Preparing for 2021: What SG agency heads are focusing on

This year has been anything but business as usual. Just like that we are well into the second half of 2020 and since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in full force, agencies big and small are trying to stay viable and tide through the year. According to a whitepaper by R3 titled "Marketing Continuity Assessments", advertising holding companies have all reported negative growth since the pandemic struck, and have taken significant steps to shore up their businesses for what looks like an uncertain period for all.

The report added that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged agencies across five key operating areas, and how well each agency will be able to address and adapt to each area will influence their overall business health and risk quotient. These five areas are:

  1. Response: How prepared agencies are in planning for future change in work protocols.
  2. Recalibrate: How prepared agencies are in addressing the increasing needs for digital capability.
  3. Restore: How prepared agencies are in dealing with business risks related to data transparency and security.
  4. Resilience: How much financial flexibility agencies have agency have for sustained disruption.
  5. Readiness: How proactive or reactive agencies are in identifying and mitigating disruption.

Going into 2021, the growing emphasis on digital capabilities is apparent for agencies. According to the whitepaper, the adoption of digital platforms by consumers globally during enforced social distancing is testament that the future is online, on mobile and virtual. It also cited a 2020 survey by the ANA and R3, which said 84% of senior marketers believe that future brand growth will be tied to marketing innovation and technology, and this translates as a greater need for agency partners to be able to think strategically and creatively across digital platforms.

The focus on digital seem to resonate with agency heads that Marketing spoke to, as they shed light on their plans for the upcoming year. Hear what these industry players have planned and how they are preparing in the midst of uncertainty this year:


Paul Soon, CEO, MullenLowe Singapore and China

 paul soon

2020 is the litmus test for any agency, whether you have an agency business and structure that is diverse enough to weather any open market challenges. It took us two and a half years of careful planning to build a client roster that could help us withstand an economic slowdown, affording us some daylight to retool and reshape.

We have never been about being the biggest. Instead, we use our size to adopt innovative technologies like deep machine learning for ourselves and our clients. Creating moments to generate that unfair share of attention in everything we deliver.

We will fearlessly continue to strengthen our creative and strategic capabilities. 

But in the next six months,we look to reshape our business around:

  1. Scaling our digital acceleration and content performance capabilities
  2. To be the lead agency for holding company pitches (IPG Open Architecture)
  3. Tap more into the martech start-up community in SEA

Prakash Kamdar, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network Singapore

 prakash kamdar official 2020

We feel an even greater responsibility to leverage our strong data, technology, creative, and media expertise, and in a joint-up manner, to help businesses and brands recover and grow once again.

It is without doubt a challenge to plan with significant external uncertainty. That said, in any planning, there are always knowns and unknowns (and therefore the risks that come with that). As with any given year, we take both into account in our planning, to ensure that we strike the right balance between being ambitious and pioneering (which are two of our core values at Dentsu Aegis Network) and being responsible (another core value) at the same time.

Moving into 2021, the agency's main focus will be without doubt, to use our firepower to help businesses and brands continue to recover, and be ready to grow once again.  

Avery Akkineni, head of VaynerMedia Singapore 

avery vaynermedia edited

Going into our second year on the ground in Asia, VaynerMedia APAC plans to broaden our service offering; to include additional production and media services. We also are making key investments in talent, including senior talent from around the region, to sharpen our work for local, regional and global brand partners. When we first launched, we were highly focused on social and digital content and media; and in 2021,

We're looking forward to further expanding our regional capabilities. 

VaynerMedia APAC will be focusing on building the best regional agency culture in APAC, doing great work for our brand partners, and growing the VaynerMedia business, in that specific order.

Joseph Chua, managing partner, Aiken Digital

joseph chua

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for many changes in the world. Trade, travel, business and our daily lives have all been affected. The silver lining in this seemingly dark cloud is that digital transformation has accelerated at pace. Companies and individuals are having to shift gear to deal with the increasing speed of change. This has worked in our favour, as we are born a digital company and so our services and company mindset are designed to be ‘digital first’.

Here at Aiken digital, we were blessed to have a great 2020 thus far, clients have continued to invest, we have grown our revenues by 40% vs last year- with no reduction in salary or retrenchment. We’ve also opened new offices in Singapore, Malaysia, and China in the middle of a tough market. 

We believe 2021 will be the year where Chinese and western digital ecosystems need to begin meaningfully cross-pollinating.

For China the mission is to build stronger bridges of collaboration with a western digital ecosystem that is far more mature in software, platform and infrastructure as services. For the west, it is to embrace the Chinese opportunities in creative AI, content and live streaming commerce. It is integral that both blend well together- Aiken Digital has the globally-minded talent and experience to build balanced relationships between the two sides.

Our investments behind people is our number one focus - AI and data science are at the core of our business and fresh development and design talent are our differentiators, so will continue to be hired at a steady pace. We are projected to open more offices and unveil more partnerships with like-minded companies throughout the next 12 months. We will also be unveiling our new set of AI products and tools, that is currently in incubation.

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