Vishnu Mohan on life after Havas and launching a metaverse practice

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

March 7, 2022 | 5 min read

Vishnu Mohan was chairman and chief executive officer of Havas Group South East Asia, India and North Asia for 25 years. He stepped down from Havas in June 2021 and joined Dept in December 2021 to lead the agency’s expansion in Asia Pacific.

The Drum catches up with the partner and chief growth officer to find out more about the metaverse practice, which includes around 100 crypto and blockchain developers, games builders, 3D artists and creators, virtual and augmented reality experts and software engineers all creating web3 experiences for clients.

What has Dept APAC been working on so far?

We are working on getting Dept off the ground at an accelerated pace. Multiple conversations are happening with digitally-native agencies with a technology and/or marketing focus, some of which are progressing well. We hope to be able to have our first few acquisitions in play in the latter half of this year.

This is well augmented with our search for key talent to build our regional hub in Singapore. In parallel, we are already looking at bringing some of the pioneering work and practices that have made Dept well ahead of the industry to clients in the region.

Why is Dept launching a metaverse offering? What are you hearing from clients?

The launch of the offering is a response to the growing need from brands to create their web3 experiences as the metaverse – the next iteration of the internet – is revolutionizing how we interact and live our lives.

Dept has been at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies, and is already working with many of the early-mover brands to create immersive experiences in virtual worlds. We were the first to build an open-source non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace using Algorand, had a meta-festival in September last year and worked for Eurovision, which were all paths to a strong readiness for a specialized offer.

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We’re now working with lots of global fashion, entertainment and commerce brands to deliver new immersive experiences and NFT marketplaces. And we’re exploring how we can transact more with cryptocurrencies and establish a presence on platforms such as Decentraland.

How is Dept helping brands to understand emerging trends?

For the last year, we have been focused on helping brands and clients understand the emerging trends in the web3 space, along with associated platforms.

Firstly as a digital-first agency we have a talent pool that is intuitively familiar with technology and moves quickly to leverage it for the agency and our clients. Even before the official launch of the metaverse practice we had 100 crypto and blockchain developers, games builders, 3D artists and creators, virtual and augmented reality experts and software engineers across our offices who have spent the last year pioneering innovative web3 and metaverse experiences for clients.

We have leveraged this talent and our thought leaders to create customized events and workshops to educate marketers and the broader industry. We had a big event called ‘Trends 2022’ in January this year where we talked about the new emerging trends for marketers, with the metaverse as a big component. This month we have a session with Vogue and Yahoo titled ‘Fashion’s Next Terrain’ to explore the opportunities for fashion brands in the metaverse.

So there is an ongoing education and exchange happening at Dept. Our upcoming metaverse festival – which will be a hybrid event taking place in a virtual world we’ve built called Metapolis, along with small in-person viewing parties in Singapore, New York, Berlin and London – is another attempt to communicate the power of the metaverse.

Last but not least, as mentioned earlier, we have already been working on metaverse projects and campaigns that give our clients an understanding of the breadth of opportunities available on the platform.

What is the future of the marketing industry post-Covid?

The pandemic made the industry more resilient, borderless, transformative and agile. The accelerated need for digital transformation has had a profound effect for everyone, and those who were well ahead have had the best performance in 2021.

The marketing industry will see more and more technologists seamlessly integrated in the business, witness a growing demand for work that leverages borderless talent, and create concurrent immersive experiences for brands in the real and virtual world.

The metaverse – the next iteration of the internet – will be the buzzword as brands rush to create their space in it.

It’s the most exciting time for the marketing industry as it will require all its imagination and creativity to build this metaverse, as everything out there is an open canvas.

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