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The secret of ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’: How Dentsu Creative India bested all others to take the creative crown

Remnants of colonialist movements still exist today, and one global news destination has decided to put its foot down–in the most modern approach possible.

With a fusion of both intelligence and creativity, Vice World News together with its creative agency Dentsu Webchutney from the House of Dentsu in India has not only captured the general public with its provocative ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’ campaign but has also ensnared the creative industry to dominate Cannes Lions, the prestigious award-giving body, for Dentsu Creative India to ultimately be named ‘Agency of The Year’ – the first-ever win for an agency from India. 

So how did Dentsu Creative India do it? What has been the secret formula for such recognition of this scale?

The Secret Sauce

Amit Wadhwa, CEO of Dentsu Creative India, conversed with MARKETECH APAC and let the cat out of the bag. You’d be surprised that the key ingredient that made them stop people in their tracks and look is not something of lustre and extravagance, but that Wadhwa says, none other than being armed with a strong idea

‘The Unfiltered History Tour’ is an immersive campaign which brings viewers into what seems like any other tour of the British Museum–only that it’s anything but that. Dubbed as an ‘unofficial tour’ of the European fixture, audiences are taken into the real and authentic narrative, through Instagram filter and immersive audio, behind each artefact such as the Rosetta Stone of Egypt, the Parthenon Marbles from Greece, and Hoa Hakananai’a of Rapa Nui–told straight by the people from countries the precious pieces have been taken from.

“The strength of ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’ [lies] in the origin of the idea, which is colonialism and how the rulers of the past have written their own version of artefacts; the version which is being depicted at the British Museum,” said Wadhwa.

A kick-ass idea or concept is not enough though, Wadhwa says in today’s time, an idea must always be viewed through the lens of technology and to find how it can be nurtured through the capabilities of innovative digital mediums. 

“The other strength of this idea is how technology has been so seamlessly integrated into its execution. It strongly brings such a rich experience that you almost feel as if you are part of the same era when the artefacts were in the country of origin. In short, a strong idea coupled with integrating technology in it and ensuring it comes alive across mediums effectively is what makes it so much more special.” 

The key then is ‘Modern Creativity’, which the agency defines as the kind of work that “creates culture, changes society, and invents the future.” 

Mobilising the winning formula

Of course, the strategic skeletal framework would only be the beginning and what would come after is the real work. 18 months and a combined effort of over 100 people–Wadwha revealed are what it took to make the ‘idea’ for ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’ “so much more special.” 

And true enough–it had all been worth it. Every aspect of the multimedia project – its podcast component, social activation, and experience overall – had been deemed as the crème de la crème of this period’s creative range. For the Radio & Audio, Brand Experience & Activation, and Social & Influencer categories in Cannes Lions, the Grand Prix, which is the highest of honours, went to Dentsu Creative India. 

The idea for the campaign originated from a prior VICE documentary called ‘The Empires of Dirt’ which is built around the narrative of twisted tales of the origin of artefacts from the colonised world. Eventually, what would radiate more than the ingenuity and creativity of its execution–is the genuine movement behind the ‘The Unfiltered History Tour’. The campaign was birthed, most of all, to ignite into people a certain ‘condemnation’ that is literally long overdue and embolden them to think about what can be done about modern colonialism today.

Wadhwa shared that truth be told, the project had been created without the knowledge of the British Museum; so the welcoming words in the official video that a new tour is around “but the museum doesn’t know about it yet,” were in fact not just an artful message. 

“The whole idea of this project is to put the truth on the table and provide visitors of the British Museum with a fair understanding of the real stories behind the artefacts. Our aim is to spark a movement against the storage of artefacts from other countries in the British Museum, and that these should eventually be returned to the countries to which they belong.”

Wadhwa described the project as a “very bold” and “possibly uncomfortable” idea, which was expected to ruffle a few feathers, but that the mission was clear from the beginning, and that the Dentsu and VICE teams ensured to stay true to it and never dilute it. 

A simple ‘idea’ for a radical movement 

The CEO of the multi-awarded agency does not intend to be privy to their ‘winning strategy’, and loud and proud reveals that it’s all about marrying an uncomplicated but brilliant idea with that of the groundbreaking impact of digital mediums. 

