#MARKiesAwards 2021 spills: Doing great work is bloody hard, says a triumphant Construct Digital

Construct Digital is a Singapore-based independent digital marketing agency which has earned its stripes working with numerous SMEs and MNCs in the market. Known for its marriage of data, strategy and sharp marketing know-how, the agency won two coveted MARKies awards. It bagged a silver for Glow Festival: Glow On for Most Effective Use of KOLs and a bronze for Most Effective Use of Events.

With a 50 strong team spread well across Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam, delivering in-house solutions to the world's leading brands,  John Scott, Executive Creative Director, Construct Digital told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that experimentation is at the heart of the agency and collaboration with the team and clients is what drives the agency forward.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for MARKies Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

Tell us about the campaign you won and what was the most memorable aspect of the campaign for you?

Scott: We picked up two MARKies awards for the work we did for Glow Festival: Glow On – a Silver for Most Effective Use of KOLs and a Bronze for Most Effective Use of Events.

Pre-COVID-19, Glow Festival was held as a full-fledged two-day health and wellness event. Following a major rethink, the festival pivoted into a series of mini-events.

Due to safe distancing measures, we piloted these mini-events with a group of KOLs and media friends before opening up to the wider public. The most memorable aspect was the first event in the series, which was held outdoors on the Skydeck at Marina Bay Sands.

Events can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, so having to comply with the various guidelines for physical events made things extra stressful.

It was the first event held on the Skydeck at MBS since COVID-19 hit Singapore, so there were a lot of eyes on us.

After a year without in-person social gatherings and events, it felt great to see all the guests coming together to workout and enjoy themselves. It’s also definitely worth noting that the sunrise view from the top of MBS is pretty spectacular - perhaps the best perk of being up before dawn for the event!

While we’re talking about winning, it would be remiss of me not to mention that our account director, Harrison Cowan, scooped Silver for best account manager at the 2021 MARKies.

What do you think makes for great marketing/advertising these days?

Scott: It really comes down to nurturing a spirit of trust and collaboration between the client and agency. Doing great work is bloody hard. Selling in a campaign is difficult enough, let alone maintaining the integrity of the original idea as it’s painstakingly brought to life and delivered to the audience.

I think most of us in this industry have experienced just how much harder the whole process becomes when trust is broken and collaboration stops. When the agency is just a vendor – not a partner. And this works both ways.

Great marketing and advertising come from marriages – not one-night stands. When both parties – client and agency – commit beyond a single project in order to cultivate a real understanding of the brand and its category. To have some perspective of what’s worked in the past so that we can improve in the future. Together.

Given the transactional, transient nature of many client-agency engagements, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve seen the emergence of scam entries at the big awards shows over the years. It’s very tempting for agencies to choose the Dark Side and become their own contrived client if their actual paying clients don’t trust them to do their best work.

Fortunately, looking at the quality and authenticity of the entries at this year’s MARKies, it seems we may be getting back to more meaningful and enduring client-agency relationships. Let’s all hope so.

What is one specific marketing/advertising trend (AR/VR/SnapChat etc) you are looking forward to exploring and experimenting with in 2021 (beyond just digital as a whole)?

Scott: At Construct Digital, we love tinkering with new toys. Right now I’m especially bullish about creative automation tools. Which might sound a little odd coming from a creative. Why would I embrace tools that potentially make me and my team obsolete?

Here’s the thing. Our team is already using a bunch of automated tools that allow us to create a lot more, a lot more easily. Which means we can focus on the stuff that really adds value – like coming up with big, beautiful ideas.

Agencies are under pressure like never before to produce quality work across an ever-expanding range of channels in ever-decreasing timeframes. Automated creative tools allow us to deliver at speed and at scale for our clients.

It’s not about replacing creatives. It’s about augmenting our capabilities so we can focus on what we do best – and enjoy the most. The creative work that gets us out of bed in the morning.

For example, our writers use AI-enabled tools to generate marketing content that we can then polish in line with the brand’s tone of voice and the campaign concept. Similarly, our art directors and designers are using low-code/no-code platforms to produce digital assets without needing to turn to our tech team for support.

Of course, there will always be deliverables that don’t lend themselves to this approach. And that’s fine, too. We still have all the skills in-house to do custom-built projects. In fact, we like nothing better than building one-of-a-kind experiences. It’s simply about having the right tools for the job and knowing how and when to use them.

What was one lesson learnt during the pandemic that all marketers can take away?

Scott: Never underestimate how resilient and adaptable people are. A huge part of what we do has always involved getting the team together and thrashing out ideas as a group – be it around a desk or a round of drinks. When that was all taken away from us, I thought we’d lose some of the gold dust and serendipity that allows us to do what we do.

Yet as an industry we managed to find new and – at least in some cases – better ways of working together. It meant we all had to get comfortable with different dynamics. We had to test drive new tools and platforms. Sure, lots of things didn’t work. But at least it opened our eyes to what’s out there and reminded us that sometimes you need to break things to make things better.

And did the overall quality of what we do suffer? Not at all. It just maybe wasn’t quite as fun.

The truth is, there will always be challenges to overcome on every brief. Not enough time. Not enough money. Technical limitations. You name it. The pandemic was just another limitation, albeit a rather big one.

But when you look at the work that’s come out of our industry in the last 18 months, it’s clear that we’ve found workarounds. And that’s because we’ve used our grit and guts to push through the limitations and strike gold.