Marketing Maverick: Aparna Krishnan Director Strategy & Digital, IPG Mediabrands #APACLeaders

According to Aparna Krishnan, Director – Strategy & Digital, Universal Mccann & Ensemble, IPG Mediabrands, Malaysia, “the Modern Marketer of today is a change manager and a relentless student.”


With innovative disruption changing the digital economy, consumer behaviour is rapidly changing. How have you changed your digital marketing strategies to deal with this behavioral change for your clients?

Yes – our world, our behaviours and our business-as-usual are experiencing unprecedented times. Times that are nurturing paradoxes. To help brands play catch up with this behavioural change, we are honing digital strategies to bite the bullet– to look at the paradoxes in the marketing landscape square in the eye. To quote a few examples:

Paradox #1 – Advertising and Marketing were born to impart information, and today it is actually about collecting information. We believe in it, in its power to make brand experiences more meaningful to consumers – and so we weave it into the very fabric of our digital strategy.

Paradox #2 – While the world takes sides on whether art or science on digital will define future success of brands, we don’t think it’s about who will win the duel. We accept that we will never achieve balance; it is the creative tension between art and science, the left brain and the right brain that will produce progress and build legendary brands in the digital world.

Influencer marketing, AR/VR, chatbots, hyper-personalized marketing are the growing trends of today. What is your view on the use of martech in your client’s marketing strategy?

The Reality of today’s marketing landscape is that: It’s all about Efficiency

Marketing in today’s landscape is less about soft outcomes such as brand recall and affinity, and more and more about hard outcomes such as sales, leads and actions.

And in the Future: It’s about Better Efficiency

As agencies tasked with future-proofing brands and businesses – we are in eternal pursuit of MarTech that nudges business outcomes. We are not in the quest for a new shiny toy. We are scrutinizing MarTech solutions more and more through the business lens, and the layers are peeling. The pressure is mounting. And MarTech that is not moving the sales needle, is breathing its last.

In fact for one of the telco brands in Malaysia, we built the first ever talking banner (powered by a chatbot). The banner wooed competitor telco customers via an online campaign, ingested their questions and needs and tailored a bespoke plan that fulfilled their need. The entire initiative aided a 50% drop in the cost of acquiring a new subscriber – a MarTech initiative that truly rocked the test of efficiency.

In what ways do you think AI, data and machine learning are transforming the way we are approaching marketing today?

Every minute there are 16 mentions of AI, data and machine learning online in SEA alone. It’s an ‘it topic’ that dominates every panel discussion, comes up in boardrooms all the time, is the focus of blogs and articles inundating our digital feeds. Honestly, the fact is that we live in an AI world and its been 2 years since! What baffles me is that we Marketers seem to have more questions about AI, than it has answers. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is certainly something to chew on.

From an Agency’s perspective we are bullish on the potential of AI to transform the way we think about marketing, to elevate our client’s businesses and their relationships with customers. And that begins by seeing AI for what it really is – computer programs that people wrote to accomplish certain tasks, a set of tools put together to answer business questions. Indeed a platter of powerful tools, but still a platter of tools. When seen this way, we tend to focus on asking the right questions in quest of the answers.

The Modern Marketer of today is a change manager and a relentless Student

We Marketers today live and operate in a hurricane of complexity and scrutiny. Ironically enough, we are all attempting to predict the future (which we do know is unpredictable!) and work towards our own interpretation of the future, thus adding on swarms and swirls to the complexity.

The ‘I have made it’ Modern Marketer is really the one who believes that the future of marketing lies in ‘excelling in the present’. Learning to overpower the madness of measures, mediums, technology and behaviours today helps us be better and ready for the bigger mega-shifts of tomorrow. It is the aggregation of excelling today, tomorrow and the day after relentlessly that will write our future.

We all feel it – a massive shift is underway. And we marketers are really the spine of this new world order.


Aparna Krishnan Director – Strategy & Digital, Universal Mccann & Ensemble IPG Mediabrands Malaysia

Co-creating the digital realm has shaped the rare ‘thinker and doer’ Strategist in Aparna. Today she leads Digital and Business Strategy for UM and Ensemble Malaysia; is winning globally for her outstanding digital initiatives and has played a vital role in taking UM to the top of RECMA and winning the Digital Agency, Media Agency & Mobile Agency of the Year in Malaysia, in 2018.

Her client portfolio includes some of the biggest brands such as KFC, Netflix, Spotify, Astro & Malaysia Airlines. Her ability to deconstruct a problem and persistence in bridging the distance between strategy and execution on digital is what sets her apart. Her areas of expertise include Consumer insights, Strategic Thinking and Trendspotting.  

With the accolade of AdWeek Media Plan of the Year in 2018 in her kitty, she is out on a mission to deliver business outcomes for brands on digital.


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