Author Archives: Urvi Bhatia

Shreeniwas Iyer has been named the new CEO for VOCANIC Asia Pacific

shreeniShreeniwas (Shreeni) is CEO at Vocanic where he heads Strategy, Business Development and Operations across all markets. Shreeni was previously CTO at Vocanic between 2010 and 2016. Prior to Vocanic, Shreeni worked at multiple technology product development roles including Trilogy and Yahoo!
Shreeni has over 12 years’ experience in building and operating technology projects, with the recent 6 years in marketing technology including Products, Campaigns or Applications. Shreeni has a Bachelor’s degree in CS from University of Delhi, a Master’s degree in CS from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK) and a Diploma in Business from Symbiosis International University. Originally from India, he has been based in Singapore since 2009.

Edwin Kow : Employee Spotlight, May 2016

EdwinEdwin hails from the island of incessant munchies, good ol’ Penang which explains why he’s such a foodie! He has been with VOCANIC Malaysia since November 2014. Despite being a Graphic Designer, he’s also particularly involved in videography with our VOCANIC Studio team.

Edwin has an innate passion for making things happen, out of nothing. He finds the thrill from exploring possibilities and always pushing boundaries quite intoxicating. He has a passion for anything aesthetically pleasing, socially engaging and mentally inspiring in nature.

Our man enjoys eating chilli padi and has consumed the infamous Bhut Jolokia chilli (Ghost Chilli), the spiciest chilli in the world! (which nearly sent him to the hospital).

In his own words, “Being in VOCANIC Malaysia makes it even easier to integrate what I know, what I could and what I want, within the elusive realm of creativity and I am loving every moment of it. I like to think of it as amplifying every little lightbulb of an idea that lay dormant around me, just to rival the sun.”

Tramaine Teo : Employee Spotlight, April 2016

For over a year, the assertive beats of Tramaine Teo’s heels have resonated through the walls, its sound heralding her arrival into the office. This sound is symbolic of Tramaine’s time here, representing the strength and grace with which she leads the charge in her role as Account Director.


Tramaine manages our agency relationships; both within GroupM and with external agencies. She very capably handles multiple scopes, including business development, client pitch, ideation, strategic consultation, contract negotiations and, of course, networking. Outside the office, the multi-talented Tramaine was a professional dancer, sang in a band and also plays the piano. Believing in a holistic approach to life, Tramaine won Regional first place for the Crossfit Opens (Scaled Division) in 2015.

Tramaine enthuses, “I love the relationship-building aspect of my job! I love talking to people. It fills me with such confidence to be able to walk into different agencies and know so many people, and to have them come look for me to consult on all things social.”



Interplay between Search-Social-Content

Search, Social, Content are the three buzz words in today’s marketing world. Unfortunately, these three things are often thought through and planned separately. Different agencies are used to plan these three and these agencies seldom work hand in hand to achieve a common goal.

This Silo thinking fails to recognize the fact that these three tactics actually stand on each other’s shoulders. They are so closely inter-linked that it is imperative to plan, execute and distribute them together.

Social’s key need is content. Key distribution channel for content is social. The key role of content is to improve search ranking.

By writing high quality, relevant and holistic content, we can ensure that well executed content can support search. Social Sharing is another important way to support search. Whilst social sharing may not cause higher rankings, Ranking Factors Study 2014 notes that “social signals definitely play a role in direct traffic, brand awareness, and the overall online performance of a domain.”

Search, Social and Content should be planned, executed and distributed as part of a common plan.

Charlie Young appointed as General Manager, Singapore at VOCANIC

Social relationship marketing firm, VOCANIC announced the promotion of Charlie Young (pictured) to General Manager of VOCANIC, Singapore.

Charlie’s previous role as Strategy lead, focused on supporting client servicing teams, developing a proprietary strategic framework and driving new business submissions across the region.

