WITH more than 30 years behind him in the advertising industry, Kitti Chambundabongse has experienced many changes in Thailand’s creative scene – not least the dramatic transformation brought about by disruptive technologies.
“I am still negotiating the path in the new era of change and disruption in marketing and advertising,” says Kitti, 73, who is now honorary chairman of Spa-Hakuhodo and Future Communications Group.
“It’s more true now than ever that my long experience over the years confirms the shifts under way in the industry.”
Kitti says the business models of advertising and media agencies are adjusting to what is emerging as the new normal in the industry, as part of a new business landscape.
“The digital transformation created by innovation and technologies have empowered our consumers, our new generations of clients to expect measurable outcomes, be they in terms of brand preference or sales performances,” he says.
“Gone are the days that we as an agency can rely on our experience or gut feel about the expected results of a campaign.”
He says that data-driven campaigns, drawing on fewer assumptions, together with more demonstrated knowledge of the market in targeting consumers are the elements that make up the core platform of campaign development.
“I expect that it will become more difficult to manage the new landscape of agency business as evidenced in the major network shift of locus in the US and Europe. There will be more changes and disruptions caused by digital transformation,” says Kitti, adding that the consumers of today and tomorrow will more so become brand advocates, capable of speaking powerfully about them.
“Our brands over the past few years and long into the future will need to tell more stories to engage and sustain relationships with our target consumers,” he says.
Kitti says that a data-driven strategy has already become the key to success and this shift will become even more strongly pronounced in the future when industry creatives will assume nothing.
“Ensuring that we are digitally savvy and able to create an excitement about how we tell our brands’ stories will be the key to our success,” he says.
“Campaign development will never be a ‘one night stand’ or a one-shot deal like how we traditionally used to do it.
“Building a good relationship with our selected clients and our target consumer base are the necessary requirements for our industry people.”
Kitti says that advertising organisations now must be digitally savvy and harness some excitement to maintain a high level of consistent engagement.
“In another significant change, I feel that size is not an advantage anymore,” he says. “To be small, fast, engaging and true to ourselves, acting like a partner with our clients, are the necessities in operating today.”
Above all, Kitti says that ad organisations must be dynamic.
“We need to reinvent our organisations not only to survive but to be small enough to be big in credibility, creativity – and to be successful,” he says.
“Consumers, and also clients, are being empowered with technology and knowledge. They are interconnected and prefer to question everything.
“I think that brands are seeking to distinguish themselves from their rivals in the market and wish to connect with consumers over the long term at an emotional level. That means agencies will need to get better at storytelling.”
Kitti says these trends are behind some of the changed expectations that clients have of the agencies they use. Copywriting is not just a short-term act of writing but it is done so as to emotionally engage and connect with consumers. In this way, the level of interest in a brand can be sustained via the different media channels. However, coming up with a good idea is still a must for any creative agency to create impact and awareness.
“But our role into the future will be of client partnership whereby we will help create trust and build up transparency between our clients’ brands and our consumers.” Kitti says.
More broadly, the industry veteran notes that 2019 and 2020 will most likely bring more changes to the political landscape.
“Disruption in politics is happening right now when we see new and old parties and faces emerging prior to the election in February,” says Kitti, in drawing parallels with the disruptive forces reshaping the advertising and media industries.
“Changes now affecting the agencies will bring about the advent of more small to medium-sized agencies that break loose from the network agencies.
“The new startups will be more dynamic in most business sectors, including in the communications sector.”
Kitti says talented creatives and local production houses will likely band together to form their own entrepreneurial companies.
“New sets of value are emerging among the new innovative talents, along with the changes in technology and in consumer demand,” he says.
“The networks with long-established reputations will continue to thrive but, then again, we need to review the business model together with the way we handle our clients and the way we handle our talent.
“As clients expect more from the agencies, so will the expectations of our new crop of employees.
“We no longer need merely average talent. The agencies of the future need above-average talent – people who can reinvent themselves often enough to keep the bottom line afloat.
“To keep pace with competition, one must have the passion to manage the changes and hit the fast-forward button with our clients and consumers.
“Soon, in 2019, we will see the new normal and the new benchmark. This is a space where it’s not going to be business as usual for all agency networks.”
Insights into sustainable branding
“Today, consumers’ preferences are changing very rapidly and almost all members of the middle class are interconnected with the other side of the world via social networking and the Internet. The level of available information and data for knowledge are increasing fast, and perhaps faster than in many neighbouring countries. Though in the future, catching up very fast will be Vietnam and Myanmar and these countries have a comparable population base. Thailand still enjoys more disposable income per head and has a larger base of domestic consumption. This makes our country attractive for foreign brands in the FMCG segment to compete.”
“An obstacle faced by new entrants is the sheer number of brands fighting for market share in Thailand's ‘Red Ocean’ market. Unless you make an entry with real innovative products, the competition will be very fierce in this segment. Creating brands will be a difficult task for any new players.”
“Thai consumers are easy to connect with via all sorts of good strategies and media channels. They opt to try something new for the most part. But| for companies to keep repurchase levels up, and to become brands to be reckoned with, requires a huge effort on all the 4 Ps (product, price, place, and |promotion).”
“Engagement with consumers is the key to the sustainable success of any brand. New brands have to work harder.”