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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

SleekFlow secures new funding to accelerate expansion in SG, MY

Singapore – SaaS omnichannel social commerce platform SleekFlow has completed a US$8m Series A funding round, led by New York-based investment firm Tiger Global Partners, with notable investors like Transcend Capital and AEF Greater Bay Area Fund, managed by Gobi Partners GBA – the GP of Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund (AHKEF). 

The newly secured funds will be channelled to facilitating SleekFlow’s strategic market penetration into SEA, specifically Singapore and Malaysia, and as part of its expansion plans into the UK, Europe, and other emerging markets. 

Moreover, the funds will be used to scale the platform’s capabilities with fintech and data analytics functions, one-click checkouts via popular social media platforms, centralised product listings, and easy in-chat payment integrations to enhance seamless workflow for O2O and e-commerce brands.

Henson Tsai, founder and CEO of SleekFlow, shared that the social commerce market is expected to rise to US$3.37t by 2028, and SleekFlow aims to drive this e-commerce revolution by being the top social commerce unified hub – merging conversations, product catalogues, payment solutions, and order management into one for businesses.

“With investor trust from Tiger Global Partners, Transcend Capital, and AEF Greater Bay Area Fund, SleekFlow will enhance product developments to include detailed buyer journey tracking and analytics, which will provide invaluable actionable insights for enterprises to unlock their social commerce power as they embrace this unstoppable megatrend,” said Tsai. 

Meanwhile, Chibo Tang, managing partner of Gobi Partners GBA, said, “Eight in 10 US businesses anticipate increased sales via social media within the next three years. SleekFlow’s innovative solutions will help these global commerce businesses meet the evolving needs of customers who are turning to social channels to purchase more than ever before.”

Just recently, SleekFlow has also launched its new one-click checkout function and social-to-payment ecosystem, which provides a comprehensive solution for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses to receive payments directly via social chats. The newly advanced chat-and-pay feature effectively connects businesses and consumers with a faster, easier, and more well-secured path to purchase, unlocking a new avenue for business profits and revenue.

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Marketing Featured Global

Programmatic ad partner Blis secures fresh funding from LDC to drive global expansion

London, United Kingdom – Blis, the programmatic advertising platform that doesn’t rely on personal data, has acquired a significant investment from LDC, the UK’s mid-market private equity firm. This investment will back the platform’s existing management team to further grow and expand the global business, enabling Blis to double its headcount in the next few years.

As it marks 18 years in business, Blis has spent almost two decades shaping the role of location in the evolving programmatic landscape. It has invested heavily in its privacy-first technology for many years, expanding its solutions beyond location and launching its planning tool, Audience Explorer, in early 2021. This future-proofed approach enables Blis to deliver integrated planning and buying solutions via the Blis Platform to deliver highly accurate, targeted campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands, through personalised and scalable targeting, without reliance on personal data.

According to Blis, some of the world’s leading global brands and their media agencies use its solutions to tackle challenges in a cookieless era. Blis’ unique approach provides personalised targeting and performance without relying on personal data, serving up relevant ads to the most high-value, addressable audiences across any channel. Ahead of impending industry changes, Blis is not only delivering privacy-first targeting, but it is also providing the most holistic understanding of customers by combining consented location data with other rich, powerful data signals, helping clients to prepare today for the increasing lack of intent data.

Greg Isbister, CEO of Blis, commented that he is proud of everything they have achieved in the past 18 years, and he is looking forward to accelerating the platform’s growth plans in partnership with LDC. 

“We have an incredibly dedicated and passionate team focused on the company’s growth and ready to help the industry move forward in the right direction. LDC believes in our promise as the audience-first platform that doesn’t rely on personal data, and their unparalleled expertise will, undoubtedly, help Blis to continue expanding globally,” said Isbister.

LDC’s investment director John Green and partner David Andrews will be joining the board alongside Isbister, Blis’ CFO Parm Dhami, and John Farrell, who joins Blis as non-executive chair. With more than 25 years of experience, Farrell has led some of the world’s biggest marketing services brands and was the former president and CEO of Publicis Group’s specialised agencies and marketing services arm.