In his new role as the General Manager, Singapore Charlie will take on leadership of a larger team, deepening VOCANIC’s client and stakeholder relationships and lead VOCANIC Singapore’s strategy for continued growth in line with their regional strategy.

Charlie Young

Charlie Young

“As a growing regional firm, we continue to evolve our structure and provide greater opportunities to our amazing team. Charlie is an asset and we look forward to him leading our Singapore business.” says Ian Mckee

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to help elevate the role of social in the organizations we partner with. I am keen to keep evolving our Singapore business while empowering the excellent talent we have.” says Charlie. “I’m looking forward to working more closely with our Singapore clients and the GroupM agencies and helping build stronger and more involved relationships between brands and their audiences.”

Prior to joining VOCANIC, Charlie was a Manager within Group Digital Life at Singtel and has been a strategic planner at several of the GroupM agencies both in Asia and in the UK. Charlie has experience across a variety of industries from Automotive and corporate communications to FMCG, telcos and tourism. He holds a Master’s in Business from Cass Business School London and a Degree in Architecture from University College London.

As part of VOCANIC’s plans to expand its market presence, it’s strengthening the management team by hiring senior executives across regions. This year, VOCANIC has announced the appointment of Rebecca Ashby as Chief Operating Officer, Vivienne Maguire as General Manager, Malaysia , Shane Crombie as Country Head, Indonesia and Charlie Young as General Manager, Singapore.

The Myth About Viral Marketing

Clients love the idea of a Viral Campaign. For them it’s Nirvana – a piece of content that reaches phenomenal reach for free.


But is that really the case?

Look at some of the examples of content going viral. When you read or watch these viral stories, you’ll realize that most of the ‘Hall of Fame’ viral stories fall into a few categories:

 You’ll also notice that these are bits of content that don’t relate to a brand or brand campaign and have infact gained accidental fame.


This is not to say that branded content doesn’t become popular. There are occasional examples of where an organization has been able to tap into content that allows it to go viral, generally around good causes : eg ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and San Francisco’s Bat Kid. These incidents were uplifting and altruistic which made them so appealing.

But when brands try to create content that is intended to go viral, they tend to be stuck in between.If they put the brand front and center, it looks and feels like an advert and NOBODY shares advert so it doesn’t go viral. Alternatively, marketers can minimize the presence of brand. In that case, content may go viral but may not show the association with the brand. So from the brand’s perspective, both strategies are worthless.

Even in cases where a campaign gets high viewership, it has never proven to deliver significant impact on sales for the brand. In hindsight, Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign did nothing to bring new users to the brand, neither did Evian’s roller skating babies.

The critical issue is that when a person shares a piece of such content with another, they are actually recommending the creativity of the agency that the brand employed.This is different from what a correctly constructed, strategic, social media campaign would have achieved in terms of the volume of positive recommendations for the brand itself.

Simply put, an individual is more likely to go for a trial when they receive a personal recommendation from a friend rather than the link to an ingenious advert.The mirage of success of viral marketing depends on the outdated view that ‘Reach equates to Advocacy’. Just because I saw roller skating babies does not mean I’ll switch my brand.

The popularity of viral marketing stems from the creative agencies. They advocate it as conceiving and shooting a piece of video or organizing stunts is their core strength. Social Media done properly is not as eye catching or glamorous as viral marketing, but marketing through advocacy has been the driving force to propel brands such as Amazon, Air BnB, Spotify from “Zero to Hero” without spending a single dollar on viral campaigns or ATL.




The Best of Spikes Asia 2015

Andre Amaral, Regional Executive Creative Director at Vocanic was at the recently held Spikes Asia festival. He made some interesting observations that are worth taking note of.


Spikes Asia is a yearly, 3-day festival of creativity hosted at Suntec City in Singapore. It is by the same folks that run the Cannes Lions, Eurobest, and Dubai Lynx. This year I was able to attend the event in full, while representing Vocanic, the agency I work for.


