After clinching distinctions in six categories at the Media Agency Association of Thailand awards presentation recently, Atipol Ithivatana, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Thailand, can't wipe the smile off his face.
Atipol Ithivatana, centre, with his team of creative minds.
While the media-management agency is accustomed to receiving accolades, the executive said with pride that this was the first time they had hauled in a record number of awards, namely for best use of magazines, ambient and special events, best use of search through a Pay Per Click campaign, best communications strategy and media agency of the year.
After all the hard work, he said it feels great to be recognised for believing that experiences do matter to people, and that they can enhance lives and build brands simultaneously.
This honour has proven that the sky is the limit when a group of people pool their creative talents to accomplishing a task, said Atipol, who has been in the advertising industry for close to three decades.
It is essential to not rest on one's laurels for too long he said, adding: "We continue to strive to develop our company's persona from being a media agency to a more fitting human-experience company. So it is our goal to see our clients' businesses develop through uplifting, meaningful human experiences that each one of us can relate to."
While such a line of work is never a one-man show, Atipol credits the success to teamwork, passion and the drive to be different.
Starcom MediaVest Group, he said, could best be described as an agency that focuses on the future by channelling transformation driven by digital, content and analysed research, which offers a wider perspective on business- building results.
Atipol said the advertising industry has changed rapidly through the years due to the advancement of technology. In the past, he said it was relatively easy to reach a target group with a message through the use of a handful of local television channels and newspapers. With the boom of Facebook and Twitter, multimedia technology and consumer evolution, media-management agencies have to step up their search to find the most suitable modus operandi to reach the audience, which today needs to feel they are being engaged.
One of the most pressing challenges facing the industry today, according to Atipol, is the need for creative minds. "Searching for young creative minds is probably the biggest requirement in this line of work today, because there is huge demand for fresh, innovative ideas, but a shortage of people that can deliver," he said.
"Some of the best talents have come from the creative and account-management departments, so the task is to sift through the pool of talent to find staff most suitable for the job."
To survive in this cut-throat industry, it is pivotal to keep abreast of how a person is exposed to a certain brand campaign, to find which type of media, be it Facebook or smartphones for instance, that influences the individual to decide to purchase a particular model. It takes dedication and hard work to get to the bottom of this and requires a strong team of go-getters to achieve, said Atipol.
On brand campaign challenges, the youthful-looking executive said brainstorming to search for fresh ideas so old ones have not been recycled is a must. 'SoLoMo' (social, local, mobile) applications that authorise advertisers to push notifications to potential customers who are geographically close by are often used here.
"Thailand's mobile market is booming, so we can surely capitalise on this by using this mode of contact, which has greatly benefitted our cause," said Atipol. "Prices of smartphones continue to dip, and so people from all walks of life have the purchasing power to have their own. It's proven to be very effective."
Coming up with concepts for an advert that targets the masses, especially in rural areas, is a tough assignment, said Atipol, because of the rather unique mindset of upcountry people. To gauge what clicks for them, he said the services of an experience designer is required. He or she identifies existing touchpoints and creates new ones, and then scores the arrangement of these touchpoints so that they produce the desired outcome. In its commercial context, he said experience design is driven by consideration of the moments of engagement between people and brands, and the ideas, emotions and memories these moments build.
Narongchai Prathumsuwan, SMG's experience designer, said getting to the core of what clicks and what doesn't takes attention to detail and behavioural tendencies off the market they hope to attract. Fieldwork to gather data often has Narongchai rub shoulders with locals to better understand who triggers their interest towards a brand. For an American auto brand campaign in the north of Thailand, he was able to put together an advertisement that had a barber share the benefits of driving the car in question to his client.
For the background music, he had a popular folk singer slightly alter the lyrics to a catchy tune by adding the name of the car brand. Despite the fact that the commercial was a big hit amongst rural folk, the popularity of the music was so far-reaching that many in Bangkok paid to download the music to their mobiles.