Adrian Cheah and Jarrod Reginald have launched a new creative and social agency named The Chariot Agency, taking on the roles of MD and ECD respectively. In an interview with A+M , Cheah (pictured left) and Reginald (pictured right) said The Chariot Agency is currently backed by Foetus Group and joins sister agencies Naga DDB Tribal, Milk PR, Vogue Point, C27 and  Ampersand Advisory . They declined to reveal the exact investment amount. Cheah and Reginald have crossed paths multiple times in previous years, having worked together at Geometry Global, BBDO Malaysia, and Reprise. Before The Chariot Agency, Cheah and Reginald were client service director and creative director respectively at Reprise in Malaysia. 

"We have had countless discussions on how we would like our agency to be. So at the end of last year, while we were all in lockdown, we had more time to think and reevaluate where we were and what we wanted for ourselves. We concluded that running an agency on our own, based on our beliefs, was the way to go," Cheah said.

The year 2020 certainly brought about changes including working from home. Cheah said if agencies in general were not going to change themselves fast enough, then they would take matters into their own hands. While the pandemic might cause certain businesses to be hesitant about starting up or launching, Cheah and Reginald felt there was "no better time" to start an agency because the team would be leaner. "We are also able to adapt to the new normal at a much faster pace in terms of our ways of working and solving unusual problems for our clients," Cheah explained. Two months in, both Cheah and Reginald said they have no regrets and are happy with where the team is at. 

The Chariot Agency currently has six individuals and plans to increase its headcount to 13 by mid-2021. It is currently working with Tiger Beer and Costa Coffee Malaysia for social and digital duties, as well as the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation on a project basis. According to Cheah, The Chariot Agency aims to have at least key five clients and 15 employees by the end of 2021.

"We will ensure the ship is stable with its clients and build a good relationship with them. We don't want clients that just last for three years. We have had personal experience with Tiger Beer for almost 15 years and it clearly shows what you can do with this agency," he added. The founders are also keeping the agency bottom-heavy as they want to encourage younger employees to learn and grow. 

Adopting a creative entrepreneurial mindset

When asked about the reason behind the agency's name, Reginald explained that a chariot normally has two individuals operating it: one steering the horses and the other wielding the bow and arrow. "We view it as the way we would like to run our business - being nimble and fearlessly going straight into the battlefield," he said. This is also reflective of its creative entrepreneurial mindset that The Chariot Agency adopts. 

"The whole idea of creative entrepreneurship requires you to be independent and more creative. To be more creative you need to be more inquisitive too by seeking out new opportunities and solving unusual problems," Reginald explained. One example would be creating a new brand positioning for a comedian. This would require the team to think about the type of content needed and how they can grow and engage with the fan base.

By doing so, the work our team does is not so dry and mundane. We must not limit ourselves to brand strategy, content calendars and animated postings.

"There are lots of business problems out there that require creative thinking. So yes, we are on Twitch and Discord which have allowed us to be really on the ground with Gen Zs. We are also exploring NFTs," Reginald added.

the chariot agencys logo

At the same time, it is also walking the talk on employee welfare and mental health by implementing two main rules: not encouraging Monday meetings and not taking WhatsApp requests after 7 pm. "We do not encourage Monday meetings because this will mean that our team will spend the weekend working," Reginald said. Meanwhile, technology has made communication convenient and fast, at times taking away the much needed private time to unwind. Hence, The Chariot Agency believes it would be beneficial to give employees their own space by not having WhatsApp requests after 7 pm. 

"The people in our industry are the products. If we do not take care of our products, we will not have anything to sell. To deliver work for our clients, we need to ensure that our employees are seen and heard as well as happy and healthy," Cheah said. He explained that this is a key principle that many agencies today have forgotten. "You have people working on pitches, having a meltdown after and then leaving, which will result in inconsistencies in the work being produced. This then leads clients to question why there is a discrepancy between the ideas pitched and the work being executed," he added.

When asked about their closest competitors, both Cheah and Reginald said "there is no competition, only hope for collaboration". They explained that The Chariot Agency has yet to compare itself to other agencies in the industry because there is plenty of "fixing" and "mindset change" to be done due to the habits that have been formed in the advertising industry over the years. "I guess we must first change the way we work and how we approach problem-solving for clients. Once we have the answer to this, only then would we know who we are up against," Cheah said.

Meanwhile, Foetus Group's group executive director Kristian Lee (pictured below) told A +M that it is always keen to invest in local talent that demonstrates a strong sense of ambition and drive to provide high-quality marketing services to clients in the Malaysian market. With that in mind, the group is always on the lookout for entrepreneurs and leaders who are in tune with the business and marketing needs of brands operating in the country.

kristian lee naga ddb

Foetus Group believes that as agencies or business leaders operating within a network, the first step is to band together to identify problems and opportunities to arrive at a positive consensus that would benefit clients and the agencies. "However, we are acutely aware that this way of work and collaborative spirit is overemphasised and yet unrealised by many companies, as its success factor depends largely on the attitude and commitment of the individuals involved," Lee said.

When it comes to The Chariot Agency, Lee explained that its decision to invest lies very much in the agency's commitment to be a part of and to help contribute towards Foetus Group's vision of building a network of companies that adopts and practices the aforementioned principles. "In addition, its simple ideology of producing great work for clients, coupled with its mentality of putting a strong emphasis on the growth and well-being of its talent core demonstrated clear parallels with what the Foetus Group strives to accomplish as a whole," Lee explained.

According to him, Cheah and Reginald are individuals with a wealth of experience and know-how within the industry. To successfully start a new venture in the advertising scene, Lee said one would have been required to go through, understand and accept the trials and tribulations of operating in advertising.

"It is this dedication and affinity for the industry that has given them a rare perspective on what it takes to run an agency. For example, it is a delicate balance to juggle between best trying to always meet the needs of clients whilst striving earnestly to manage the well-being and growth of agency staff, while at the same time, meeting the objectives and demands of its ownership as well," Lee added.

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