Marketing Excellence Awards judge Santharuban Sundaram on game-changing work

Last year's overall Marketing Excellence Awards winner Etika is known for its attention grabbing executions, such as creating a WONDA Lane at toll booths, producing an ad with the aroma of WONDA’s coffee to entice customers and using UV invisible ink and VR for its Dew Challenge in 2016.

This year, top marketer Santharuban Thurai Sundaram (pictured), SVP marketing and alternate business, comes back as a judge for the awards. He has more than a decade of experience in the marketing industry, kicking off his career at WOW FM before moving on to ntv7. When he joined Etika, he gradually rose through the ranks to eventually helm his current role. An individual brimming with interesting ideas, Sundaram shares with A+M the type of campaigns which excite him both as a consumer and a marketer in the lead up to the Marketing Excellence Awards.

[The Marketing Excellence Awards is back in Malaysia for its seventh year to recognise and award Malaysia's outstanding marketing campaigns With 33 categories open for entry, don't forget to submit by 23 August 2019. Visit our website to find out more today.]

A+M: What do you hope to see in the submissions for Marketing Excellence Awards Malaysia 2019?

Sundaram: A game changer! As a marketer and a consumer myself, I see a lot of campaigns being executed, and as a judge I hope to see the background, insights and end to end execution of these campaigns and how they worked out in delivering the desired outcome.

A+M: What type of work stands out to you as a marketer?

Sundaram: One that is talked about. Is that not what a campaign is supposed to do? Given the media clutter that we face today, if a campaign is talked about, I would say that it is considered a big win! The real win, however, is when a campaign is talked about with the brand and product recall alongside a clear emotional resonance to the end consumer.

I particularly love stuff that centres around creative media execution.

A+M: What do you feel is the biggest challenge marketers in Malaysia face today?

Sundaram: Process and fear. Marketing needs to be centred around creativity and innovation, both of which may not have a track record and benchmark, among others.

Being a marketer means you spend money, and when a marketer or an agency is cuffed with processes you are almost always forced to deliver ideas within a fixed 'box'.

A few are fearless enough to break out of this box in an attempt to change the norm, but I guess fear stands in the way of many and I don’t necessarily blame them for it.

A+M: What do you look out for when working with agencies?

Sundaram: Attitude. I think that creativity is present in every agency. What matters most is the drive, and chemistry.

The agency needs to be motivated beyond profit and loss and awards, and need to be genuinely interested in building our business.

A+M: Where is the standard at for Malaysia's marketing industry? How else can the industry improve as a whole?

Sundaram: I don’t think I am able to put a finger and conclude where we stand, but what I can say is that we as an industry, need to do more to retain our talents.

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