Havas names Kenny Yap MD of Socialyse and Red Havas, hunts for unconventional talent

Socialyse and Red Havas, the PR, social media and social performance marketing arm of Havas Group has announced several internal promotions. Most notably, Kenny Yap has been promoted to managing director, Socialyse and Red Havas and has been credited in playing a key role in transforming the integrated business unit of the Havas Group.

The appointment comes shortly after the agency reported chalked up double-digit revenue growth in the past 12 months, adding new local and regional clients such as FairPrice Group (FairPrice, Finest, Unity and NTUC Membership), Far East Hospitality, SingPost and Ferrero Group to its portfolio. The agency said that currently, 75% percent of its client’s are full-service retainers covering PR, social media, content, influencer and social performance marketing services.

The firm also won another industry accolade when it recently walked off with the gold at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Specialist Agency of The Year Award for the second year in a row. Jacqui Lim, CEO, Havas Media Group and chief integration officer of Havas Group, credited the win to the village spirit fostered by the fluid set up at Socialyse and Red Havas, and Havas Group.

“We have specialists across many fields, but there are no walls between us in the way we operate. We always assemble the best combination of talents across functions within the Group to work on a client’s project. There’s only one team, one process, and one P&L; that’s our strength,” said Lim.

She added that Yap will continue to build new capabilities and solutions for the business. "Together with his team, he’s also done a tremendous job in winning new clients with impactful ideas and measurable outcome. His leadership will keep the team heads and shoulders above the competition," said Lim.

Also taking on more responsibilities, Tan Xing Long has been promoted to account director, and Dawn Teo has moved up to be senior manager. Tan will focus on developing in-house business and technology solutions for clients while Teo will drive integrated strategy capabilities and solutions covering PR, social and media. Together with Lingyi Chong who is responsible for driving social media solutions for the business, these three talents will be working closely with Yap to grow the agency’s capabilities and offerings.

Commenting on the firm’s performance, the newly-promoted Yap attributed it to a sharp increase in demand for integrated marketing communications (IMC) services as digital adoption accelerated in the pandemic.

“Consumers are logging longer screen time and shopping for goods and services online more. Almost overnight, this has upended many companies’ business models and they have had to scramble to either augment their digital marketing presence or build from scratch in-house digital teams and online assets to complement their traditional offline outreach to customers,” he said. Yap told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that because Havas has spent considerable resources building up its tech and talent capabilities over the last few years, it has been well-placed to ride the wave of digital adoption when COVID-19 hit.

Just in the past year alone, Yap has added 10 more people to his multi-disciplinary team of 50, now comprising PR and social consultants, social content creators and specialists, former editors and reporters, motion graphic artists, photographers and videographers - experts from diverse backgrounds who understand the ecosystem, and live and breathe social.

The team is still on the lookout for up to 20 more in the next 24 months, but this time, from more varied fields.

“A lot of our consultancy now involves gathering insights through social listening, artificial intelligence and big data analysis using our proprietary tools at Havas. They form the cornerstone from which we design evidence-based and meaningful digital solutions or cognitive marketing campaigns that target very precisely the audience our clients need to reach.  So the talents we’re looking for are not the conventional types that you find in the communications industry. We need people trained not only in data science, we’re also on the lookout for behavioural science specialists, creative technologists and business analysts,” he added.

The face of the industry has been changing in recent years and especially in the last one year because of Covid-19, Yap said. “Clients are increasingly demanding a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems, beyond simply creating an ad campaign or a media release, which is PR 1.0.”

As a result, Yap foresees more revenue growth for the firm in the areas of building in-house marketing capabilities, change management and business consulting, and designing and building technology solutions for clients. The way clients measure an agency’s effectiveness is rapidly evolving as well, Yap explained.

“Increasingly, flimsy vanity metrics such as the number of likes and impressions are becoming irrelevant.” In place of them, more meaningful indicators would include click-through rates, lead generation and conversion figures, he pointed out. Staying ahead of this evolving trend, Yap said he has started incorporating these metrics and a client’s bottom line to measure his agency’s effectiveness.

“Ultimately, the best indicator is one that is directly correlated with a client’s main business objective, and that is sales. There’s no point in giving a client the full suite of solutions if they don’t add to the turnover. The proof is in the pudding. Not many agencies are willing to go that far. We are.”