Singapore’s a hub of Asia businesses for global brands and a walk around the CBD area reinforces its positioning as that hub. Within this area, one of the more recently-built premises is Asia Square.
With over one million square feet of office space, a 100,000 square foot networking space, a built in hotel and a distinguished tenant list consisting of the such as Citibank, Google and Vodafone, Asia Square has established itself as one of Singapore’s leading business hotspots.
Marketing sat down with Hugh Andrew, managing director of BlackRock (which owns Asia Square) and Mangham Gaxiola’s Stephen Mangham to look at the creative process of how the premise was marketed.
Andrew is responsible for the asset management, leasing and marketing, and property management of the BlackRock’s Asia Property Fund portfolios.
The marketing of Asia Square’s work spaces began in a straightforward manner, akin to that of any other company – a seller buys a piece of land, builds it, and attracts interest in leasing.
However, given that Asia Square was designed to be the provider of Singapore’s most premium office space, Andrew’s task was to make the brand appeal to the best tenants out there.
“This tower would be the largest commercial building in Singapore with a total area of 1.3 million square feet,” he explained. “We wanted our story to match the quality of our product, as does every development.”
The product was there, and so was the desire. The final piece of the puzzle for Andrew and BlackRock was the marketing. For the A-list clients that Asia Square hoped to attract, a creative and robust advertising campaign would be imperative.
Following a successful initial round of marketing, Andrew knew he had to shake things up and produce something different to consolidate Asia Square’s image and attract fresh clients, something that would be appealing and relevant in the ever-evolving market. This was the time it signed on Mangham Gaxiola. (The agency has since become a part of the Dentsu Aegis Group and known as manghamgaxiola mcgarrybowen.)
“At that point, the relationship with our creative team had got to a stage where they couldn’t do anything more for us,” Andrew said.
“As a result, Mangham and his team came in, and quite frankly, it was a breath of fresh air. At no point did we feel that we were hearing, ‘This is how you need to sell your products’. It was lots of questions about what we wanted to achieve, which is quite nice. It’s about what you want, not them telling you what they think you should have. I could also sense that Mangham and the team could get what I was looking for.”
Marketing real estate in Singapore too often involves pastoral imagery with focus mainly placed on aesthetic pleasure, and these advertisements have in time become the formula used by agencies in the country. Andrew wanted none of that.
“We’ve all seen classic brochures and advertising campaigns for real estate in Singapore, it usually involves a couple with butterflies walking hand and hand in a meadow. I didn’t want meadows and trees, I wanted something a bit different.”
Different was exactly what he got from his collaboration with Mangham Gaxiola, who churned out cycle after cycle of new and creative ideas. Ultimately, playing on the common reference to Singapore as a “little red dot”, they developed a catchphrase for the campaign – “Inside this Little Red Dot, there’s an Amazing Square.”
“And therefore, the idea, that you need to move in the right squares.”
Mangham describes the idea as conveying the message about this sort of “tower of power.” Asia Square has got the A-list of companies that are based here in Singapore. It’s a concentration of corporate power, and Singapore is a concentration of corporate power.
“Through this, we came up with an idea: within this square there’s an even greater concentration of corporate power. The whole purpose behind this was to present Asia Square as a premium property.”
Building on the foundations provided by their earlier campaign, the brand decided to freshen up its image for the next major wave of advertising.
“We wanted to keep that thought going,” Mangham stressed, “The notion of a concentration of corporate power remained important, and we wanted to display it in a branded way.”
At first the idea was a potential advertisement which would exhibit people working and interacting in Asia Square. While the concept was attractive, there was a catch.
“I didn’t want models,” Andrew said. “I specifically remember saying, this is all great, but we’re back to the butterflies in meadow thing.”
The solution was incredibly simple, yet a challenge to execute – to feature distinguished clients in the marketing campaign.
“It occurred to us to show actual tenants looking as if they’re strutting their stuff on the red carpet, yet in this case not the red carpet, but inside the lobby of Asia Square still looking loud and proud,” Mangham said.
While this concept was brilliant in its simplicity and directness, there were some foreseeable stumbling blocks down the line, something not lost on Mangham. “We thought this [using real tenants] would be quite cool to do, but we knew it would be a little bit ambitious. Essentially, we were relying on the good faith of the tenants to not only agree to effectively give testimony for Asia Square, but actually to take part in a shoot,” he said.
“We wanted a branded way of saying, if you’re in this building, you’re with the crème de la crème – if you’re here, you’re moving in the right circles.”
“The calibre of the tenants and the concentration of corporate power are what demonstrate how special this place really is,” Mangham said. “We needed real life people to demonstrate it,” he said.
Here is what the shoot was like:
And here’s the final ad campaign:
THE PLAN FORWARD
Going ahead, Asia Square plans to promote a specific product – smaller spaces with fitted units. The idea for this subsequent campaign came from the imminent departure of Lloyd’s of London from Asia Square. The London based insurance company is set to move out in November, vacating two floors of the building in the process.
However, all is not negative with this loss, as it has opened up a new business possibility for BlackRock.
“They operate the space a little bit like a business centre,” Andrew said. “This means they’ve got fitted units on their two floors. Jimmy Davis, one of my development colleagues who helped build Asia Square, suggested that we let them keep the space as it is so that we can rebrand it and lease it out to small tenants. I thought it was a great idea.”
The subsequent campaign is to promote that small space, to attract a different size tenant – or a different quality of tenant.
“It’s still about an amazing square, so that hasn’t gone away. However, we want to say that it’s small as well – Asia Square can be small if you’re the kind of company that is looking for premium space but smaller size,” Andrew added.
- Creative agency: manghamgaxiola mcgarrybowen
- Production House: Nemesis Pictures
- Photographer: G. T. Gan
- Online Production: Make Studios
- Media: MEC Global