Digital adoption is accelerating, and the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gap between the top and bottom companies. The pandemic has dramatically increased the speed at which digital is fundamentally changing business, according to McKinsey's "The New Digital Age" survey. Businesses today are looking at the adoption of digital technologies that have sped up by three to seven years in a span of months.
However, it's not only the pace of business that the pandemic has fundamentally changed. In fact, many respondents from the survey have recognised that their companies’ business models are becoming obsolete. Only 11% believe their current business models will be economically viable through 2023, while another 64% say their companies need to build new digital businesses to help them get there, the survey found.
We turned to our 2021 Agency of the Year Malaysia results to find out which digital agencies the judges thought were among the top. Listed alphabetically, the top five winners below won over our independent panel not only by showcasing the work they have done for the clients but also through its smart and innovative use of digital.
1. ADA Asia Malaysia
Data and AI agency ADA Asia Malaysia designs and executes integrated digital, analytics and marketing solutions. With a vision to deliver the future of marketing, the agency's mission is to create compelling and persuasive campaigns that deliver disproportionate business outcomes.
When the pandemic hit, everyone was forced to adapt and relearn daily habits, the agency decided on a different approach. Instead, the agency saw this as an opportunity to dive deep into the data of these new personas under the new norm. Some of the personas it identified included "The Market Observer", 'The Adaptive Shoppers", 'The Social Citizens", "The Bored Homebody", 'The Sad and Confused", and among others.
ADA Asia Malaysia is known for its marketing data intelligence, an integrated tool in empowering brands. Additionally, the agency also specialises in AI and analytics-powered planning to provide clients with a much more granular level of consumer insights. While many industries were impacted by COVID-19, the agency recognised that none were hit harder than the retail industry. As such, ADA mobilised quickly by working with Shanghai-based Cosmose AI, aiming to help retailers function post-COVID. The agency has worked with brands such as Samsung, Burger King, Malaysia Airlines, CIMB Bank, Watsons, DBS Bank, Citibank, and Mazda.
On the manpower front, the agency is growing its team with new divisions taking shape to deliver more robust functionalities across the digital sphere. One such example would be an eCommerce enablement team conceived to help businesses transition to the online space. To continuously train the team, the agency has also rolled out learning sessions, such as "Access to LinkedIn Learning", on a regional level for each market.
2. Elixus Agency
Elixus is a performance-driven digital marketing agency headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. Leveraging on a growth-hacking methodology, the agency helps clients generate revenue online through performance marketing in social media, CRM, email marketing, web development, and SEO.
Utilising its data-driven algorithms and automation, the agency is able to scale the client's budget to ensure that all campaigns and experiments are monitored and optimised in real-time. Additionally, the agency also has an extensive A/B testing methodology, where multiple variations of visuals are tested and targeted to find the best combination to reach the client’s key objectives.
The agency sets itself apart by having its own in-house adtech called Broonie. Broonie was developed to reduce manual and time-consuming actions, allowing the agency's digital marketers to operate 10 times faster. Recently, the agency did a campaign for a Singaporean company, Ayam Brand. Elixus's approach was to have a global revamp, where the web design and build were improved. The agency has worked with brands such as Peugeot, Manulife, and Ayam Brand.
In 2020, the agency started to add additional talent across all departments to meet the increasing demand for its services on web development, and email marketing. By the end of 2020, the agency had 33 new hires in Malaysia. Navigating through the pandemic, the agency made sure to make zero redundancies, where none of the employees received a pay cut and had incremental pay rises amid these tough times. The agency also prides itself on diversity, where half of the board members and seven out of ten people in the management team are females.
In 2016, Entropia launched as a new age consultancy-meets-agency. It then expanded to offer customer experience design, data consulting, digital transformation solutions, and IR 4.0 services. As a future-focused digital transformer, Entropia commits to continually seeking what the future of marketing would be like.
Bringing acceleration to its offering, Entropia partnered with various large technology ecosystem partners like AWS (cloud), Sitecore and Adobe (CMS and marketing clouds), Edgeverve, an Infosys company (customer service, distribution network digitisation and procurement), and Bambuser (experiential commerce). The partnership aimed to bring cutting-edge cloud, CX, and commerce platforms to Southeast Asia with a world-class delivery model.
Unphased by the pandemic, Entropia helped brands celebrate human connectedness when the government rolled out the social distancing measures. Working with brands such as Dutch Lady, Watsons, and The Chicken Rice Shop, Entropia created campaigns that encouraged Malaysians to continue leading a healthy life at home. The agency has worked with brands such as KFC, Grab, Pepsi, Nippon Paint, Mountain Dew, and Air Asia.
Setting itself apart from the rest, Entropia hires its talents from atypical industries, product start-ups and other new-age companies. Claiming that it is "not just about advertising", the agency continually casts its nets to a wider pool of curious future gazers. Keeping its promise to new hires, Entropia increased its average staff number by more than 20%, bringing on board even more diverse personalities in marketing of the future areas such as digital transformation and eCommerce to help Entropia clients thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
4. Kingdom Digital
Kingdom Digital is a digital agency that was established in 2007. Headquartered in Malaysia, Kingdom Digital builds relationships by humanising brands in the way they present themselves and how they engage with their consumers. The agency fosters meaningful experience that strengthens connections across multiple digital touchpoints for lasting, impactful results. In fact, the agency commits itself to create memorable moments that make brands more relevant, relatable, and revolutionary.
According to Kingdom Digital, its most valuable asset is its team. The annual turnover rate is exceptionally low at 2.6%, with 41% of the employees being in the company for more than two years, and 15% have been with the agency for eight to thirteen years. Other than valuing its employees, Kingdom Digital is always actively looking for avenues to share its knowledge and expertise to help address issues of interest to the industry and its peers. Furthermore, Kingdom Digital has internship programmes with different colleagues and universities, hoping it could enable the younger generation a chance to experience working in a fast-paced digital agency.
The agency is currently working with brands such as Grab, Digi, Sime Darby Property, Shiseido, Tan Chong Group, Spritzer, and Mead Johnson.
5. M&C Saatchi Malaysia
When the pandemic hit Malaysia in 2020, M&C Saatchi Malaysia created a shift in consumers' demands and many businesses had to rethink its strategies. These factors caused severe pressure on ad spend in agencies. The APAC region saw an ad spend plunge of 29% in 2020 overall, with Malaysia only slightly ahead of the curve with a 20% contraction. This was achievable by a few revamps.
One example would be expanding its core services into new areas, such as corporate strategy, branding, and even meeting clients' needs for high-quality fast turn-around content via Watermelon, the agency's in-house production company. The agency has worked with brands such as Axiata, Celcom, Tourism Malaysia, Dettol, Astro, Bursa Malaysia, and Sime Darby Property.
As more companies adapted to working-from-home, the agency ensured that its employees did not feel neglected by maintaining a strong sense of community and camaraderie through virtual social events. Unphased by the pandemic, the agency still carried on to upskill existing talents, making several key talent acquisitions throughout the year.
M&C Saatchi Malaysia is part of M&C Saatchi Group which connects specialist expertise, fuelled by data and technology, to help clients navigate, create and lead meaningful change. Headquartered in London, the agency's operations span across 23 countries with major hubs in Asia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Australia.
Photo Courtesy: 123RF
5 agencies in Hong Kong embracing martech
Small is mighty: How specialist consultants and agencies are winning in Asia
Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index 2021: The region’s most inclusive agencies and policies
Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top marketing stories.
We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's marketing development – for free.subscribe now open in new window