Former Lion & Lion co-founder Casper Andersen on leaving an agency he built

When Casper Andersen (pictured) first co-founded Lion & Lion in 2013 with former managing partner and co-founder Hugh Batley, both of them aimed to turn it into a force to be reckoned with. Fast forward to 2019, the agency is currently present in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan with approximately 200 employees. Earlier this month, it also witnessed a leadership change, with Andersen stepping down and Fredrik Gumpel taking over the reins at Lion & Lion.

While it is both sad and exciting to move on to a new chapter in life, Andersen told A+M in an exit interview that it "feels good to leave behind a business that has so many fantastic people working in it".

"We have employees who have worked for global companies and top-tier management consultancies, and to know that they’d rather work for a company that you’ve built is a very pleasant feeling," he said.

According to Andersen, the agency's client pool has grown every year since it was founded and among the list of clients it has worked with include Rimmel, La Prairie, Danone, Shiseido, Coca-Cola, Dutch Lady, Acer and The North Face. He explained that it felt like that right time to move on and it is "satisfying" to hand over a business that is in good shape with renowned clients.

"When we first started out, the ambition was to build a leading digital agency. As a business grows, you want to see that your values have become an ingrained part of the culture, and that you continue to create value," he added.

When asked what he was most proud of during his time at Lion & Lion, Andersen said it was the fact at its success is built on creating a culture where it always focuses on what is strategically the right thing to do for the brands it works with. He explained:

Our guiding star has never been our own profits or our client’s satisfaction, but a drive to make sure marketing dollars are spent in the best possible way.

(Read also: Meet the CEOs: Lion & Lion Malaysia’s Casper Andersen)

Read the rest of the interview here:

A+M: How has the advertising industry in Malaysia evolved over the last six years?

Andersen: Like in the rest of the world, it has evolved tremendously, and in many ways, the industry, has come closer to going full circle. Six years ago, there was a lot of discussions about the medium such as TV versus YouTube and other arbitrary discussions. It reminds me of newspapers and broadcasters that have gone through a similar phase.

Today, there is less talk about whether you read a piece of news on your smartphone or on paper with ink, or whether you saw a movie through a streaming service or flow TV. It’s about the content.

Distribution is still important, but it’s not either or, it’s more often both, and more a matter of how to monetise your products and how to make it available in any given situation.

Coming back to the advertising industry, this means that the role of an agency can no longer be divided as clearly between, for example, offline and online or creative and media.

A+M: Where is Malaysia at in terms of digital marketing and where is there room for improvement?

Andersen: Overall, I don’t see a big difference in where Malaysia is at in its marketing maturity versus more developed countries. A lot of marketing in Malaysia and Southeast Asia in general is driven by global brands, and the standards are often the same as in for instance Europe or US.

Where there is room for improvement is in the trust between brands and agencies. I’m not sure what came first, but many brands consider agencies marketing suppliers, rather than marketing experts, and many agencies have shaped their culture and profile to play that role.

There is a danger of eroding the role of agencies as experts and advisors if neither party focuses on it.

I encourage both agencies and brands to consider marketing a profession on par with strategy consulting and legal advice, among others, and live up to the same professional standards and ways of working together.

A+M: What are some digital marketing trends marketers should look out for?

Andersen: There are three key things to look out for, which all evolves around making marketing more relevant. There is nothing ground breaking in these trends, it’s a matter of how well it’s done.

Firstly, integration of marketing disciplines is important to make sure the experience for the consumer is consistent, data is correctly captured and utilised, and there is the right strategy-alignment in all activities. The second thing is having the right content in the right context at all times.

There is still too much money deployed into classic campaign-marketing to push a product in places where reach is a primary consideration.

The final point is related to the intent of marketing. Particularly in digital, there is plenty of opportunity to be useful when interacting with a consumer. "Useful" can be related to, for example, guided selling, research, or entertaining content about how to use the product or service you’re advertising. Being useful to clients and consumers takes up a surprisingly small part of most companies marketing budgets.

A+M: One tip for individuals eager to enter the industry?

Andersen: The industry is in a very interesting era and the role of particularly digital is climbing the agenda in almost all large organisations, so I’d recommend anyone with the desire to influence how companies can grow in the future to enter. For any individual, it’s important on a personal level to understand what difference you want to make in your role.

If you focus on how quickly you can climb the ladder or the size of your paycheck, I doubt it will get you very far.