Agency Profile: DSTNCT (Singapore)

Agency Profile: DSTNCT (Singapore)

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What services does DSTNCT offer?
DSTNCT is an integrated communications and creative agency. That said, we understand very clearly that we are not in the business of advertising. We are in the business of understanding the human psyche.

We obsess over the psychology of our audience - what people are into, their pain points and motivations, what makes them tick - we take all of that and we bring you and your brand to wherever people are physically, virtually and emotionally.

That has allowed us to transcend conventional channels to be able to take care of a full spectrum of services for a holistic audience experience:
  • Integrated Marketing
  • Social and Content
  • Products and Platforms
  • Branding
  • UI / UX
  • Experiential
  • Data & Technology
  • Public Relations
  • Influencer Engagement
What size is DSTNCT?
We’re a team of close to 50 people, with around 30 clients.

Where does DSTNCT have an office?
Our office is at 29 Paya Lebar Road, also known as the former Geylang Fire Station. Fun fact: it is the second oldest fire station in Singapore, after the Hill Street Fire Station.

Do you have a particular area of focus?
We are all about the next generation. Next-generation of consumers. Next-generation of platforms. Next-generation of content. Next-generation of brands. That’s what gets us up every day. Working with our clients to be at the forefront of the next generation.

Beyond that, our key areas of focus in clients are government organisations and brands that impact our everyday life. This can include telcos, banks, insurance, FinTech, environment, arts and culture, etc.

Who is the founder and why did they start the agency?
DSTNCT was co-founded by Matthew Zeng and Mikal Chong. They bootstrapped the agency in 2014 after realising a gap in the agency landscape in Singapore. Back then, there were only 2 types of agencies: your network agencies and your boutique agencies with founders who spent years in network agencies. Naturally, these agencies are all shaped and structured the same, with the same philosophy and mindset towards certain roles and approaches. DSTNCT wanted to plug that gap with an approach based on a deep understanding of the human psyche. The moment you understand audience psychology, you will not be restricted by channels / format.

Tell us about the leadership team.
The unique thing about DSTNCT is that none of our leaders came from the advertising / PR world. They come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from the magazine world, events and even legal industry. This has allowed us to not conform to industry norms and stereotypes but to look at our work from a consumer lens.

What is next for DSTNCT? What is the five-year goal?
With the recent appointment on the Whole-of-Government panel of creative agencies, we are excited to expand our government portfolio, to really establish ourselves as a leading agency that’s able to create meaningful work with purpose.

We don’t really believe in 5-year goals, simply because change happens every year - we do have an end vision in mind but the key is to always move with the times.

In a sentence, describe your ideal relationship with a journalist.
A partnership toward the common goal of creating content that matters to people. At the end of the day, journalists are people themselves - and if you know what they are looking for, their pain points and motivations, then that partnership would be fruitful.

Tell us about a campaign you are currently working on or are particularly proud of.
April 2020 marked Singapore’s first-ever circuit breaker. Before that, our generation of youths had never been exposed to a large-scale collective experience (e.g. war, racial riots, etc.). As we adapted to a completely new reality, all these different stories remained behind the closed doors of households. National Youth Council (NYC) saw a gap there. As people shared their individual experiences on social media, there has been no central repository to collate our experiences as a nation together.

Enter Dear Covid-19: a virtual gallery of life during circuit breaker. Housed on a microsite as a central repository, the gallery aims to tell the stories of everyday Singaporeans, leveraging on the then-trend of virtual photography. Each series captures the essence and mood of each household, accompanied by letter written to Dear Covid-19. The naming of the campaign was intentional in order to subtly encourage long-form writing from Singaporeans. Some day in the future, these photos and letters will serve as a reminder of our lives and emotions during these unsettling times.

The results were astounding with more than 1,000 heart-warming letters / original songs / videos created for Dear Covid-19, documenting our lives during the circuit breaker. The campaign even garnered a mention by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he encouraged more Singaporeans to take part in this meaningful campaign.

Any key PR trends your agency is keeping an eye on?
Stop pitching, start value-adding. Many agencies view PR as a relationship game where you have to do a ton of media pitching and that PR is a form of an earned amplifier when it comes to a launch of a campaign, initiative, event, etc. DSTNCT views PR as how do we create something media-worthy? That means that has to be thought out right at the start of the conceptualisation process. We wouldn’t say this is a trend but this is a big thing for us.

What skillsets do you look for in new hires?
We are experiencing a period in time where there is an ongoing transformation towards Singapore’s future economy and living in a world where there are new career paths that we may not even be aware of today. Technical or hard skills are seasonal - in our hires we look for soft skills. Resourcefulness, self-awareness, grit. Everything else can be trained.

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