Photo Credits : Spikes Asia Facebook

Photo Credits : Spikes Asia Facebook

And here’s what caught my attention among the various seminars, workshops, tech talks, competitions, video broadcasts, awards ceremonies and networking parties that happened this year:

#1 The Big Tech Three

Facebook, Twitter, and Google all had main stage keynotes this year. Our “frenemies”, as Martin Sorrell calls them, are ever more encroached and intertwined within the media and communication industry. Fergus O’Hare, the new Head of Creative Shop for APAC, presented for Facebook. A nice bloke from Ireland with a caustic sense of humor. He teased the audience with a few Facebook ad formats that are not yet available for sale. He also showed a handful of “creative data” campaigns, or pieces of communication that leveraged in full the targeting and format possibilities of the platform. Unfortunately, agencies are still struggling to make the most out of these. Facebook is aggressively pushing for Video Ads and Instagram Ads across the region, and that message was re-iterated by Fergus.

Google also showed off their creative capabilities, particularly highlighting a campaign they did for EA Sports’ Madden NFL, called #Giferator. Creative engines allowed users to generate an unlimited combination of animated GIFs with resources from the game, while at the same time, they leveraged precision targeting based on the game’s potential audience. Mobile, social, content, data, all boxes ticked!

Twitter’s Steven Kalifowitz (@skalifowitz) highlighted the #PowerOfNow. As the platform struggles with aggressive investors looking for a definition for the future, Twitter seems to be banking on the platform’s hold of the current moment and being the best companion for live experiences.I completely agree with this vision. Periscope is also a step in the same positioning (his team was broadcasting the presentation on it). Steven is a good presenter, and took questions from the audience using Twitter itself. Two nice little visions of what Twitter can offer for brands.

Key Take Away: Agencies, watch out!  All major tech players are continuing/growing their investments on internal creative resources (Creative Shop is hiring across the region) and on beefing up their direct relationships with bigger clients. Either agencies adapt and move up their offerings one notch higher, as cross-platform consultants perhaps, or be ready to perish.

#2 Good Work But Lots Of Lost Work Too

Spikes Asia is also a creative awards competition. lMHO, most projects didn’t scale in the proportion that they could have. Agencies still treat their projects as campaigns with a start and an end date. They should treat them like products that are nurtured and grow with time. The advertising industry still hasn’t figured out how to monetize their work to its full capacity.

Some interesting work done across the region :

Volkswagen’s “Reduce Speed Dial” (New Zealand)

Uni-Noodle’s “House of Little Moments” (Taiwan)

Pedigree’s “Found” (New Zealand)

Culture Convenience Club’s “Panicoupon” (Japan)

#3 Insightful TechTalks

I attended two of them; one by R/GA Singapore, and one by some colleagues from Maxus’ Metalworks.

R/GA ran a demo of a dynamic visual storytelling tool that combines keywords with databases of videos and sounds to put together videos on the fly. It’s the beginning of a very interesting platform, one that could help innovative marketers create more tailored messaging for their audiences.

Alex Jaspers from Metalworks talked about process and technology, while Mithru and Daylon sourced a few volunteers from the crowd to have their arms controlled by someone else using electrodes. How cool is that!

#4 Lovely Student Briefs

I heard a few student ideas at the conclusion of the Spikes Young Creative Academy. The energy in the room was palpable even with very tough behaviour change briefs (education in Pakistan, food wastage in Vietnam, over-sexualized media in South Korea, lack of friendliness in China). All insights were bang on, although some ideas lacked the creativity or viability needed, students were on the right path

#5 Shy Networking

Met some interesting creative people from a creative technologist shop in Jakarta, talked to a handful of the speakers, but in general the networking vibe is very shy compared to Cannes Lions or Dubai Lynx.

So this was my overall experience with Spikes Asia this year. If you want to know more about it, drop me a tweet at @andregoiano.

Make sure you explore the winning work here.