“To be effective, every idea must first be a powerful one, which is either rooted in a profound insight or has the power to shape society or even change the future,” Wadhwa going back to the concept of ‘Modern Creativity’. 

He added, “However, given how technology has revolutionised the way one may truly experience an idea, we must make full use of [technology] and ensure that we do full justice to the idea using it.”

He said that the idea becomes strong when it can be brought to life across several mediums, “wherever the audience is present.”

“When all the mediums come together and talk, they create a stronger influence over the target audience and hence, is extremely important.”

Truly, what we’ve seen here is a convergence of old history and history in the making. Beyond the strategies and the elements of the winning campaign, it has been evident that the magnet that pulled everything together is the agency and the news authority’s bravery to tackle, no matter how uncomfortable, the hard things that matter. 

The power is in being grounded by an idea that can flourish into something bigger, and which would be realised through effective teamwork and collaboration to impart work that will prove its worth more than the sum of its parts. 

Ultimately, Wadhwa advises brands, “Once you have [an idea], make full use of all plausible mediums, while fully embracing the prowess of technology to bring the idea to life. That is when we will have a winner at hand.” 

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

APAC consumers expect orgs to demonstrate higher ethical standards in terms of personal data collection: report

Singapore — According to a new report, on average, 66% of consumers reported expecting to be able to decline to share any personal data without compromising on the level of service received as brands will face increasing challenges in incentivising consumers to part with their personal data. The scope of the report spanned 14 Asia Pacific countries with over 20,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 64 and aimed to showcase how consumers feel and respond to brands accessing their data. The report was conducted and shared by Dentsu Data Consciousness Project.

Another report finding was that 64% of the respondents are happy to share their health data for medical research and 58% are willing to have their carbon footprint tracked to help the fight against climate change.

Meanwhile, 72% feel that organisations will need to demonstrate higher standards of ethical behaviour as far as personal data is concerned. Additionally, 74% believe that the government needs to play a bigger role in regulating the use of personal data by companies.

The study also showed that people are likely to continue to be willing to share their data, including sensitive personal data, in situations where there are specific benefits to be gained or where there would be a positive societal impact.

For Gen X and Gen Y, discounts on food in exchange for food delivery history and travel offers in exchange for travel history were among the most valued benefits, while outcomes that advanced peoples’ personal sense of purpose were also consistently favoured. 64% are happy to share their health data for medical research and 58% are willing to have their carbon footprint tracked to help the fight against climate change.

Christine McKinnon, head of business intelligence of dentsu Solutions, shared, “Brands need to address 5 key variables: the purpose which the collected data will be used for, the benefit to the consumer in exchange for sharing that data, the consumer’s level of trust in the brand, how much control the consumer has in determining whether and what to share, and the perceived sensitivity of the data.”

The study also explored countries’ ‘data cultures’. It mapped markets according to their relative openness towards technology, and their attitudinal bias between ‘dataism’ and ‘humanism’. Dataism posits that only by being data-led can we advance further and faster. Humanism rests on the belief that we should never let technology lead in an unfettered manner. As an overall trend, a skew towards dataism went hand in hand with greater openness to technological change.

Regardless of nationality, concerns around the opacity of how brands use their data and potential misuse of personal data were significant across the board. 62% of respondents do not know how their personal data is being used. 72% feel that organisations will need to demonstrate higher standards of ethical behaviour as far as personal data is concerned. 74% believe that the government needs to play a bigger role in regulating the use of personal data by companies.

Conducted in Q4 2021, this is among the most contextualised survey done on attitudes toward data privacy in the region. Findings have direct relevance to multiple industry verticals as respondents were asked about their willingness to share their data in highly specific ”micro-contexts”.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Dentsu Malaysia wins digital transformation mandate for QSR Brands’ KFC, Pizza Hut

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Dentsu Malaysia has won the digital transformation mandate for Malaysia’s retail food company QSR Brands, becoming the key partner on the company’s transformational journey for KFC and Pizza Hut. 

As part of the mandate, Dentsu Malaysia will be the partner of KFC and Pizza Hut in becoming a true data-first organisation, and future proof business verticals across marketing, operations, and supply chain. The brands have been in the phase of transformation and will go through a data-driven acceleration to improve business efficiencies.

