In conjunction with this year’s WARC Awards for Asian Strategy, this series aims to showcase perspectives from young strategists across Asia, highlighting their take on strategy as a marketing discipline and career path. This week, we talk to some of the young minds residing in Thailand.

Thailand may still be grappling with its third wave of COVID-19 cases, with a path to a strong economic recovery still unclear, but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of its young strategists. Despite the uncertainty, they remain anchored in the belief that strong strategic thinking will move the needle and create meaningful impact.

If there’s one thing these young strategists have topping the wish list, it is for more time. More time to think, and really do more to help change brands and businesses. Thailand’s strategy community is certainly one to watch.

Name: Pensagow Sakulkoo

Title: Senior Digital Strategist

Company: Far East Fame Line DDB

Age: 28

How did you find your way into strategy work?

I started my career in advertising as a copywriter in Cosmopolitan Thailand magazine (there used to be a time when I wanted to be like Carrie Bradshaw). However, deep down, I know I have never been satisfied with my writing.

After I enrolled in a virtual creative agency class during my master's degree, I was able to see why my writing didn't come out so well – it lacked strategy. It was a turning point for me to seek an opportunity to improve myself strategically in an advertising agency. So after graduation, my best friend (who is currently working in the same agency) told me to apply for a digital strategist position and luckily, I got it.

After a year of planning and learning, I found that strategic thinking is not only effective for devising a marketing campaign but also with everything else because it keeps you resourceful and thinking logically. I just love it when it comes to problem-solving in life; you automatically know what to do because you train yourself every day to have a strategic mind and that's why being a strategist has become my dream job.

As a strategist, how do you spend your time at work?

Once you get the first button right, the others will easily follow. I believe that a good strategy comes from a good amount of data. For example, it could be the right target audience’s insight, especially with the exponential growth in Thailand’s online communities and social media. Therefore, it would take me days to research and digest their insights and their needs and wants. Once you understand your customers profoundly, you will know what to say, and you will know what platforms you need to use to communicate, and after that, creating an impactful strategic presentation will be a snap.

How would you define the discipline of marketing strategy?

In my perspective, I think marketing strategy can be regarded as the art of communication to reach the goal that we are pursuing. We are always subconsciously creating a marketing strategy in our daily lives because we always communicate to get what we want, whether to develop friendships, relationships, branding, or a purchasing consideration.

Therefore, building strategies for my clients is to create effective, smart, long-lasting relationships with their brands and consumers in the form of brand love, brand recognition, brand recall, being on the consumer's top of mind, and, of course, higher sell rates. 

What’s on your wish list in terms of strategic thinking/work?

A good strategy needs a lot of insightful data. It would be great to be surrounded by effective sources that my team and I can easily access and maximise.  

As for clients, luckily, I always get the best. They are understanding and provide everything that my teams and I request. But if I could ask for one thing, it would be more time to create even better strategies. I also want to encourage them to take on new challenges such as trying new platforms and getting out of their comfort zone in terms of social content strategy or creativity since there are tons of fun things to explore! 

Where do you see yourself working in 5-10 years?

Even though it's hard to create a plan in life because of the global pandemic situation, many things, including economics, affect work and people's lives in general, resulting in uncertainty in life. But who am I kidding? Once you are a strategist, you'll always have a plan in your head.

So, I still see myself in an advertising agency with more experience and hard, soft and other necessary skills to develop better strategies, such as gaining more experience in devising new media that would emerge in the future and familiarising myself with data-driven technologies such as IoT and more.

Hopefully, what I would gain from years of working as a strategist will help my clients have a better long-term relationship with their consumers and consequently, bring about mutual growth. But more importantly, I hope that my experiences will somehow find their way to make a positive contribution, even marginally, to the growth and development of the country’s advertising industry.  

Where do you see strategy going in the next 10-15 years?

Where do I begin? When I first got into the digital world, there were so many novel things that I never thought existed. For instance, I never imagined TikTok could have these many features on one platform that people enjoy.

I think there will be a lot of fun and unexpected adventures in the future. We will probably have more technologies to play around with data, more tools, more applications that revolve around people's behaviours that will also change over time. This indicates that personalisation for an individual consumer’s preferences must be a common practice. However, it also means we must come up with fragmented customer journeys and more individualised strategies to get on the same page with them.

