Carat's goal post now is the client's ultimate objective

  • Business
  • Saturday, 25 Jan 2014

Carat Media Services (M) Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Bala Pomaleh

WHEN media agencies plan communication campaigns for advertisers, they traditionally focus on media outputs such as gross rating points and reach. However, clients are ultimately more interested in sales and other marketing results.

Carat Media Services (M) Sdn Bhd, one of Malaysia’s leading media agencies, believes that clients should be “more demanding” of their agencies to focus in that direction.

Its chief executive officer Bala Pomaleh says media agencies must develop certain new capabilities.

“Carat now has capabilities in ecometrics and analytics which allow us to do modelling − how will your sales grow based on your media and marketing investments. So we are able to dissect the contributions of various media and other marketing variables including distribution, promotion and sales,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Carat Malaysia’s main clients include AirAsia, Wipro Hunza, Beiersdorf and BMW.

Carat in Malaysia (as well as globally) has improved its consumer attitude and media usage survey, Consumer Connection Study (CCS), for this year.

The enhanced version is based on a larger sample of 4,000 people in the country against 3,000 previously.

CCS, a global initiative by London-based Carat, is among the world’s biggest consumer media research studies with over 30,000 respondents in 50 markets. Seventy percent of the questions − asked face to face − were common in every market.

“What’s unique about our CCS is we have a sample of 1,000 in East Malaysia (double from previously) so our capability there is significantly higher,” says Pomaleh.

For Malaysia, CCS covers more than 60 touchpoints and over 150 lifestyle statements.

“It helps us define the audience with better clarity so we’ll be able to reach the consumers that matter − we call them the Most Valuable Consumers. There’s no point having a shotgun approach in advertising because you may waste money reaching a lot of people,” he says.

Carat uses a planning tool called the CCS Planner. which trawls for data within the database. The tool is fairly new, having been used extensively only for about a year.

“It allows us to do objective-based planning,” Pomaleh says. “For example, if the objective is to build sales, it tells us what touchpoints work best for that particular audience. So we’re moving away from purely reaching people from a media output objective.

“Previously we just said something like ‘I want 80% reach’. Now we can also know what we should do to get an estimated 80% awareness or 70% conversion.”

Pomaleh, who became Carat Malaysia CEO in mid-2012, had a challenging year in 2013. However, the agency still managed to have “a good double-digit growth.”

“We didn’t focus much on winning new business because we were focusing a lot on building our talent capabilities in terms of offering new services. We were also focusing on our products such as CCS to make sure we would be able to extract the maximum potential from them,” he says.

Despite that, about 40% of Carat Malaysia’s growth last year came from new business revenues.

“We’ve also been able to market other solutions like econometrics,” Pomaleh adds.

Last year, Japanese advertising agency Dentsu completed the acquisition of Carat’s parent company Aegis Group plc for £3.16bil. Asked whether Carat Malaysia has started working with Dentsu, Pomaleh says: “There have been some collaborations with our Dentsu partners, there have been some business wins. I think we have a very healthy relationship.”

Carat did not do well at the Malaysian Media Awards last year, but it was the only media agency to win as primary agency at the Malaysia Effie Awards in September.

“There were a lot of adjustments between 2012 and the early part of 2013. And when things started to fall in place, we saw a change that’s quite interesting. Maybe this year will be a better year in terms of awards, but what’s more critical for us is our clients’ performance,” Pomaleh says.

Carat Malaysia is expanding its staff of about 80 by hiring senior people. It is expected to have seven to eight business teams by early this year from five last year.

“I think we’re going to be an agency to watch in 2014,” he says.

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