Dheeraj Raina, CEO of Dentsu Media in Malaysia, shared that QSR has set a bold vision for their KFC and Pizza Hut businesses, and the agency shares this vision with them and believes that these brands have a big potential of becoming data companies. 

“For the next 18 months, we will be working with the marketing, data and business teams of KFC and Pizza hut in unlocking the real consumer value with the use of media tech, data and marketing technology. We are bringing the best minds across our service lines together to co-create this powerful and rewarding future with QSR,” said Raina.

Meanwhile, Nehchal Khanna, CEO of QSR Brands (KFC & Pizza Hut) for Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, and Brunei, noted that over the last two years, significant digital investments have been made to provide better digital customer experience and restaurant operations efficiencies and to pivot their business to digital sales because of the changing consumer landscape. 

“We are now ready to realise our bold vision of becoming the number one food technology business in ASEAN, and as part of that aspiration, we are embarking upon this journey with our partners at Dentsu who have gone through a rigorous process of evaluation and selection for this role,” said Khanna.

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Marketing Featured APAC

dentsu’s Merlee Jayme departs company after six years

Singapore – Merlee Jayme, currently serving as the chief creative officer for dentsu Asia-Pacific, has announced that she is leaving the company following six years of service from the company. Jayme became part of dentsu when the company acquired her agency Jayme Syfu in 2016.

After joining the network in 2016, she was tasked with co-running the newly formed dentsu McGarrybowen as global co-president with John Dupuis in 2020. Following that role, she was then promoted to chief creative officer for dentsu Asia-Pacific.

Speaking on her departure, she recalls that her main goal with joining dentsu was to upgrade and update her agency’s skills and capabilities with technology and innovation, excel in data and experience, discover the secret to amazing creativity and to belong to an inclusive and diverse community that celebrates cultural differences.

“During these years at dentsu, balancing between building a business and creating life-changing work was tough. But we managed to stay focused, attract great people and clients plus more importantly, create a reputation for work that made a big difference in people’s lives and the world,” she said.

As she leaves the company, she is currently serving as ADFEST’s grand jury head, D&AD’s jury president for Radio and Audio, and one of the Cannes Lions Titanium jury members this June. She plans to continue her initiatives for women in leadership and finally launch her second book titled ‘Chairmom’ in July.

Meanwhile, Fred Levron, global chief creative officer at dentsu, shared, “It has been a joy to get to know Merlee and witness her bring her magical blend of entrepreneurialism, creativity and empathy to the table every day.”

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Marketing Featured South Asia

Carat India bags media mandate for Croma

India — Carat, the media agency from dentsu India, has bagged the media mandate for Croma, an Indian retail chain of consumer electronics and durables from the house of Infiniti Retail. The account was won following a multi-agency pitch and will be serviced from the agency’s Mumbai office.

As per the mandate, Carat India will oversee the brand’s media planning and buying rights – including traditional and digital. The agency will also partner with the larger teams at dentsu India to drive the full-funnel marketing needs of the client, further driving outcome-based solutions for the next phase of their exponential growth, keeping customers at the core of its planning and execution.

Commenting on the win, Anita Kotwani, CEO of Carat India, said, “We are backed by a consumer understanding proprietary framework, Designing for People, which is strong and always relevant. It is inspired by design thinking which enables us to help brands with an in-depth understanding of their consumers.”

She adds, “Our single-source consumer-connected system is the key differentiator in the Indian market. It has the ability to drive full-funnel client outcomes. Our ability to stay ahead of the curve in the tools and tech space by showcasing a unified holistic view of the consumers has been a key tenet that helped us clinch the business.”

Meanwhile, Shibashish Roy, chief business officer of ecommerce and marketing for Croma – Infiniti Retail, commented that they are expanding their presence in India by strengthening their omnichannel proposition with digital initiatives and aggressive store expansion plans. Roy adds that they’re looking forward to working with Carat India as their media planning partner to build on the Croma brand further.

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Marketing Featured South Asia

dentsu India’s Narayan Devanathan steps down from CCO role after 11 years

Mumbai, India – Dentsu in India has announced that its chief client officer (CCO) Narayan Devanathan steps down from his role after 11 years of leadership. According to the company, Devanathan is seeking new interests outside the advertising industry.