Somehow, I think, the pursuit of marketing communication strategy will not change, as it will always be devised to serve marketing goals. However, flexibility, adaptability and a growth mindset will enable agencies as well as advertising people to sustain and grow the business by strategising successful plans for clients, whilst at the same time having a fantastic time doing something that they are capable of and passionate about.

Name: David Vechai Adams

Title: Senior Strategic Planner

Company: TBWA Thailand

Age: 33

How did you find your way into strategy work?

I had not really thought about a career as a strategist. I always knew I wanted to be involved in advertising or marketing and during my interview at TBWA\Thailand, I was fortunate the planning director saw that I had potential to grow and decided to take a chance with me.

In the beginning, the role was tough – everything was new. But as I started working more and more on strategy, it was like discovering one of those hidden talents you never knew about.

I’m very curious by nature, it’s how I’ve always been even before joining TBWA. Having an open mind, a dynamic range of knowledge on a variety of topics and the discipline to keep learning to improve help me to continue to grow as a planner.

As a strategist, how do you spend your time at work?

Each day is never the same at TBWA and that’s what I love about being a strategist. There’s the usual – making strategy, working with the team and meeting the clients, but there’s always something exciting and new going on within each part.

When developing a strategy, the brief is always the most important part for me. If you screw up the brief, then you’ll screw up the rest. A huge chunk of my time is taken up digesting the brief, and defining what the objectives will be to create impact and help solve the client’s business problem.

Reading reports and articles, finding insights and searching for cultural trends and triggers, take up most of the time before writing a strategy. Also, it’s not just the clients who expect something from the strategist but the team needs to be inspired too.

Apart from developing strategy, the planning teams work very closely with the creative department. This allows for greater collaboration between the two disciplines, and for the planners to be involved and to learn the creative process, and the creatives to understand the strategic thinking. This partnership is critical in fuelling amazing strategies and creative output.

How would you define the discipline of marketing strategy?

The marketing strategy is a plan to take a product or service into the market with certain objectives to achieve.

For me, the keyword is “strategy”, regardless of it being a marketing or communications or business strategy. I always ask myself: how am I going to get you from A to B? Defining strategy to me means building that road for you to get where you need to go to and it doesn’t just stop there, as we explore what side roads we can take.

What’s on your wish list in terms of strategic thinking/work?

1. Unlimited access to any type of information and tools would be high on my wish list.

When developing a strategy, not having access to reports or the tools you need to find the insights can be frustrating. Sometimes we picture the answer in our head but we need the data to validate it.

We are fortunate to have a strong centre of excellence for data and our backslash cultural triggers are an incredible source. But there are always those moments when you want to keep digging and the dreaded paywall prevents you from going further.

2. Unlimited time to just strategise. No brief from the client or the agency, just strategise on a passion project.

From my experience, when strategists create their own strategy for any brand they’re working on, taking initiative with no limitations or limited timing can unlock an idea or opportunity that can be inspirational and beneficial for the clients or team.

Where do you see yourself working in 5-10 years?

That’s a big question. Five years ago, I just started my career and was lucky enough to join strategic planning at TBWA and I want to develop my strategy skills further. Agency, brand, consulting, startups – all have their pros and cons; the consistent is that they all need strategy to grow their business.

I enjoy the agency life. TBWA has depth of expertise and knowledge across culture, consumers and categories, and because of this, we gain insight and experience across a diverse range of categories and clients. 

Data has become an area I’ve really enjoyed learning about, and an area I will continue to explore. A strategist who has deep knowledge in data analytics and the ability to decode the data and identify the cultural insights that solve business problems will be valuable across all industries.

Where do you see strategy going in the next 10-15 years?

I believe strategy and its importance are going to change for both clients and agency.

When I first started my career, I think it was at the peak of the digital era for advertising in Thailand. We used to separate a strategist from a digital strategist but that’s not case today. There is no digital strategy, there’s only strategy. The discipline of strategy must continue to evolve, be adaptable, learn and grow as the world changes.

I believe the one thing that never changes is strategic thinking; logical thinking, building pathways that solve real business problems and have an impact on the bottom line.

Name: Yenta Phongthanupattana

Title: Digital Planning Manager

Company: Initiative Thailand

Age: 27

How did you find your way into strategy work?

