Leo Burnett earmarks core initiatives

  • Business
  • Saturday, 15 Mar 2014

LEO Burnett Group Malaysia, the top three advertising agency in the country, has earmarked some core initiatives which will further fuel its growth in the competitive advertising industry.

The initiatives involve banking on specific areas like organic growth through cross-selling of existing services, providing new specialised offerings, stepping up its business-to-business communications and opening its avenue for acquisitions.

Its CEO Tan Kien Eng in an interview with StarBizWeek says the focus this year is to continuously raise the creative bar as its services expand beyond existing clients.

The agency is known for creating award-winning campaigns, such as those for Petronas, Samsung, and McDonald’s (top four pics). The latest Petronas campaign created by Leo Burnett Malaysia entitled Young Hearts (bottom six pics) was a huge hit in the country when it was launched in January this year with over 300,000 views within two days. The campaign continues to hit 2.5 million views on the Petronas official site alone.

Its list of clients, besides reputable names like Petronas, Samsung and McDonald’s, includes Tenaga National, P&G, Maybank and YTL. Apart from this, he adds, Leo Burnett has set up a third agency, Alpha 245, to manage conflicting businesses more effectively as certain business categories or segments are more sensitive than others.

Alpha 245, a boutique agency under the Leo Burnett network, is an independent agency with a separate set of resources and support systems, has grown in terms of staff strength akin to a mid-sized advertising outfit, since its inception about two years ago.

He says it has 45 staff members from 12 initially and plans are ahead to increase the number to service more clients as well as handle conflicting businesses. Its revenue jumped by more than 100% since it was formed and its clients include notable blue-chip brands like Carlsberg brands (Somersby and Kronenbourg 1664), Ikea, Pfizer, YTL, The Sunway Hospitality Group, University Malaysia of Computer Science and Engineering and Royal Brunei Airlines.

Arc Worldwide, a business division within the Leo Burnett group globally, has allowed the group to give new offerings to clients in terms of specialisation and innovation.

One of Leo Burnett's recent ad campaign for McDonald's entitled Save the Sundae Cone
One of Leo Burnett's recent ad campaign for McDonald's entitled Save the Sundae Cone.

“We are taking steps to further fuse the Arc Worldwide brand with Leo Burnett. This is necessary because all the services found within Arc Worldwide such as digital and mobile marketing, shopper marketing, activation, public relations, social media, CRM and design are now part of Leo Burnett’s approach to creating powerful narratives for brands through story telling. At the end of the day, we want to help our clients build purposeful brands,’’ Tan says.

Creating campaigns or developing brands on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is another initiative the agency is working with its clients.

He says the agency is helping clients to align their CSR initiatives according to their brand purpose. It is no longer enough for a brand to just offer useful, relevant, entertaining product and services. For example, a financial services brand could create a product or cause that take in the form of wealth creation and poverty eradication,” he says.

Leo Burnett is also intensifying its work to include business-to-business communications or what is referred to as specialist-to-specialist. Tan says this requires a deep understanding of what appeals to the business decision makers which is slightly different from business-to-consumers.

He says there are plans to acquire a digital agency locally to grow its revenue and capabilities in digital work to complement its existing digital offering. At the moment he says it is “still shopping” around for one and is researching on it.

On the agency’s performance this year, Tan adds, revenue has been growing by double digits over the last few years and will continue this year.

“As a business, we need to continue to grow and invests in the growth of our people. This include areas like training specialise skills, especially in the area of digital and creativity. Last year, we spend about RM1.2mil in training alone. In the last three years, Leo Burnett Malaysia has been one of the top three performing offices for the group in the region.

“In terms of size, the Malaysian office is almost the same size as the group’s office in India. We have close to 290 people in our Malaysian office compared with an average multinational ad agency in the country which has 50-150 people,’’ he adds.

On creativity, Tan says Malaysia tends to lose out on retaining talent, for example, to Singapore and China. This is partly because of the weaker local currency (compared with Singapore) and smaller creative budgets in comparison with China and other countries.

A smaller budget will limit production exploration and the use of new techniques to producing the work and provide new experience for consumers, he points out.

Leo Burnett Group Malaysia won several regional awards last year. It rose over regional rivals to clinch Gold awards for South-East Asia PR Agency of the Year 2013, South-East Asia Planner of the Year, and runner-up for South-East Asia Agency Head of the Year at the Campaign Asia-Pacific’s awards held in Singapore last year.

The ad agency also retained its No. 1 position as Malaysia’s Digital Agency of the Year at Campaign Asia-Pacific’s awards, and claimed the Silver award for Malaysia’s Creative Agency of the Year, making Leo Burnett’s Kuala Lumpur office the most awarded Malaysian creative agency in South-East Asia.

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