Mindshare’s Future Adaptive Specialist Team (FAST), a global operation that consults clients on data and data-led technologies, is becoming a key focus for its Asia Pacific operations because of the complexities its clients face in such a diverse region.
In the past month Mindshare has announced two new data-led roles for its APAC office; Aloun Liu joined as head of data and technology APAC and Robin Wong joined the team as CEO of FAST APAC. The new appointments represent a significant ramping up of its efforts to put data at the core of its practice.
However, the FAST practice isn’t new and its journey has already seen clients such as Unilever come on board to build bespoke data stacks with the agency. This is in addition to investment from the Singapore government to help Mindshare staff up its Singapore office and make it into a data hub for the region.
While other key regional hubs like London and New York are also driving this new model, Sanchit Sanga, chief digital officer, Asia Pacific at Mindshare says its global team is learning considerable amounts from Singapore because the complexities in Asia Pacific are forcing it to push the "hub and spoke" model.
“The world is learning from our experiences, it’s the converse of the original plan which was to bring the best of the world to Asia. But now other hubs, New York, London and other offices, are learning from our way because our complexity is much greater. There is no ‘one Asia’ and as a hub therefore you have to standardise a set of solutions and build a vision. China is very different, and then there’s Japan, Korea, India and Australia. Simplification of services in a complex system in different regions without having standardisation. There is no ‘one Asia’ so for each of [the local offices] to shape it based on needs of markets and clients is important,” he says.
The standardisation referenced relates to a process that Mindshare has created for clients to ensure that the process of "onboarding" data (ie training staff to use these new technologies, and then apply the skills to their everyday practice) runs smoothly.
According to Gowthaman Ragothaman, chief operating officer at Mindshare Asia Pacific, there are five stages. The first, he says, is taking them through how to onboard data. The next stage is to go from onboarding to "expanding data", which is then followed by "serving" – via advertising. The fourth stage is "activating" which can be achieved by using tools such as dynamic creative. The final stage is applying "big data" in measurement and then optimising for the future.
Wong calls this building “muscle memory” for data. He adds: “We want to expand our advisory services to help our clients onboard their first-party data, and apply event-level analytics at scale, hence building 'muscle memory' out of their data and analytics-led initiatives, and creating a learning machine for each client.”
Ragothaman says different Mindshare offices in Asia Pacific are at different stages of this, both in their own knowledge of adtech and data, as well as how advanced the clients in different markets are. “It is too early to tell every market to be FAST-ready, we decided that as a hub Singapore can play a role in galvanising and giving a method to the madness, it is setting the roadmap in place,” he adds.
The FAST model has now been rolled out to over 52 Mindshare offices globally and Ragothaman says it’s had a positive reception from clients. “Most clients like a transparent approach, we will only survive if we are open source, tech-agnostic and clients are aware of the entire black box,” he says.
“Unilever was the first client to come on board with a customised tech stack, with each partner selected transparently, sitting with the client. Then many other clients showed interest, we now have six talking about this customised stack; three on board and three in talks.”