This post is sponsored by Havas Media Group Singapore .

Change is a principle of life. Like the four seasons, we go through stages of renewal, zeal, comfort, and perseverance, over the course of a year. At Havas Media Group Singapore, we’ve evolved with the winds of change only to emerge stronger on every front. In this four-part series, aptly titled Seasons, we sit down with a couple of key members who were instrumental in helping to chart our success in the past year’s climate.

The height of summer

Behind Havas Media Group Singapore’s marvellous business momentum belies a modest belief for newly minted chief commercial officer Russell Lai that one swallow does not make a summer. Getting the low-down on Havas’ recent highs, we speak to him about the adventures of the agency: its growth, awards, and the need to continuously push forward for the future.

Big, local brands may be the pièce de résistance for Havas Media Group Singapore, but under Lai’s leadership it is also keen to pursue more “progressive brands”: categories such as fintech, robo-advisors, marketplaces, on-demand services, etc.

For a person that has helmed the company’s navigation of the ever-evolving media, data and content landscape for the past seven years, it’s little surprise he believes Havas’ “best days are still ahead”.

Havas’ most recent wins seem to agree. With Endowus, FUTU Singapore (moomoo), Wizards of the Coast, Amazon, and Urban Company coming on board, these future-forward brands – spanning from gaming to digital banking – are clearly aligned with his growth-driving ambitions.

A tall order internally, with no shortage of admirers externally, he insists there is no secret sauce, but relies on a “collaborative and customised” approach – one that approaches “every business with a fresh pair of eyes and listens to their unique challenges in order to craft the best proposal that will meet their short and long-term goals”.

But, of course, building an agency for the future doesn’t just rely on the “heart ware”, the hardware also matters.

“The investments Havas continuously make are prime examples for how we continue to differentiate ourselves,” he says, smoothly segueing into the structures and tools that provide an additional shot of confidence into the clients, “whether via our meaningful experience planning process or setting up new units such as the Havas Market – a full-service eCommerce offering.”

To him, serving these clients well “not only requires data-driven performance insights, but also a strong pulse on what consumers seek for in a brand”.

It is perhaps an amalgamation of these factors that Havas Media Group reached dizzying heights at the recent 2022 MARKies Awards.

Ushering in the most number of shortlists (a total of 27), it walked away as the most awarded agency network (five golds, two silver and three bronze) and winning the biggest prize of the evening – gold for Overall Media Usage.

The icing on the cake, however, was taking home MARKETING-INTERACTIVE ’s Media Agency of the Year award once again, adding to the count with 11 award wins in total since 2015.

Lai credits the “emphasis on strong strategic thinking which powers throughout the work and arriving at a clear single-minded narrative in the submissions”, but is quick to add the importance of winning is to serve as “a validation to the excellent work executed by the teams, and an inspiration to others internally to step up”.

In a highly competitive environment, it’s easy to mistake an aggressive approach as the de facto way forward. What Lai preaches though, is more “progressive”.

It is this approach, he says, that has allowed it to survive the pandemic and emerge stronger in all aspects: “new business, organic growth, agency morale, and winning awards”.

Eager for it to translate into thought-leadership pieces, a key focus for the foreseeable future is to “push forward in exciting areas such as the metaverse, a cookie-less world, NFTs, etc, and help our clients navigate the evolving media landscape” in what is a most exciting time chock-full of possibilities within data, content, entertainment, and Web 3.0.

Like the swallows that make up Lai’s summer, “these tenets”, he muses, “showed us that as a collective unit, we can weather any storm and not only survive, but thrive”.

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