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dentsu rebrands Happy Marketer to Merkle SG: Post-acquisition life 3 years on

dentsu rebrands Happy Marketer to Merkle SG: Post-acquisition life 3 years on

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Dentsu Singapore has rebranded digital marketing agency Happy Marketer to Merkle Singapore. This comes as Happy Marketer completed its integration after it was acquired by dentsu in 2019. The integration is also part of dentsu’s continued realignment of its customer experience management (CXM) capabilities under Merkle, which will see an acceleration of its data-driven transformation offerings into fast-growth strategic industries across APAC, dentsu said in a statement.

Separately, Merkle also recently completed the realignment of its portfolio of B2B agencies into Merkle B2B, headed by Rhys Taylor. Prantik Mazumdar, managing director, CXM Group, dentsu Singapore said that the integration of its acquired brands under Merkle in Singapore has been part of the planned road map to build a more cohesive CXM proposition to the market.

“We are now geared to extend better support to markets beyond Singapore shores, especially across South East Asia, where we see immense potential for growth,” Mazumdar, who was previously managing partner of Happy Marketer, added.

According to dentsu, Merkle’s next phase will see it expand into strategic sectors of financial services, fintech, telecommunications, travel as well as eCommerce. It will also continue to complement dentsu Singapore’s creative and media capabilities in bringing more integrated solutions to the market.

Merkle currently has over 80 employees and works with clients such as ING Bank, Standard Chartered, NTUC Income, Grab, and Singapore Press Holdings. It has also formed partnerships with companies such as Google, Salesforce, Adobe, Tealium, and Insider. 

(Read also: Dentsu Aegis Network acquires digital agency Happy Marketer: Behind the deal)

Dentsu Singapore CEO, Prakash Kamdar, said that the integration of Happy Marketer and its rebrand as Merkle could not come at a better time as marketers seek more relevant, compelling and joined-up experiences to win consumer attention and love in the face of an increasingly connected world.

“Merkle Singapore has transformed our data-driven CXM offerings since its acquisition in 2019 and will undoubtedly continue to reimagine and reshape the future of digital marketing for our clients in Singapore and the region," Kamdar said.

Happy Marketer was established in 2009 and headquartered in Singapore. Acquisition talks spanned nearly two years and during this period, Mazumdar told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE in a previous interview that both parties had a good chance to understand each other's ambitions, priorities, cultures and styles of operation.

Following the acquisition, Mazumdar, along with Rachit Dayal, former Happy Marketer CEO, and Sanchit Mendiratta, former chief growth officer at Happy Marketer, took on leadership roles within dentsu. Mendiratta is now MD, Merkle Singapore while Dayal is CMO, Merkle APAC. 

Mendiratta said that the agency is optimistic about where it will go from here and looks forward to bringing its footprint further across the APAC region in the coming years. “Our acquisition journey with dentsu has been incredible, having grown from strength to strength in the past three years," he said.

At the same time, its clients continue to appreciate the full suite of offerings that the agency is able to deliver due to the synergies from its global dentsu network, while its employees have been able to grow through more opportunities for cross-collaborations and learning.

Meanwhile, Dayal and Mazumdar told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE in an interview that, moving forward, they plan to grow their existing business by cross-selling relevant CXM capabilities through better integration with Merkle and dentsu entities, as well as offer high-margin digital transformation consultative and training services to clients to help them in their long-term growth. Both entities also plan to co-develop products and joint business plans with strategic alliance partners such as Google, Salesforce and Adobe in Southeast Asia to penetrate new accounts.

Dayal and Mazumdar said: "The winning formula and the success factor for Merkle Singapore with these client segments have been our ability to drive their CXM through data-driven marketing strategies, which have helped them to drive personalisation at scale. This has either helped them to achieve ROI through scaling up revenues and/or by making their marketing cost-effective."

merkle singapore staff

More on the interview here:

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What has the journey been like for the founding team so far?

Dayal and Mazumdar: When we went through the acquisition and due diligence process, we thought it would be the most exciting thing we'd have to do. Post-acquisition life was way more exciting. It was like we suddenly moved countries - so much more going on, so many more opportunities, and so many more things to learn. 

The first milestone post-acquisition was very simple - we had to start wearing shoes again! dentsu has an incredible flexi workplace culture that allows every individual to be themselves.  But as we went from our cute little shophouse, where we always removed our shoes before entering, to the incredibly beautiful dentsu office at Guoco Tower, shoes became a mainstay. It was about adjusting and adapting to new workplace culture especially having to suddenly get to know, interact and collaborate with 700 more colleagues. With dentsu being our new family, we made it our home by painting murals on our office walls, bringing our old furniture into Guoco and planting our trophies around us.