Green shared that Blis has created a leading tech business that allows the advertising industry to move forward in a more transparent and effective way, and the management team, led by Isbister, now has the necessary support to further grow the business. 

“We can see a real opportunity to support the growth of Blis across the globe, and we’re excited to work in partnership to achieve great success and help advertisers deliver scale and result in a privacy-centric world,” said Green.

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Marketing Featured APAC

Song Zu joins forces with MassiveMusic to expand global footprint

Sydney, Australia Song Zu, the longest-running and most-awarded music and sound company in the APAC region is set to become MassiveMusic, after both companies were acquired by Songtradr in 2021. Opening its eight and ninth offices in Sydney and Singapore, respectively, MassiveMusic will take on the Song Zu team to further extend its offer for brands and agencies in the region.

The newly incorporated Song Zu team will also add sound design to MassiveMusic’s full-service offer, thanks to their work with renowned brands and media businesses, such as Netflix, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Google, Amazon and Canva. 

MassiveMusic Sydney and Singapore will be led by Ian Lew, managing director, and Ramesh Sathiah, executive creative director with all of the previous Song Zu partners as part of the leadership team. Both offices are committed to the same goal: helping the world’s most renowned brands become more strategic and effective with the emotional power of music and sound. All previous services offered by Song Zu, including audio post production, will continue to be offered by MassiveMusic Sydney and Singapore.

MassiveMusic’s Founder and CEO, Hans Brouwer, said, “Joining with the award-winning team at Song Zu, who have built an incredible reputation for excellent creative work over the years really boosts the MassiveMusic offer on what we can provide for clients in the region. Together, we have the ability to support any brand who’s willing to invest in their music strategy and make the world sound better. Music knows no geographical boundaries and I’m happy we can now say the same.”

Meanwhile, Ramesh Sathiah, executive creative director, MassiveMusic, commented, “I have always admired MassiveMusic as original thinkers pushing the boundaries of the brand/music connection. Their work creating the sound of Kathmandu, Colgate-Palmolive and Philips, and as global sound partners with TikTok, shows what can be done by partnering so closely with agencies and brands. It’s really a full-service music agency, in a way that hasn’t been done here before and we can’t wait to unleash this braintrust on the next creative challenge.”

Founded in 1990, Song Zu has been helping to define the sound of the region’s biggest companies with decades-long relationships with Woolworths, Telstra, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Tiger Beer. Winning the Australian Creative Hotshop, LIA International Music Company of the year, as well as Gold Spikes, Gold Clios and Gold Lions, among others, has been a testament to their creative credentials.

Part of Songtradr Group, MassiveMusic was acquired by the largest B2B music licensing platform in the world in June of 2021. The deal, which has had MassiveMusic leading Songtradr’s B2B Music Services division, brought together state-of-the-art music licensing technologies with best-in-class creation of bespoke music and strategy for brands and agencies.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

PRecious Communications expands to PH, names Paolo Alba as country lead

Manila, Philippines – PRecious Communications, an integrated communications agency with traditional and digital capabilities, has announced that it is establishing local operations in the Philippines, as part of the agency’s Greater Southeast Asia expansion strategy. To drive its Philippine expansion, the agency has appointed Paolo Alba as client service director and country lead to drive the growth and manage operations of PRecious in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, PRecious represents Asia’s loyalty and data-focused marketing platform Society Pass, global trend forecasting company WGSN, a regional cloud-based anti-money laundering monitoring software, and more emerging companies in the fintech, insurtech, healthtech, and startup industries, to which the agency wants to bring more value to.

Lars Voedisch, MD and founder of PRecious Communications, shared, “Over the last years, we have been aggressively strengthening our presence across the region to better complement our clients’ marketing strategies in SEA. Building on this momentum, we are expanding to the Philippines to extend the same brand of strategic communications support to local and foreign brands looking to strengthen their presence across the Philippines.”

