Tan Sri Vincent Lee on adland moving past the 'money-first' mindset

Tan Sri Vincent Lee is a known name in the Malaysian advertising and media scene. His existing portfolio spans across various industries such as media, advertising, F&B and events. He recently made headlines when his new venture, Ampersand Sports, struck a deal with the Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP). This sealed Ampersand Sports' fate as the exclusive agency to market the sponsorship rights of the various M-League properties for a period of five years.

Amid his tight schedule, Lee who also founded NagaDDB and Foetus group, shared exclusively with A+M, his thoughts on challenges of advertising and marketing industry today. With a dark loom often shadowing the advertising scene, Lee believes that certain challenges always remain regardless of era.

"Perhaps it may be considered that I am no longer as in touch with the industry as I was in previous years as my focus these days lies mainly in conceptualising and building digital startups such as Fintech enterprises," he said, adding:

However in my view, the ad industry has experienced a massive shake up obviously with the advancement of the digital marketing realm.

This "massive shake up", Lee said, has contributed to a disconnect between management and the up-and-coming young managers "as some top-level decision makers have not caught up to speed." Moreover, the poor and ever shrinking margin on the creative and media agencies side, is leaving many agencies  in a limbo, unable to attract and retain the best talents.

In addressing this, Lee said, it's important for clients to realise the value offered by its agencies. This will also mean acknowledging that, clients' interests will be better served if agencies are remunerated fairly on a year-to-year basis. If this undervaluing of agency services continues, "how would the agencies be expected to improve and continue to up its game for the client’s interests?" he asks.

For the Malaysian ad land to thrive, Lee said there is a need for stronger local players to emerge with brave new directions that cut through that "money-first" mentality.

"However, you cannot fault that sort of mindset by the agencies as they now struggling to survive much less grow," he added. Internationally aligned agencies today are hard pressed for margins and as such, are "not given the freedom to invest outside what is being directed from the head office is."

He added that this was the reason he started up his own venture capitalist IdeaRiverRun (IRR), which is made up of startups that are directed to grow continuously and help clients for example, with its search in areas such as data, content marketing and lead generation. Lee added that in our current times, progressive digital agencies will always be in demand and it is also easier to setup a specialised digital agency nowadays compared to before.But understanding the client dilemma, Lee said that given the myriad of specialised agencies popping up, it comes as no surprise clients are often confused as to the best route to take in a marketing sense to achieve the goals.

To improve the relationship between agencies and clients, Lee gives a simple solution that more conversations need to be initiated. He added that one issue that quickly needs to be addressed is the lack of collaboration between agencies and clients, as well as the misaligned agendas between both parties. He said:

Both parties have to be brave and challenge the status quo hand-in-hand with accountability for results shared jointly.



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