Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor Group, which operates Digi in Malaysia and dtac in Thailand, has picked a bespoke unit under IPG Mediabrands called Fastbridge, to handle media duties for the two markets. The two markets are under Telenor's developed Asia cluster, and duties will cover media planning and strategy. The incumbents for Malaysia and Thailand, Marketing understands, are Mindshare and OMD respectively.
This is not the first time Digi has worked with Fastbridge in Malaysia, with the relationship going way back to 2013 when the team managed social media duties for the Malaysian telco. Fastbridge has now expanded its remit to cover media services in the two countries and both media teams under Fastbridge are new to Digi and dtac. Marketing has reached out to Telenor for comment.
In an interview with Marketing, UM president, APAC Kasper Aakerlund (pictured below) said the bespoke Fastbridge teams in Malaysia and Thailand will operate in a separate office space. While Aakerlund did not comment on the length of appointment, he said it has yet to be determined which market will take the lead on the account. However, Aakerlund said that both Malaysia and Thailand are two massive markets so there needs to be synergy within the developed Asia cluster.
"We demonstrated better than any of the agencies how we are able to deliver better outcomes. We know how to help one of the strongest clients find differentiation, it's part of our product. UM Studios, our creative strategy and content production team, also played a role in demonstrating how we can support clients in these two markets," he added.
According to Aakerlund, the teams in Malaysia and Thailand are showing strong momentum and double-digit growth. It's Thailand team, for example, bagged some significant clients including BMW and Nestle over the last two years and doubling its business over the last 18 months.
Meanwhile, the team in Malaysia handles renowned accounts such as KFC. "Both teams are at the top of our business in the region, and that's one of the reasons why Telenor has chosen us for the cluster. This demonstrates how strong the team is in those two markets," he said. Most recently in Malaysia, IPG Mediabrands also parted ways with Maxis following a six-month long pitch.
Aakerlund, who is Scandinavian, said the Telenor win is especially special to him given Telenor was one of his first clients when he started in the advertising industry. He said it was "absolutely outstanding" to win one of the top Scandinavian countries. "I love every single win, but having a win like this for me personally, it was extra, extra good. It was a very thorough pitch and there were many different rounds. It was a difficult one so to come out of that and win the cluster that we pitched for, that is something I am really happy about," he added.
Aakerlund said that Fastbridge is expected to "deliver better science and art for Telenor to generate better business outcomes". Besides Fastbridge's offering, he also cited the agency's employees as one of the reasons its proposal stood out from competitors.
"We are going in 100% and we are going in with the people that's going to change our client's business. I believe that's a big part of the success at the moment. We have attracted an enormous amount of talent over the last couple of years and now that's paying off," Aakerlund explained.
When asked about his vision for 2020, Aakerlund said the agency will continue to focus on accelerating its business in areas such as growth and play more of a consultancy role for clients. This year, he explained that the agency was able to grow its business as a result of being a much closer partner to its clients and proved it was able to drive business outcomes. According to Aakerlund, it has been "an awesome year" for the teams in Asia Pacific, especially Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, India, and Australia where the team defended and won all its pitches.
"For me, I see opportunity for growth in every single Southeast Asia market and the whole Asia Pacific region in fact," he added.
As for playing a consultancy role, Aakerlund explained that clients are nowadays are looking for more integrated solutions. From an IPG Mediabrands' perspective, the agency has gotten it right with its integrated specialists units which have done well in guiding the agency towards growth overall.
"We know that data and technology is very important for our clients, and the way we have been investing as IPG Mediabrands is something I believe we are going to hear and see much more too," he said.
In September this year, Telenor scrapped its merger plans with Axiata Group due to some complexities involved in the proposed transaction. The news came four months after both parties announced that they will be merging operations. During this period, both Axiata and Telenor worked on due diligence and finalising transaction agreements to be completed within the third quarter of 2019. Meanwhile in 2017, Telenor formed a digital marketing unit in Singapore which is currently led by Carrie Chen, head of trading desk operations, Asia Pacific.