Concurrently, Prayaank Gupta, VP for growth and innovation of PRecious Communications, said, “Most of our partners in SEA have identified the Philippines as a strong emerging market and key growth area for tech-enabled industries. And with the local economy projected to grow in the next two years, PRecious Communications’ entrance reaffirms our commitment to be a strategic and responsive partner for clients as they strengthen their presence across the region.”

Alba is a well-rounded strategic communicator with over nine years of experience in corporate branding, reputation management, consumer influence, and crisis management. Throughout his tenure in Fleishman Hillard and Ogilvy, he provided strategic counsel for companies across multiple sectors and industries.

Apart from leading the growth of PRecious in the Philippines, Alba often provides strategic counsel on the agency’s corporate, tech, and consumer practices. A certified crisis manager, Alba runs crisis workshops across the markets and provides counsel on issues and reputation management initiatives.

On his appointment, Alba said, “I have been working alongside Voedisch and Gupta to identify strategic ways to support our clients in the region as they grow their businesses in this market. Now that we have established our local operations and have a dedicated team in the Philippines, we can start bringing the same value to companies that wish to expand across SEA.”

In the next three months, Alba will be focused on building relationships with key stakeholders, business development initiatives with potential partners, and recruitment of top talent. By year-end, Alba envisions doubling the current Philippine headcount and bringing more value to local and regional players in the fintech, insurtech, healthtech, and startup industries.

PRecious Communications actively plans and executes client communications programmes across Asia Pacific nations. In 2019, the agency joined the GlobalCom PR Network, an association of 80 independent PR agencies in over 100 countries worldwide, serving as its SEA representative.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Siam Piwat join forces with Takashimaya Group to expand three of its curated brands into Japan market

Thailand – Siam Piwat Retail Holding Company Limited, a retail innovation under the Siam Piwat Group, has joined forces with Takashimaya Transcosmos IC Japan Company Limited (TTICJ), a unit of Takashimaya Group, Japan’s well-known major premium department store chain, to showcase three of its owned and curated brands at the Meetz STORE, a new concept offline showroom. Among these brands are Absolute Siam, Ecotopia and ICONCRAFT. 

With this partnership, Thai SMEs and the Thai economy will benefit from Siam Piwat Retail’s strategy of promoting its own brands abroad and expanding its client base abroad, all while supporting the Thai economy.

The three Thai brands are Absolute Siam, Ecotopia, and ICONCRAFT, each with distinctive outstanding features but united in their unique Thai craftsmanship and creativity. The products include innovative art and contemporary craftworks by skilled artisans, designers, young eco-conscious creators, and SME entrepreneurs from across Thailand.

Usara Yongpiyakul, CEO of retail business group of Siam Piwat Co Ltd., said, “Siam Piwat has long been conducting business with large companies in Japan, and Takashimaya is one of the key partners, having opened the first branch in Thailand at ICONSIAM. This collaboration is thus an extension of our close business relationship. For this initiative, TTICJ (Takashimaya Transcosmos I.C. Japan) will bridge the knowledge gap and share the experience responsible for its long-standing success in Japan, while we bring our expertise in presenting a diverse range of distinctly Thai products and creating unique and extraordinary experiences in the Japanese market.”

Yongpiyakul added, “Japan marks the third country in Asia in our international expansion following Malaysia and Taiwan in a period of only five months since the beginning of 2022. Under Meetz Store, a new O2O e-commerce platform that connects customers from offline to online channels, this will enhance the opportunities to increase the international presence of Thai brands to the target groups and promote their ability to better cater to the needs and the shopping behaviour of Japanese customers.”

Meetz STORE held at Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku, Tokyo, from 29th April 2022 onwards and Siam Piwat Retail will commence its operation in Meetz STORE at the end of June 2022. More importantly, Meetz STORE aims to tap into nationwide 5.7 million cardholders of Takashimaya Group. 