The biggest muscle we had to build was on the operational side of the business where we have appreciated the ability to enhance our finance and talent management, for instance, by gleaning from the far more mature functions within dentsu and Merkle. We have had to step up quickly in other areas such as project planning, tracking, audits and forecasts, among others. That maturity process over the last three years has really prepared us for this transition to Merkle Singapore.

Overall, we cannot be happier to see how well we have integrated into dentsu and Merkle and continue to bring value to dentsu Singapore’s CXM business. We are so grateful for the opportunities that our people have had within the network and to see them continue to grow beyond the integration. We joined as a small team but we are proud that we are now one with dentsu as Merkle Singapore.

(Read also: The gruelling quest for an M&A: Lookout points for the smaller guys)

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Cultures take time to integrate following an acquisition. How did you ensure the process was seamless?

Dayal and Mazumdar: Change can be uncomfortable, especially when assimilating into a large network with a diverse people community, and formalised way of working.

For us, this formula worked:

  • For the original Happy Marketer crew, we have been believers that we should continue to be who we are. The team's own version of chemistry, meeting, timings, dedication, interactions that make this a uniquely effective team have been kept them as they are, and that has become the base of the Merkle Singapore culture today.
  • We gradually built connections and continued to respect what makes dentsu special, recognising that everyone has their special sauce, just as we do, but knowing that together, we can concoct an even stronger recipe for success. We knew that there is so much we can learn from the experience of others familiar with the dentsu culture and our people have definitely benefitted from learning from how another dentsu colleague may handle a client, prepare for a pitch, manage a project meeting or produce a deliverable.

And naturally, that's how our cultures have evolved.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What were the takeaways you have obtained following the acquisition?

Dayal and Mazumdar: It is a life-changing event to be part of an acquisition and integration. Professionally, the learnings during and after acquisition are magnitudes more than the typical "business as usual" period. As with all life-changing events, it is also very challenging to step out of the comfort zone.

Post-acquisition life requires a new lease of curiosity, energy and motivation. So, everyone should rest up and prepare well to navigate a much bigger world.

It is much harder to stay focused on today's tasks in a larger firm. There are just so many people to meet, opportunities to pursue. And the loyal clients and past projects aren't going away. So the calendar does get a lot busier and learning to say "no" or "let's do this later" was a tough skill many of us had to learn in order to continue doing our best work with clients.

Dentsu Singapore also bolstered its team in January with the appointment of Preeti Mascarenhas as chief strategy officer. Additionally, Florian Lacombe was promoted to head of operations, while Prema Techinamurthi was promoted to MD, creative group - both under dentsu Singapore. The appointment and promotions came as Kamdar commenced his additional role as CEO of dentsu Indonesia on 1 February. The appointment was expected to ignite synergistic opportunities across both markets and a bigger canvas to achieve "good and growth" in the region going forward.

Additionally, the agency delivered a strong close to 2021, charting a return to pre-pandemic growth as it commits to more purpose-led growth in 2022. According to dentsu Singapore, its strong performance for 2021 has been fuelled by its focus on strategic sectors, such as health and gaming, and sustainable growth; further integration of its offerings; and a strengthened eco-system of partnerships in the region, including with Google and Salesforce. 

Kamdar said then that while 2021 has continued to show the agency that being nimble to change is more important than ever for businesses wanting to succeed in the new norm, several trends will fuel the winds of change in 2022; which dentsu Singapore sees as opportunities to raise the bar in its solutions to meet the demand for more data-driven experiences, support the growth of pandemic-related lifestyles such as in eCommerce, Gaming and eHealth, and ride on the acceleration of the metaverse. 

Separately, in November last year, Manulife appointed dentsu as its global media and creative partner to amplify and evolve its brand across markets. This came after the brand announced the next phase of its strategy, with an emphasis on its Asia and Global Wealth and Asset Management businesses and digital transformation including its journey to become the most digital, customer-centric global company in its industry. Shortly before that, the agency also won the global media remit for Standard Chartered. Dentsu has been working with Standard Chartered since 2017. 

Additionally, dentsu launched dentsu gaming in Asia Pacific, an integrated solution that brings together the gaming heritage and expertise of dentsu Japan network with the global scale and specialist capabilities within dentsu international. Launched in October last year, dentsu gaming will provide access to specialist strategy, activation and original intellectual property development for brands seeking to connect with and navigate the gaming ecosystem. 

Related articles:
dentsu SG makes new leadership appointments, charts return to pre-pandemic growth
Dentsu APAC appoints head of media Philippines
Subun Khow returns to dentsu Thailand as chief creative officer
dentsu Indonesia promotes Aloysia Dian Anggraeni, names first growth lead

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