#MarketingExcellenceAwards spills: How Invictus Blue emerged victorious through adaptive exploration

The name Invictus Blue might have been around for only two years, but the formation of the company began in 1996 with innovation at its core. The team first broke new ground in Malaysia by being the first Zenith office in Asia, and have pioneered innovation for the last 24 years. Today, the company has been remodelled as Invictus Blue as it strives for the higher order and the team focuses not just on expertise, but also on adaptive exploration.

Over the past year, the team has also actively looked to move beyond being just a media partner to provide holistic solutions to its clients across the marketing spectrum from media to events and activation. This saw the team walking home with a creditable haul of trophies at A+M's Marketing Excellence Awards 2020.

Managing director David Soo and chief digital officer Abhishek Bhattacharjee share their plans for 2021.

This interview is done as part of A+M’s winners and finalists’ interview series. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What are some of the expectations consumers/clients have of your company?

Soo and Bhattacharjee: Given our pedigree in this market being known as Zenith since 1996, and pioneering the media agency landscape with multiple bluechip clients over years, we naturally command a position as media planning and buying experts. That’s a solid base to start with. However, with the rapid acceleration and flux of concepts, ideas and models in marketing and communications, the ask is pretty much to be agile in our approach. That’s one of the key focus areas we looked at when we rebranded ourselves as Invictus Blue in 2018. Today we focus not just on expertise but also on adaptive exploration.

Invictus Blue Group, is hence, no longer just about media. We choose to be business solutions partners to clients, and not just media planners or buyers. Our services span across the entire spectrum of marketing communications and everything that impacts it, eg. business outcome optimized media strategy, data-led-creative-automation, events and activation design and execution across physical and virtual platforms, strategic corporate communication, real time brand metric monitor, brand design, predictive business modeling and attribution, AI led cognitive sentiment mapping, to name a few.

In effect, we have re-tooled ourselves to leverage on our strong media fundamentals, to build a layer of forward looking agility, with business outcomes as the goalpost.

With the vaccine now being available globally, and markets slowly opening up, what do you think will be the biggest advantage for you?

Soo and Bhattacharjee: There’s this oft quoted statement that goes around the internet nowadays, about how COVID catalysed digital transformation better than all efforts put together in the past decade. We firmly see that as true, and probably one of the positive by-products of a horrific global pandemic.

The pandemic, the movement restrictions, and also the sentiment at large forced brands to rethink and restrategise. We would say that it was much needed, to course correct and shed off the inefficiencies that lay within systems and be forced to adopt practices which made sense in today’s digital world.

Although, brands spent less, they spent wisely. Every dollar spent was accounted towards a very clear objective. Most importantly, new avenues were being tried and tested more frequently than could have happened during normal times so to speak. All these small adjustments, collectively showed results. As an industry, we have learnt the true value of calculated experimentation and agile optimization. Even with the vaccine coming in and movement opening up, we believe it will not go back to the pre-COVID practices but rather build on the forced positive changes that came out during this pandemic.

We welcome that approach. We are optimistic about businesses spending on par or more, but we are thrilled about the fact that every dollar spent now will have a clear strategy and a spirit of experimentation built in to it. The pandemic, in that sense could possibly be the inflection point, where on we only see a movement upwards towards higher efficiency, effectiveness and experimentative spirit.

Tell us a little bit about your/your clients’ marketing plans this year?

Soo and Bhattacharjee: As we mentioned, our client partners are positive about recovering from the pandemic and getting back to normal in a lot of ways, but we are lucky to have client partners who have a healthy appetite for new ideas and solutions and this pandemic has just reinstated that approach.

There are a few major changes that are in the offing, with cookies being abolished as one key factor, the rise of AR adoption another and so on. A lot of focus hence, would be on technologies that enable first party data leverage across online and offline. Even offline planning, is being enhanced with technologies to collect campaign audiences through innovative technologies. Overall, at a business level, we are working with our clients to track business attribution and not just media attribution, to make sense of budget allocations and predict impact.

We are looking to have media and communications as an uniform entity, delivered through one single window, and accountable and attributable beyond just media metrics.

There’s no more lines between "offline and online", and there should no longer be lines between "brand and business".

What are some of the marketing trends you are most excited about?

Soo and Bhattacharjee: One of the key trends we are excited about is the AR adoption curve. Telling an interactive story suddenly has way more possibilities than we had in the past, and all that is easily accessible and no longer alien to our post-COVID digitally savvy audiences. The same way a bazaar no longer needs to be physical, it could be on a live-stream. Buying a product off a video- a phenomenon which has been around, but catching momentum now, is really satisfying to see.

On the technical side of things, forced by the impending cookie abolition, the race to first party data leverage will be an exciting one. Simply because, like all things data, there are tons of ways to do it, but the winners will be the ones who strategise well and focus on differentiated sources of data, which make sense to their business. When we talk first party data, generally we get caught up with website, app and CRM databases. But we got to think beyond and see how our other brand interfaces in the physical world, eg. the retail shelves, the brand stores and even other affinity locations, provide that data which is useful. Our Location Audience Dashboard is built on this very principle of leveraging real world data for businesses and we see that as a solid bet in the future.

Finally, creative personalisation at scale would be a key trend with the high fragmentation of audiences across platforms.

Overall, we just feel these are exciting times and curiosity will drive the show. It’s a time when we question, build, evaluate and enhance our processes, our thinking, our tools and even our positioning. It’s no longer just about media or communications, the ones who are able to map "what impacts media/communications and what impact media/communications has" are the ones that would lead the path to the future. And these questions, don’t have a straight answer, the answer changes with time, so got to stay curious.

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