Meetz STORE is the evolution of merging offline showroom stores with e-commerce platforms to spur offline-to-online (O2O) shopping experience and stimulate spending everywhere across Japan. Meetz STORE features a variety of carefully selected product categories, endorsed and promoted by Japanese well-known curators in their expertise fields. The presentation of Siam Piwat’s brands aims to be curated and endorsed by Mr. Mao Sakaguchi, a creator of well-known for his ethical consumption concepts and curation of eco-friendly and socially responsible products, which have been growing in popularity among Japanese consumers.

This collaboration does not only drive Siam Piwat’s retail arm forward and further strengthen the business partnership between Siam Piwat and Takashimaya Group, but more importantly commercializing SPW own curated concept brands to different countries with new business models that will enhance SPW and partners to achieve mutual benefits and growth sustainably in the long run.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Razer’s fintech arm acquires Indonesian e-commerce company PT E2Pay Global Utama

Shah Alam, Malaysia – Razer Fintech, the financial technology arm of Razer, the global lifestyle brand for gamers, has announced the acquisition of PT E2Pay Global Utama (E2Pay), one of the B2B2C digital payment facilitators and e-money players in Indonesia. Razer Fintech is already a O2O (offline to online) digital payment network in Southeast Asia, and this acquisition marks its further expansion into Indonesia.

E2Pay, which was founded in 2012, offers merchants and financial institutions a variety of payment solutions, including payment gateway, e-money, and remittance service licenses in Indonesia. These services complement Razer Merchant Services, Razer Fintech’s business-to-business arm in the region, which helps its 60,000 merchants make cross-border payments to the region’s most populous country.

E2Pay’s payment gateway supports high-growth e-Commerce verticals, including online marketplaces, professional services, travel & tourism, as well as other segments throughout Indonesia, with some of E2Pay’s most notable merchants consisting of Tokopedia, Bukalapak, Traveloka and Blibli.com.

The Indonesian fintech player also connects major payment channels and supports local and alternative payment methods, including card schemes, internet banking, mobile banking, e-money, virtual accounts, offline points, and personal financing to provide a comprehensive local payment platform for more than 500 merchants in the region.

The E2Pay e-money platform, MBayar, serves over 500,000 registered users and supports payments for credit or data plans, bill payments, QR payments, cash withdrawals and fund transfer services.

Razer Fintech’s CEO, Lee Li Meng, said that E2Pay is one of Indonesia’s very few digital payment players that has a comprehensive set of licenses across various payment gateway services, e-money, and remittance. 

“The acquisition of E2Pay allows us to accelerate our entry into Indonesia, one of the fastest-growing digital economies in Southeast Asia, as well as be able to better serve the digital payment needs of our regional and global merchants as the single partner of choice. I look forward to working closely with the E2Pay team to grow our presence in Indonesia considerably in the years to come,” Meng said.

E2Pay’s chairman, Rudy Danandjaja, commented, “E2Pay are very happy to have Razer Fintech onboard. We hope that the synergy between E2Pay and Razer Fintech will enable both organizations to tap on our merchant base to grow, expand and scale our platform’s reach across Southeast Asia.”

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Marketing Featured East Asia

VIOOH names Calvin Chan as CEO for China

Beijing, China Today, VIOOH, a global digital out of home (DOOH) supply-side platform, announced the hire of Calvin Chan as the new chief executive officer in China. 

In his new role, Chan will be responsible for scaling and developing VIOOH’s programmatic digital out of home (pDOOH) offering across mainland China and Hong Kong, China. 

Meanwhile, Jean-Christophe Conti, CEO of VIOOH, commented, “We’re delighted to be welcoming Calvin Chan to the VIOOH team. Calvin is a widely respected leader within the industry and he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this role.” 

“It’s an exciting time for the region, with the recent launch of our programmatic digital OOH offering across the Hong Kong Metro network, and further expansion set for mainland China,” added Conti. 

Moreover, Chan is considered to be an innovative and widely respected digital industry expert in China, with nearly 20 years of experience in the digital and marketing technology industry. Prior to joining VIOOH, Chan served as The Trade Desk’s first general manager for China, where he contributed to the exponential business growth and talent development for its market entry. Previous to this, Chan was the chief executive officer at AdMaster. Chan has also held management positions in China and the US for The Nielsen Company. 

