It is not every day you get to sit in the private office of a MediaCorp chief and grill her on everything from what the company’s challenges are to what she likes to eat (which is Asian food), but Debbie Cai makes it count with CMO, corporate marketing and strategic management, Alice Tan.
What do you want people to see MediaCorp as?
Our mission statement is delivering valued content, anywhere, through any device, any form, any time. We kind of own it, at least in the traditional media, but new media is the space we are trying to develop some strategy for. Behaviour is changing so fast that as a media and content company, you have to really catch up and even ask yourself, are you ahead of the curve, when do you go in, do you want to be ahead or do you want to be at the point when the curve takes a big jump – when is that time, nobody knows.
What turns you on?
It’s the ability to influence consumer behaviour that is the excitement. Everyday is a challenge, and it’s not like you have a product you in the supermarket and just let it sell. Our products span TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, and even online – so we’re everywhere. We are in a prime position; Mediacorp as a company in Singapore, if I may dare say, is probably the largest in terms of total assets.
Since MediaCorp is so influential, some might ask why does it bother marketing itself?
I don’t think we’re quite there yet – we are powerful, we probably influence every individual’s life, but we’re still a very young brand, we still have some way to go to becoming a brand that anyone can look back on and say, Thank you. We need to be able to touch lives.
Is MediaCorp interesting in starting a corporate blog?
I would need to ask the CEO if he is keen, but as the business is moving at such a fast pace, I’m not sure if he has the time to. Blogging is a personal thing. Some people like to do it, some don’t. Can that be translated into a corporate behaviour? Possibly, but I think the culture needs to be right. Is the culture, especially within Singapore-based companies, ready? We are by nature conservative and sometimes not very open to receiving criticisms. This is my personal opinion. We need to get to the place where we encourage openness, but openness is such a big word that can also be misunderstood. I’m also not totally for it.
We have to learn to deal with bloggers now because it’s a phenomenon that’s moving faster than we think. 50% of kids today blog and as a media owner, I have to see how to bring the generation back to read and consume my content, because they are creating their own content now.
How has MediaCorp’s revenues been affected by the competition?
Anything that tries to grab the consumers’ time is competition. We look at it as a challenge. I won’t say it has affected us directly. It’s just that now when you go in and talk to an advertiser, they tell you that they do have choices and that makes us get creative about our complete package. We’re not in the business of maintenance. I won’t use the word affected in a negative way – I would say we need to adapt to this.
What is your biggest challenge?
Aside from trying to get everybody in the company to hold hands together and for people to think of Mediacorp as a group, as well as learning to cope with new media, it is also deciding when to invest in new technology to reach consumers. The cost of technology is still quite expensive and the interesting thing is with new media, we are talking to not just a four million-strong population – it’s beyond that. We can no longer think when we produce a TV programme that it is only for a Singaporean audience. We have to try to think global; if we start producing programmes with a very global approach, it may not work with Singapore, but if I do more of the Phua Chu Kang type, it doesn’t work in the global arena. So we’re caught. We need to change our thinking in producing.
How much TV do you watch?
I don’t watch a lot of TV – I watch a lot of DVDs, past programmes and a whole host of everything. I need to keep abreast of what’s going on, not just with our own channels or magazines and newspapers. I hate to go to bookshops because I always buy something and read only three pages of it and it would have cost me 40, 50 dollars. Over the weekend, I bought Newsweek because I was quite fascinated with the headline, the Clintons, because I’m very intrigued by human behaviour.
What do you want to be remembered as?
I am first and foremost a marketer. I love to be here and I love the time we’re in now. It’s scary, it’s challenging, it’s the most unknown of all the years I’ve been in media. You really don’t know what is the next big thing.