As Devanathan steers his career path into a new journey to pursue his interests outside the advertising industry, the existing teams at dentsu India will continue to drive and oversee client-centric solutions led by the market’s key leadership.

Speaking on his departure, Devanathan said, “My association with dentsu goes way beyond the varied roles that I have held within the network. Dentsu has been a life-shaping experience for me and the decision to take this big leap to pursue my interests outside the advertising industry was a tough one but something I am keenly looking forward to.” 

He added, “The network is a rich powerhouse of expertise; the enormity of exposure it offers is way beyond many milestones. As I look back, I am filled with gratitude to have been closely working with many of the best talents and industry leaders within the network.”

Meanwhile, Peter Huijboom, interim CEO at dentsu India, commented, “Narayan’s leadership has played an instrumental role in successfully aligning dentsu India with the company’s global ambitions of becoming the most integrated advertising network in the world. His relentless commitment towards providing the finest solutions to our clients is commendable and I wish him all the best on his new endeavour.”

He added, “There is a solid winning leadership in place that continues to serve our clients with excellence, perfection, and passion. Our ambitions for India are on an upward trajectory and we are moving ahead full throttle.”

More recently, dentsuMB India’s Sidharth Rao stepped down from his role of chief executive officer, which was then replaced by Heeru Dingra.

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Hyperlocal economy to flourish in India: report

India – The hyperlocal space has seen a rise in the number of niche brands across categories like home décor, home services, groceries, essentials, and pharmaceutical sectors. Since India has witnessed growth, traditional brands have shifted their focus towards hyperlocal and direct-to-consumer business models. This transition has been accelerated further due to increased internet usage and evolved consumer behaviour.

The hyperlocal approach enables the brands to reach out to their target customers directly, removing the middlemen and retail stores as part of the traditional business model. This provides customers with a better shopping experience as it offers convenience and quick delivery, especially in the areas of logistics, food, pharmaceutical, and groceries. Some examples of hyperlocal commerce include Dunzo, 1mg, UrbanCompany, BigBasket, to name a few.

New report by WATConsult unveils insights on the demand for hyperlocal delivery, the effects of the pandemic on the hyperlocal usage and captures the benefits, and challenges of the model.

According to the report, this format of e-commerce has seen a huge surge of customers in both metros and beyond. Currently, there are around 141 million hyperlocal commerce shoppers in India, which is 48% of all e-commerce users. This number of hyperlocal commerce shoppers will increase by 52% to reach 214 million by the end of 2022.

The report further reveals that while Zomato tops the list of the most used hyperlocal apps, SwiggyGo, Amazon Fresh and BigBasket are some of the popular choices among consumers. This is followed by 1mg, Grofers and UberConnect.

Moreover, while most females have used services from Zomato, BigBasket and Grofers, some males have used services like Zomato, SwiggyGo, BigBasket and 1mg. On the other hand, the majority of young customers belonging to the age groups of under 18 years, 18 years to 24 years and 25 years to 34 years, have been seen using Zomato, SwiggyGo, and Amazon Fresh.

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Marketing Featured South Asia

dentsu appoints Saagar Sethi to lead Amplifi in India

India — Dentsu India announces the appointment of Saagar Sethi as the president of Amplifi, its supply side management platform. He stepped into the role in April 2022, as part of the increased media leadership roster across dentsu India. He will report to Divya Karani, media CEO of dentsu South Asia, and work with the global Amplifi leadership to focus on creating truly sustainable values for dentsu and its partners in India and across the globe.

Sethi holds 15 years of experience in transition management. His appointment echoes dentsu’s commitment to continually elevate its growth trajectory across markets. The network’s rapid transformation ensures it offers long-term sustainable growth to clients via distinctive, integrated capabilities in an environment which is forever changing.

In his new role, Sethi will lead the network’s investment management, media trading in terms media owner services and principal buying, and content in terms of original partnerships and entertainment businesses in India. He will also have responsibility for helping drive the continued growth of The Story Lab and Posterscope, two specialist agency units within dentsu which focus on entertainment production and Out of Home (OOH) capabilities, respectively.

Previously, he was the head of indirect procurement in LG Electronics India. He has also participated in organizational design, transitioning and change management journeys for leading brands like LG Electronics and Ernst & Young.