Calvin Chan, CEO for China at VIOOH on his new role, “I’m thrilled to be joining VIOOH at such a transformational time for the industry. Programmatic digital out of home is certainly one of the most promising growth engines for the AdTech industry both in the Mainland China and Hong Kong markets and I look forward to sharing more developments to come from VIOOH.” 

VIOOH launched in Hong Kong back in 2020 at Hong Kong International Airport. This was shortly followed by its expansion into urban Hong Kong with JCDecaux Cityscape’s street furniture and bus shelter inventory. Most recently at the beginning of last month, VIOOH launched its programmatic digital OOH offering across the Hong Kong MTR network in partnership with JCDecaux Transport – bringing VIOOH’s coverage to 70% of Hong Kong’s total number of digital screens.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Epiphany Café announces expansion into Malaysia, Philippines

Malaysia – Epiphany Café, a New Zealand café franchise and the flagship business of Starfleet Innotech Inc., has announced it has more than doubled its domestic presence this year. To capitalize on this momentum, the company is now mobilizing into Malaysia, with plans to expand into the Philippines and United States by year-end.

According to Chito Galvez, divisional manager for franchising of Starfleet Innotech Inc., Epiphany Café plays a leading role in the conglomerate’s global growth plans, establishing the group’s footprint in new markets and creating the scaffolding necessary to expand the other products and services in SFIO’s portfolio. These include New Zealand Manuka Honey (under the Epiphany Café brand) and instant coffee (under the Gorgeous Coffee brand), both slated to be available for purchase online in North America by July.

Galvez brings over 35 years of experience in franchise business development, retail site expansion, sales building, customer service, negotiations, and business relationship building to his role spearheading SFIO’s franchising operations. Prior to joining SFIO, Galvez played crucial roles in the growth teams of F&B giants such as 7-11 and the Jollibee Group, with a career taking him across the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, India, and New Zealand.

Starfleet Innotech Inc.’ CEO and Co-founder of Epiphany Cafe Jeths Lacson, shared, “At the beginning of the year, we mapped out a two-year roadmap for 200 new Epiphany Café locations across New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia,” Lacson added.

“Under Chito’s leadership, we are making great progress in our regional expansion plans.” Epiphany Café more than doubled its footprint across New Zealand in the first half of 2022, growing from 30 locations to 65 franchised and licensed locations within the country. Following the completion of market research and feasibility studies, Epiphany Café has already secured trademarks and reserved flagship locations to enter the Malaysian market. Initial teams to manage these brick-and-mortar operations in Malaysia will be training in New Zealand next quarter,” Lacson added.

As Epiphany Cafe continues to grow domestically and regionally, the SFIO group is setting the stage for an entrance into North America. 

Lacson continues, “In addition to partnering with local distributors to sell our F&B products online, we’re actively exploring M&A opportunities with existing cafe and bakery businesses to bring our award-winning New Zealand brand to the United States.” 

Lacson further said, “Our Chief Investments Officer Richard de Lima plays a central role in finding and shaping precisely these opportunities.”

CIO Richard de Lima is an asset manager and global corporate advisor, bringing over 30 years of experience in the capital markets to leading the conglomerate’s global partnership efforts. As an expert in business finance engineering, mergers & acquisitions, portfolio management, and strategic corporate investor relations, De Lima specializes in cross-border transactions in the lower middle market.

In addition to his experience working across Wall Street investment banking firms, he was the President and CEO of LeBevCo Holdings, a global F&B operation. Now leading SFIO’s partnership initiatives in the United States, he leverages his decades of experience and network-building among F&B distributors, manufacturers, and brick-and-mortar businesses to strike and structure the strategic deals necessary for an impactful debut for Epiphany Café.

Lacson concluded, “As we build momentum for Epiphany Café in New Zealand, Malaysia, and beyond, we continue to keep our sights trained on North America as our key market. We’re at an inflection point now in our growth journey—lining up strategic partners that share our vision. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more news around our progress in that journey.”