Initially, I set out to become an online media planner who planned media use for brands or products. I have always found this area fascinating, asking questions such as: How does my online interface display the products I need? What made brands aware that we were searching for their products? Why do I purchase products following recommendations from influencers? How do digital influencers influence us?

Those questions inspired me to learn more about the world of marketing and advertising. Once I started working in this field, I discovered that good media planning is also about utilising the right strategy to meet the objectives of the brand or product. When I began to explore the strategy area, it opened up a whole new level of connection and commitment to the objective. It’s an engaged thought process that I have become really passionate about. I now take every opportunity to flex this approach to help the team figure out the best strategy for their client. 

As a strategist, how do you spend your time at work?

As my role covers media planning and strategy, I am focused on every aspect of the journey from the strategy and planning, briefing of advertisements, all the way through to the reporting. Everything is related. Spending time to create a good strategy every time a new campaign or brand is launched is crucial because the strategy is the basis of all our efforts.

Before creating a brand strategy, I will research the client, brand and product. Then I undertake further research to deeply understand the target audience’s behaviour, both in terms of product consumption and media consumption. The more we understand our target audiences, the better we can create seamless and fully integrated consumer journeys. Every stage of the funnel, from awareness to action, will be effective. From there, we look at how to buy the most effective media, working with teams to ensure that they understand our needs, and analysing our results so that we can clearly demonstrate what we have achieved for the client brand.

How would you define the discipline of marketing strategy?

In my opinion, creating a marketing strategy is like building a house. People who want to advertise their products to their target audience could be compared to homeowners who want to build a house.

In our role as media planners and strategists, we are responsible for ensuring customers’ needs are met by designing a plan that is suitable and effective. Thus, we are not only an architect and a builder but also a consultant for our clients. The next step is to build a house after we have a functional house plan. As we know that this material is quality, what should we do to make the house stable? We know that all media platforms both online and offline have advantages but how we choose and optimise them to reach our goal is the key.

What’s on your wish list in terms of strategic thinking/work?

When I first joined the industry, most clients understood traditional offline media but had little understanding of online media. The digital era has since transformed the world. Consumer behaviour has been changed by technological breakthroughs. In order to help both agency and brand communicate direct with consumers and achieve business goals, both need to understand the online media landscape and evolving consumer behaviour in order to stay culturally relevant.

Where do you see yourself working in 5-10 years?

In 5-6 years, I hope to put my knowledge and experience to use by working in digital marketing for an advertiser brand that prioritises performance or conversion campaigns, such as a bank, or auto or e-commerce company. Identifying a target audience that is appropriate for the campaign and then planning the entire consumer journey to get a complete picture of how the target audience will see our ad, what they will do when they enter our website, is currently what I enjoy the most.

I love working with data. How I best and most effectively put the data to use is the challenge and attraction for me. Working on the brand side will give me further focus and exposure to individual brand data insights which can be used to analyse or further analyse the marketing campaigns.

Where do you see strategy going in the next 10-15 years?

Judging by today’s pace of change, I sometimes wonder how much innovation and technological development may completely change the face of marketing a decade into the future. Machine learning is set to greatly improve the quality of online consumer data and that data will increasingly be used for marketing, resulting in a further shift in consumer behaviour. However, in a sea of change, I do believe that media planners and strategists will remain the most essential human resource driving any business to success.

Brands create emotion and emotion is still what consumers respond to, and lean in and engage with. Brands need to remain relevant through ideas, content and conversations across their entire media eco-system. I believe that the speed at which a brand and ideas get diffused through culture to build relevance and drive incremental growth will remain the key indicator for their momentum and success. A strong brand allows you to create this connection, a connection beyond the rational and functional.

How to enter the WARC Awards for Asian Strategy

The WARC Awards for Asian Strategy are now open for entries. The deadline for submission is July 14, 2021.

Now in their 11th year, the awards aim to showcase the region’s best strategic thinking with a view to inspire the next generation of strategists.

Entry is free. For more info on how to submit your work, visit the awards website.

Share your take on the Future of Strategy

In a changing agency environment, the future of strategy is uncertain  particularly for young strategists yet to establish themselves in the industry. This year's survey – for our annual Future of Strategy report – focuses on the modern strategy role, and how the strategy career path is changing.

The survey will take just a few minutes of your time and all responses will be kept strictly anonymous. Everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the published report when it launches.

Take the survey. (Survey closes 18 June)