients to distribute the survey for them, as it is backed up by a global panel of 35 million potential responses, around 2.5 million of which are from India.

Sumit Saxena, co-founder at Merren notes that one of the prime reasons why they launched the platform was to serve customers who want to be heard but are reluctant to answer long surveys. He added that this results in a low response rate and no real actionable research insights. 

“This enables brands to leverage the in-built features of these apps, leading to refined and nimbler access to data. Audio questions also help overcome comprehension issues, one of the limitations of self-administered, text-heavy questionnaires,” Saxena said.

The platform also offers users a localized, multi-language solution to brands and B2B clients. Through use of apps like WhatsApp that have a vast outreach in India across socio-economic groups, gender, age groups, states, towns, and villages, Merren facilitates a better connection with the target customer. With technology paving the way for conversation, the platform sits right at the heart of humanizing the survey experience for all its stakeholders. 

For Monalisa Saxena, co-founder at Merren, consumers today would rather participate in a conversation than a survey. She added that for market research to be successful, companies need to reach the customers where they are, through a medium they are comfortable with, in a language they understand.

“Browser-based surveys run into the limitations posed by the reach and unfamiliarity of the user interface. On the other hand, frequency of usage and ease of accessibility of messenger-based apps makes surveys accessible to users across the world,” she stated.

The app was developed by boutique market research company and consulting firm Inxise Datalabs based in Mumbai, India.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysian higher education institution SEGi College Subang Jaya has tapped digital solutions provider elfo to improve the institution’s digital transformation strategies by being its corporate partner for integrated performance-based marketing and automation.

Included in the partnership is the utilization of elfo’s marketing automation platform elfoMAP and its application-to-person messaging platform elfoA2P, which have been used by SEGi’s marketing and recruitment division for its email and SMS campaigns for the past four months.

Sri Yosephin, head at elfo, believes that leveraging digital technology is crucial for the higher education sector, to ensure the sustainability of enrolment strategies and student retention.

“Our user-centered solutions will help simplify redundant administrative processes and provide real-time, comprehensive data such as open rate and click-through rate. These key metrics allow SEGi College Subang Jaya to model student retention and apply that model to forecast successful enrollment,” Yosephin stated.

Calvin Chan, acting principal at SEGi College Subang Jaya, agrees as well, stating that it is important for the institution to position themselves as an industry-driven higher learning institution, moving towards Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is in line with Malaysia’s nation building agenda.

“Working closely with a MAdTech expert like elfo helps us make our necessary technological shifts seamless and enables us to focus more on the college’s recruitment needs and serving our students. The straightforward onboarding process and reliable professional support are definitely convenient, cutting short our learning curve and making the integration effortless,” Chan explained.

In addition, Li Chun Young, digital marketing lead at SEGi College Subang Jaya, also noted that two of the email campaigns optimized by elfoMAP had seen a promising return. Scholarship-offer emails sent to potential students had a 90% open rate and emails sent to Australian recruitment agencies had a 30% open rate. On top of that, the college also saw a 100% increase in conversion from the email campaigns

“This is impressive considering the average open rate is only 24.9% for the education-related campaigns. These numbers and responses are unlike what we’ve seen prior to our partnership with elfo,” Young said.

Singapore – Local based coffee shop Crown Coffee gets a new help for their shop duties—a robot barista developed by tech company Intel.

Named Ella after the wife of Crown Coffee’s CEO and founder Keith Tan, the robot does what a typical barista does: taking orders remotely via an online app, making a cup of coffee, notifying the customer when it’s ready, serving it, finalizing the bill and charging the customer’s credit card.

Built under the inspiration of Intel Singapore employees taking a break at the Crown Coffee, Tan gives thanks to Intel for materializing as to what he calls a ‘wild idea’.

“I have plenty of gratitude to Intel, as they helped me realize this idea. They listened to me, understood the problems I was trying to solve, and partnered with me to design and develop prototypes,” Tan stated.

With Ella being present at the Crown Coffee workspace, it solved many of Tan’s initial problems, including compactness of the unit, freeing up labor for efficiency, and coffee preparation safety: a vital feature put into use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ella opens new possibilities to food retailers to enable contactless futuristic service and develop alternate revenue models with the data Ella gathers,” said Santhosh Viswanathan, managing director for Intel Asia Pacific and Japan.

“What we are doing is transformational and will be part of the landscape of smart cities where AI-driven robots become deeply ingrained into our daily lives. Also, this is New Retail, which eases retail labor shortages while providing re-skilling employment opportunities for value-added technology and engineering people,” Tan added, citing that Ella is planned to be expanded across their 40 locations on the island, and eventually to Japan.

India – India-based software development company XcelTec recently announced Ample, the company’s answer to sales automation in businesses using personalized bots.

Ample, which can be personalized by every user, is powered by artificial intelligence. This feature ensures the removal of any complexity that may arise in showing product demonstrations online. With the latest video bot release, XcelTec expects that business users will move towards online media for their business’ sales team, ensuring them to engage with customers online, with aid of the sales automation bots.

The recent software release is part of the company’s goal to simplify website chatbots, which has seen a 50% increase in sales activities online.