“In today’s world, it’s hard to get five minutes of the consumer that is completely undivided. You are competing not just with different brands, but with cute dogs running to their owners when they get home, with children throwing tantrums,” says Rochelle Chhaya, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at OMD APAC. “You’re competing for the consumer to remember you; for share of mind. The only way you can do that is to ensure you know who that customer is and tell them a compelling story.”
The media agency, part of Omnicom Media Group (OMG), has excelled by taking on the challenge of marketing its clients’ brands in an increasingly digital age. Working with some of the world’s largest companies operating in Asia, its clients include McDonald’s, Nissan and Pepsi.
“OMD is a media agency – but to truly talk about what we do, I would say we are marketing consultants and partners. We work with clients on the business objective they want to achieve,” explains Chhaya, who joined the company in 2007.
Initially, Chhaya was brought in to introduce digital for the region, and in over a decade at the company she has led digital services for a range of clients in a variety of markets including Thailand and Singapore. “It was extremely eye opening from a digital and business building perspective, as well as in terms of managing people and cultures effectively. Thailand is one of the few markets in Asia that has never been colonised, so they have a very distinct culture, language and a strong sense of pride, with their own unique way of doing things.”
An element of OMD’s ability to help its clients reach their regional business goals involves managing cultural sensitivities and putting this knowledge into practice through SLAs, templates, and digital products. An understanding of the increasing role of technology is vital. “Digital has become part of life. It is a part of a consumer’s journey: we as marketers can’t keep looking at it in silo.”
Beyond operating as an advertising agency, OMD provides a truly tailored service by working to understand wider business strategies as well as the market in which a client wishes to succeed. “Every country is rightly unique and at different stages of digital adoption,” says Chhaya. You’re expected to be ahead of the curve compared to your clients. Local market knowledge and resources are vital, but they may lack that global level of aptitude, so it’s a challenge to find the right talent and make sure we train, upskill and ensure clients trust our staff’s knowledge and expertise. We need to make sure we are truly driving the client, rather than the client saying ‘here’s what we need to do’ and us reacting to it.”
Chhaya cites McDonald’s as a key example of how OMD understands business objectives and fosters growth through partnership. The key objective is to sell burgers, of course, but nowadays this is done offline as well as online through McDelivery. OMD examines the goals market by market: “Sometimes, in a small market like Singapore, we even go store by store,” notes Chhaya. “What are the KPIs, what are the goals they need to achieve in terms of scale?” Through asking the right questions, OMD combines an awareness of the client’s target audience and desired business outcomes with its own deep, market-specific understanding of customers. “We put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer and understand who the core target audience is. We try to understand the consumer from a demography and psychography perspective. We then look at, based on the client’s ambitions, what change in behaviour they need from the consumer for them to want to consume the product, or change from a competitor’s product. That’s our cross section where we talk about ideation: what are the different things we can do to make the change possible? How can we drive efficiency in what we’re doing?”
For McDonald’s, the challenge is to adapt to the local market and thrive in an omnichannel arena – fulfilling both online and offline orders from the same kitchen. “At some point, demand will exceed capability to match it with supply,” says Chhaya. OMD has developed a technology-driven platform which analyses kitchen capacity and uses an algorithm to show waiting times in each McDonald’s throughout Singapore. “The system automatically starts a media campaign to drive burger sales, or pauses the ad campaign. If waiting time is above 10 minutes, we can pause all delivery ads for that location because we have enough demand,” Chhaya explains.
Clearly, this is more than running an ad campaign – it’s understanding how media and digital work in tandem to drive growth. “Where exactly should they be seen? How exactly should they measure ROI, measure success?” asks Chhaya. The agency partners with technology giants such as Google and Facebook to accrue local insights on a global scale so businesses can learn how to advertise appropriately and measure the success of their campaigns as well as areas for improvement. “We speak with Google and Facebook regularly about how we can innovate further for our clients and make sure we really push the envelope for their businesses.” That way, OMD can combine global insights from a plethora of companies and consumers that even a giant like McDonald’s could only dream of on its own.
OMD and Google have launched around 200 new technology features in APAC over the past year and many have been expanded across multiple clients. A strong example is TV to online attribution: clients often struggle to gauge the efficacy of TV adverts. “We sat down with Google and, using Bayesian inference, created an algorithm and baseline of brand search terms. 20 minutes prior and 20 minutes post the TV advert, we can track spikes in search terms to infer whether the TV campaign had genuinely impacted search trends.”
“Everything we do today starts and ends with technology,” says Chhaya. Omnicom is set to continue leveraging digital solutions to provide local insights whilst maintaining best practice through strict guidelines and talent development. “We have an online program, face to face training and a mentoring programme. We also have Omnicom University, which has training courses for the more senior staff. Each market has its own localised training agenda.” Looking to the future, OMD aims to stay ahead of the curve in an evolving industry. “For the next three years our goal is future proofing our business as well as our clients’, making sure we’re all ready for the key trends and technological improvements we see coming up,” says Chhaya. “We will ensure we have the right people in place to be able to lead in the future, the right processes in place to be agile, change and adapt, and the right partners in place so we can constantly develop new products to deliver better solutions to our clients.”