Paid Social is Still Permission Based

Ian Mckee is the CEO of Vocanic, Asia’s Largest Full Service Social Media Marketing Business. With over 17 yrs of experience, Ian is a pioneer in the field of word of mouth marketing and social media marketing. He often finds himself educating his clients on how to utilize the true value of social for their businesses. One such discussion prompted him to write this post. Read on to hear directly from Ian.


A few days ago, I was in a meeting with a large client who had an even larger digital team. We were showcasing our Mission Control dashboard to them. A topic that I find myself discussing very often these days came up; “How to build a measurement framework of metrics that are predictive and indicative of success for a brand”.

What happened next, left me shocked and inspired me to write this post.

“We use Facebook for frequency and reach.” the head of digital said. “We are not concerned about engagement on Facebook.” (REALLY?!!) I was speechless for a second or two, but then started to probe deeper.

The simple truth was that this client had understood that they cannot reach their audience effectively on TV and had moved significant budgets to digital. This was great! But sadly, they were bringing the mindset and metrics of interruption advertising to digital, and worse, to social.

When I gently pointed out that using the same approach and metrics for two very different media channels is likely to lead to the wrong actions, I was shut down with a phrase, “But this is paid social.”

What they had failed to understand was that Facebook puts the users experience first. And provides them with the ability to hide brand messages they don’t like. Users tell Facebook why they hid the message and permanently block an advertiser from being able to reach them again.

From the advertisers’ perspective, it gets even worse. Facebook reads these signals from users as evidence that the output of the brand is actively unwanted and increases the CPC/CPM costs to show the same content to other users, making it more expensive for them to advertise. This is a classic mistake made frequently by people who come from a traditional or biddable media background. Advertisers need to understand that social media is inherently permission based.

Here’s a step by step screenshot of how it’s done.



 So what should brands do?

Paid or Organic, it is a good idea to treat social media as entirely permission media. Putting old methods of interruption advertising into practice is a huge mistake. Performance of your content is more important than the reach. The content that works needs to be:

  • Remarkable
  • Personally relevant
  • Provide a value exchange for the audience by educating them, amusing them etc

Our decision making needs to be data driven as well. Data can show us which content works best, on which platform and with what audience. Data analytics reveal essential source of information to decide what to promote. Earlier, the creative used to generate the big idea, now it’s the data that drives the creative thought.

Because we at Vocanic understand social, we can work with the brand to stop thinking Inside Out and start the process of learning how to add value to their customers’ life and create positive experiences. (Hint: Most adverts are not a positive experience!). We have a planning methodology which is developed specifically for permission based media, where you want users to not just consume but even share with their friends, something you could never hope with your TV network.


A close encounter with Dominic Proctor, President of GroupM Global Operations

Kanika Agarwal is an Account Manager at Vocanic, Singapore and supports our StarHub relationship. She is an aspiring marketing technologist and a rising star at Vocanic. She was elated when she got a chance to meet Dominic Proctor, President of GroupM Global Operations who visited Singapore recently. Here is a first person account of her interaction with him.


Dom addressed the Singapore team during a company town hall. As expected, we had a full house! All agency folks were eager and excited to hear Dom take us through GroupM’s current strategy especially given the changing digital landscape.

Some lucky ones also got a chance to meet him over lunch and personally learn from his experiences. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of these young talents. I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak to him in person and understand more about Group M’s vision and where we were headed as a group. Without being too intrusive, I started shooting my questions.

When you meet Dom, you are first charmed by his personality. In spite of being extremely knowledgeable, he is also very humble.  Being a young employee, you tend to feel intimidated around the company of senior management. But Dom made sure he made me feel at ease.

