Havas Immerse GM Lee See Yin (pictured) is joining social content marketing company Clozette as country manager for Malaysia, effective 18 November, more than three years after joining the agency.
He first joined Immerse Group as GM in 2016 before the digital firm was acquired by Havas Group in 2017 to form Havas Immerse. In his current role, Lee was responsible for Havas Immerse’s new and organic business growth, and also led the account servicing department and insourcing studio. At Immerse Group, he led the account servicing team and was the main lead in organic and business growth. Lee has over 20 years of experience in digital marketing, out of which seven years were spent in the top management spearheading creative agencies.
In a statement to A+M, Clozette’s co-founder Roger Yuen confirmed Lee’s appointment, adding that it’s a newly created role. Meanwhile, a Havas Immerse spokesperson said there are no plans to replace Lee for now.
In an interview with A+M, Lee said he will be responsible for spearheading the business at Clozette, which currently has a presence in Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. Earlier this year, the company secured US$10 million in Series C funding after seeing its revenue grow by over 140%. Part of the investment will go towards building an interactive “Cool Japan Ecosystem” to attract a new generation of Japanese culture fans. Meanwhile, its subsidiary in Indonesia was said to see grow by 200% over last year.
According to Lee, some consumers view Clozette as an eCommerce platform while others see it as a key opinion leader (KOL) management agency. As such, his main objective is to “set the record straight” so consumers will understand what Clozette represents.
“We are geared towards women’s content, mainly beauty, fashion, travel, and Japanese culture. I want to make our offerings better known to brands and agencies which hope to engage women ages 18 to 34 years old,” he explained.
Lee’s decision to join Clozette came after meeting with co-founders Yuen, Kersie Koh, and Cheryl Tan. Yuen’s forward-thinking impressed him and he found Koh and Tan to be energetic. “They are very down to earth individuals with no airs about them. Just by meeting them, I felt like we have been friends for the longest time,” he said.
He told A+M that following the acquisition of Immerse Group by Havas, the main challenge was the lack of flexibility and agility that a smaller organisation normally has. He also cited different cultures and working styles as another post-acquisition challenge. “When you have two organisations coming together, there will be overlaps and there needs to be some alignment of expectations. It’s really about learning how to coexist and work together,” he said.
Even so, Lee said one of his proud achievements at Havas was when he helped set up an in-house studio for Unilever, which has been running for about one and a half years. He explained that Unilever was always in need of speed and plenty of visuals are adapted rather than being created in-house. As such, it required a co-creation studio to help with quick turnaround. “These type of things keep me excited, not just the traditional way of advertising such as TVC or print ads,” he said.
Prior to joining Havas, Lee was a creative technologist at OgilvyOne Malaysia, and consulted on all areas of digital from current and future trends to technical possibilities. He was also instrumental in launching digital-led projects which included global CMS, eCommerce, and SCRM projects. Lee also worked at Trapper, Kingdom Digital, GroupM, and Astro Radio.
Lee explained that a main challenge when working with big agencies is that change does not happen as fast as it should. “Creative agencies are still very idea based. For me who is more digitally-focused, everything is measurable and convertible. I really think that whatever ideas we sell to clients need to create value, instead of just being another nice manifesto or tagline that does not do much,” he said, adding:
Ideas need to be a lot more objective and conversion driven.
He added that agencies should also start thinking about creating its own distribution platforms to effectively sell their ideas to clients. Lee explained that creative and media are still separated and while the agency is able to brainstorm for a good idea, the chain of distribution still costs money. This is a struggle across all clients as they are concerned about budgets.
“If an idea is going to be of a certain value, the media or cost of distribution might be even higher. That part is the harder sell and it’s getting increasingly more challenging. So, clients would rather collaborate with KOLs who can create the content and also distribute within their own platforms,” he said.
Read the rest of the interview here:
A+M: You have over 20 years of experience in the industry. What are some of the biggest change you have seen so far in clients?
Lee: Budgets. Once upon a time when I first started in digital, we were able to charge about RM200,000 for a website and clients are fine with that. Also, only a team of five individuals are required to create that website and our challenges mainly involved browser compatibility. Back then, no one cared about visitors or conversion.
Fast forward 20 years later, in order to do a similar project, you need individuals with different expertise, from search and social to coding. The individual must also be able to work fast. The number of people needed to do a good job has probably doubled, yet the fee that clients are willing to pay would be about 10% to 20% more than what it was 20 years ago. From an execution or production point of view, this is the challenge that we are facing.
Everyone is focused on numbers, conversions, and concerned about spending. No one cares about branding as much as last time.
Previously, we are able to shoot at TV for half a million, now it costs about RM20,000 to RM30,000 to produce an online video, that’s the reality of the market. But just because we do an online video does not mean it is cheap because the costs also involve scripting and casting.
A+M: What are the skillsets needed to succeed in this industry?
Lee: Plenty of logic and observation. I was a creative director before and when people ask me if I’m art based or copy based, I tell them I’m logic based. It’s always asking what’s in it for the business and will consumers be interested in the things you push out. That’s not very hard to spot if you have the logic and observation, and are able to use these to craft out different solutions to keep things fresh.
A+M: What are some of the challenges you think agencies will face moving forward? Will the agency model change in future?
Lee: I still believe we need more specialised, soft services. The Accentures of the world are trying to get a piece of the ad business and they are doing it pretty well as consultancies. That’s the thing that frustrates me. When we get a brief or pitch, we also do research and when we do it as an agency, clients expect it for free. Whereas when it comes to consultancies, even before they start a pitch, they will help clients formulate documents and they are already charging for it.
My view is what makes them qualified to charge clients and evaluate agencies when traditionally, they are not from this industry? What sort of credibility do they have? Advertising is a form of consultation and we should be the ones doing this, not PwC or Accenture. I believe there is an opportunity for this to work. If Accenture can do it, why can’t we as creatives?