Telum Talks To... Agung S. Ongko, Head of LAB360

Telum Talks To... Agung S. Ongko, Head of LAB360

Telum caught up with Agung S. Ongko, Head of Singapore-based, LAB360 a newly launched partnership between the independent communications and marketing agencies RICE and AKIN. We talked about the thinking behind LAB360 and emerging marcomms trends such as automation and data-driven marketing.

Tell us what makes LAB360’s offering unique?
I think in an industry that is extremely competitive, the way our two independent consultancies have joined hands to form LAB360 is in itself quite a unique proposition. It represents a truly open, cross-disciplinary collaboration that harnesses the best of both our teams, bringing together RICE’s strong track record in reputation management and AKIN’s in future-proof marketing solutions. We are effectively tapping on talents with diverse experiences in not just communications and marketing, but also brand, design, research, technology and product development, even economics and behavioural insights. Where others might be faced with complex, fragmented bureaucracies, LAB360 is singularly determined to be agile and human-centred. It’s what we call the power of ‘1+1 = 3’, the firm belief that our diversity and people are our power.

What inspired the decision for RICE and AKIN to launch LAB360?
2020 made it clearer than ever that all of us have a part to play in continuing to build and strengthen our community. This collaborative mindset has always been front and centre for both RICE and AKIN - something we deeply value about each other - and we got introduced to each other against that backdrop. Both sides were keen to explore all possibilities to tap on potential synergies, and an opportunity to work together on an integrated communications approach came up in the form of a tender. This formed the ideal canvas to put up a robust interdisciplinary proposal, and it became clear that there is a complementary match in skillsets and offerings, but also in culture and mindset. Our teams have since continued working together on more clients, including Red Cross Singapore’s launch of their new brand mascot, among other ongoing projects and joint proposals.

Do you believe that cross-disciplinary collaborations like LAB360 have become more essential in this current environment?
There is no doubt about it. What happened in the past year has accelerated the breakdown of marketing and communications silos, especially as more businesses are recognising that such silos cost money that they can no longer afford. The pressure on businesses to invest strategically and deliver business impact, while communicating with clarity and purpose, has never been greater. Combining RICE and AKIN’s expertise allows LAB360 to help clients do exactly that through an integrated perspective.

What are the benefits of using data to drive marketing strategies?
The key benefit of capturing data across all owned, paid, earned and shared media is that it allows businesses to identify successful revenue acquisition pathways while deriving insight on audience motivation. With a multi-touch attribution model, we then amalgamate data across platforms, enabling precise retargeting, nurturing and hyper-personalisation of content. The result would then be high-quality leads that come at a reduced cost and optimised conversions. In short, a data-led approach simply makes your investments work smarter and harder for true business impact.

With automation being such a big technology trend across industries, can you tell us more about how automation will change the marcomms industry in the future?
For the marcomms industry, automation helps augment and reinforce the work that we’ve been doing, rather than displace it. This will no doubt come with the need for new skills and expertise. We expect increased demand for talent who can operate or maintain interconnected workflows, and interpret the story behind the data.

We also believe that marcomms will no longer exist in isolation — brands and agencies must be prepared to build cross-departmental growth units, staffed by multi-disciplinary talents. While marcomms traditionally has acted mainly as an amplifier for brands, the added value of harvesting real-time insights on user behaviour and preferences will now also inform the R&D, business model and operations. The industry will need to train professionals who can harness data, analyse it and leverage it to achieve core business goals. This skill set will be critical for building brands and telling stories for a digital generation. 

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