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Platforms Featured APAC

Citcon expands payments presence throughout APAC region

California, USA — Citcon, the one-stop gateway to the growing payment options that enable cross-border and in-market commerce to scale, has announced the organization’s latest expansion efforts in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Following a successful Series C fundraise in October 2021, the global payments provider has expanded its portfolio of local wallets and alternative payment schemes to more than 200 and added in-market senior leadership and support staff to bolster its market presence throughout the APAC region.

With its expanded in-market presence, Citcon is rapidly expanding digital wallet and local payment scheme integration throughout APAC, recently adding more than 50 popular local wallet solutions to better serve consumers in South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and many more.

Additionally, Citcon has also expanded its integration with AliPay, WeChatPay, PayPal, and Klarna which have emerged as leading payment platforms serving global markets. Today, Citcon’s single API solution enables merchants to access more than 200 payment methods through a single integrated payment, reconciliation, and settlement solution.

Chuck Huang, founder and CEO of Citcon, commented, “The booming middle class in APAC markets is the most important force driving global commerce. While western brands and western styles will find eager customers throughout Asia, buying and selling merchandise is still a hyper-localized process. We have rapidly grown our APAC market presence, including adding in-country experts and staff to help our partners to scale their businesses throughout the continent and beyond.”

To manage its on-the-ground presence, Citcon has expanded its in-market leadership team in key locations, including Japan, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Citcon recently welcomed Andrew Meimes, VP and head of Citcon APAC, as well as Ian Zhang, GM for Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and Siddharth Sahi, director of APAC payment partnerships based in Singapore.

Meimes shared, “As our markets have rapidly evolved from largely cash-based to cashless, consumer culture has undergone a dramatic shift. Merchants need the functionality to integrate into the new shopping and commerce models in these markets and the cultural insights to optimize their presence with the consumers they wish to engage.

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

InMobi, Microsoft Advertising expands partnership into SEA

Singapore — InMobi, an established provider of content, marketing, and monetization tech that help businesses fuel growth, has announced the expansion of its partnership with Microsoft Advertising to support enterprise and strategic advertisers in Southeast Asia (SEA).

Via the partnership’s expansion into SEA, InMobi will offer marketers an integrated solution to power their campaigns built on the search and native display capabilities of Microsoft Advertising and the mobile ad tech capability of InMobi’s advertising platforms.

InMobi and Microsoft have been in a strategic partnership since July 2018 to help enterprises accelerate their digital transformation by providing them with insights, audience, and engagement platforms for a connected world. The partnership was expanded in 2019 as InMobi added the Microsoft Advertising products and solutions to its offerings in India.

Nick Seckold, VP of Microsoft Advertising APAC, said, “Over the last 2.5 years InMobi has done a wonderful job establishing Microsoft Advertising’s Indian footprint while doubling revenue over the same period. InMobi’s successful track record in India has led Microsoft Advertising to extend its coverage across SEA where they will be tasked with building close relationships with advertisers and agencies to grow the business in the region.”

As part of the expansion, Rohit Dosi, GM of the Microsoft Advertising business at InMobi, will take up additional responsibilities for growing the Microsoft Advertising business across the SEA market and leading the global relationship with Microsoft.

“The extended partnership between Microsoft Advertising and InMobi will enable marketers to deliver a unified brand experience to customers by bringing together the best of search and native display platforms across both organizations,” Dosi shared.

InMobi will be responsible for the sales, account management, marketing, finance, collection, and billing for Microsoft Advertising customers managed by InMobi, in India and SEA, from now onwards. The direct billing with InMobi is intended to enable a seamless and hassle-free experience for advertisers, from InMobi, as they leverage its services.

Meanwhile, commenting on the effect InMobi and Microsoft Advertising has done on their brand, Ankit Maheshwari, VP of marketing at Angara, an online diamond and gemstone jeweller, said, “The InMobi team is pivotal to the success that Angara witnesses with Microsoft Advertising. Their proactive approach has time and again enhanced campaign efficiency, driven innovation, and delivered healthy returns for the brand.”