GroupM’s aim is simple and unsurprisingly ambitious. It is working towards a universal goal or as Dom puts it, “for your advantage” and being  unrivaled in everything we do. The company has grown tremendously both in terms of absolute business and talent pool. The traditional media buying business has shifted from 90% to 65% and yet our overall business has grown. It has seen a growth in many areas and especially social, programmatic and research, which GroupM Singapore successfully delivers to its clients by employing from diversified talent pools and in building up & acquiring specialized thought-leader companies such as  Vocanic and Xaxis.

There is no dearth of reports and researches available online that confirm that Asia is now leading the growth in mobile penetration and internet consumption. I was curious to understand from Dom his personal views on how the region is adapting to these changes. From his global perspective, he agrees that Asian consumers are fast paced. However from a client perspective, there is still a lot that we need to do to support the traditional media buying game. We need to provide them with integrated solutions. Clients are looking for agencies that can provide complete solutions to their connected consumer. The era of approaching different marketing touch points in silos is now over.  The beauty of GroupM is that it owns all these agencies within its umbrella. Group M can help bring media experts from across its agencies to build and execute against best-in-class communication plans for our clients.

Another interesting thing he pointed out was that every conversation with our clients today needs to start with mobile, especially in Asia. The smaller the screen,the more difficult it is for brands to provide uninterrupted communication. In that sense, the billboard age was easier. I couldn’t agree more. Given that the new age consumer is always on his mobile, you have to think of innovate ways to make his experience positive.

I asked him to choose between data driven marketing and content driven marketing and he said that he was putting his bets on data driven marketing. He thinks this will be a game changer and a strong tool in the hands of a smart marketer. Data can help answer critical business queries such as ‘What product to design”, “What content to post” etc. One can truly unlock the power of data by analysing and interpreting the right insights from it. Technological tools alone cannot help you answer that. You need to strengthen your analytics and insight capabilities as well. The recent decision of the group to acquire Greenhouse Group shows GroupM’s focus in this area.

Kanika Agarwal with Dominic Proctor

Kanika Agarwal with Dominic Proctor

To summarize, meeting Dom was a huge learning experience for me. Not only did it help me get an overview on the group’s ideology and industry best practices, but it also provided me with areas to focus on from a personal development perspective.



Creating a Brand Persona on Social Media

It is not easy being a brand on social media! Here, people care more about connecting with each other than a company or a logo. This makes it challenging for corporates to have an effective communication strategy to shine above the rest. Brands need to create a persona that represents their image, delivers their message and works on social media.

Social media gives brands the chance to develop a personalitybrand persona and style that is more amiable and relevant than a print ad.Establishing a consistent personality helps to humanize your brand, connect emotionally with your audience and take part in conversations naturally. This can go a long way to determine how people perceive you. People will always prefer to buy from a brand that they can relate to better. As you can see, your social media updates are more than just words. If your brand is trusted, your audience will end up doing your marketing for you.

Across board, social media experts agree that following these simple steps will work wonders to your social media communications:

Assess Culture: Look internally at the culture of your brand and find out what makes your brand unique. Even amongst directly competing brands, your audience should be able to tell you apart based on the vibe your brand gives out. This is essentially the personality of your brand.

Assess Audience: Using social media listening tools, you can find out more about your audiences. Once you know how your community speaks and what they care about, you can use their language to connect over topics that are close to their hearts. Chances of them wanting to speak back to you will be higher and more engaging.

Assess Purpose and Value: It is important to be clear about what your brand wants to bring to the conversation with the audience. Why are you on social media in the first place? For building your brand reputation, tackling customer service, subtly selling your products and services or for educating your prospective customers about your ongoing offers.

Assess Brand Voice: Once you have clarity on the above steps, you can start developing a voice for your brand that matches the character of your brand. So you decide if you want to be friendly, quirky, formal, provocative, funny, edgy, authoritative, or informative.

And Remember…

The key takeaways to a killer social media brand strategy are:

  • Focus on the experience and emotions associated with your brand
  • Involve your followers
  • Keep the product messages low key
  • Be Relevant

It might take some time, but all good relationships need hard work, don’t they?