Commenting on the appointment, Karani said, “We are excited to have Sethi join our management team as we consolidate and prepare for the next stage of growth. In today’s increasingly complex media market, the experience he brings to the table will help us increase our client delivery skills in India.”

Meanwhile, Sethi shared, “I have always been passionate about media. The timing of this opportunity could not have been better. This role complements my transformation experience and passion. I am committed to creating synergies and incremental value for all our clients, stakeholders, and partners, underpinned by the need of driving compliance and transparency. Truly, it is an exciting time to be at dentsu India.”

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Marketing Featured South Asia

Carat India appoints Vasim Rakhangi as associate vice president for strategy

India – Further strengthening its leadership team, Carat India, the media agency from the house of dentsu India, has appointed Vasim Rakhangi as associate vice president for strategy for North And East. With this appointment, Carat said it aims to continue to accelerate its transformation of the agency across India as it looks to bring new focus on its designing for people proposition.

In his new role, Rakhangi’s core focus will be to spearhead and deliver integrated media strategy to the agency’s existing clients across the regions. He will be reporting to Anita Kotwani, CEO of Carat India.

Rakhangi has over 11 years of experience in media and research. He has led multiple brands on integrated media strategies that focus on both traditional as well as digital media. Prior to this, Rakhangi has worked for conglomerates in the FMCG sector like Mondelez, GCPL, and Marico as well as broadcasting brands including Star Plus and Star Sports. 

Commenting on the appointment, Kotwani said that with his extensive experience and passion, Rakhangi will be helping clients stay ahead of the curve, especially as he helps them demystify the complex digital media landscape. 

“One of his focus areas will be to translate the disruption of video and the future of measurement to the consumers’ dynamically changing needs and, how the role of data, privacy, and technology impact their business. Vasim’s remit in our North market will encompass Phillips Domestic Appliances, Microsoft, Mastercard, Havells, and the DS Group amongst others, as he also works with our local teams to drive growth for both North and East markets,” Kotwani said. 

Rakhangi himself commented, “With the kind of transformation taking place within the media landscape in India, Carat’s framework seamlessly blends in with the rapidly changing environment. It has always focused on building deeper relationships between people and brands in order to design campaigns which truly resonate with people and drive impactful results for clients. It is indeed a privilege to work with Anita and lead regions with so many great opportunities to bring this to life in partnership with such powerful brands. I am really excited and look forward to contributing towards the growth of the clients.”

Rakhangi’s appointment is the fourth key strategic leadership hire for the agency in recent months, including Megha Jain as vice president of planning for South and Sayami Podder being appointed as associate VP for strategy at the agency. 

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Marketing Featured ANZ

Air New Zealand shows how daily spending can unlock ‘joy’ in travel in new campaign

New Zealand – As Kiwis celebrate the return of international travel with borders reopened, Air New Zealand‘s loyalty programme Airpoints has launched a new creative campaign that is designed to show New Zealanders how they can transform their everyday spending to unlock the power and joy of travel. 

The campaign, which was developed in partnership with creative agency Bastion Shine and dentsu, includes a 60” AV and a social campaign directed by Adam Stevens and produced by Good Oil. 

Titled ‘Don’t Live Pointlessly’, the campaign shows why travel should be prescribed as a therapy to relieve stress, grow relationships, and aid mental health, and how Airpoints want all New Zealanders to experience those benefits.

Andy McLeish, Bastion Shine’s chief strategy officer, shared, “The Airpoints programme has been around a long time and there is a huge opportunity to connect with a large part of the member base. We wanted to re-ignite emotional connection with the Airpoints programme through its largest benefit – that it enables anyone, no matter who they are, to get closer to their travel dream every single day.”

Meanwhile, Rich Maddocks, Bastion Shine’s chief creative officer, said, “Reminding Kiwis how they can live a life less ordinary through the power of travel was a fertile creative territory, rich with insight. The challenge for us was to bring that narrative to life in a way that was as interesting as it was true. Hopefully, we’ve done that.”

The campaign is already available across broadcast, digital, social, and OOH. Further activity is also set to launch over the coming months aimed at enhancing engagement with the programme and showcasing the multiple ways to earn and spend Airpoints.