The WARC Awards are now open for entries. Here John Bizzell, WARC's Awards Lead, finds out what the three Asia-Pacific jury chairs will be looking for in the 2024 winners. Meet MYOB’s Dean Chadwick, Lenovo’s Bhaskar Choudhuri and Wavemaker’s Sindhuja Rai.

Dean Chadwick brings over 25 years of experience in digital leadership roles, with a track record of successfully transforming businesses to deliver world-class customer experiences. With a strong background in the payments, technology, travel, retail and loyalty sectors, Dean's extensive career spans local and international markets. Prior to joining MYOB in June 2023, Dean was Chief Customer Officer at THE ICONIC where he led both Product and Marketing for ANZ’s leading fashion and lifestyle e-commerce platform.

Dean on…

Driving Cultural Impact

“Cultural impact, to me, signifies a brand’s ability to resonate with the current societal pulse. It involves tapping into the prevailing mood, fostering relevance and ensuring that messages resonate effectively.

It’s also about influencing shifts in social norms, encouraging people to think differently or embrace new technologies. Brands driving cultural impact in our region demonstrate a real ability to listen, and therefore better understand sentiment, in turn making their contribution more impactful. These brands showcase a keen awareness of the cultural zeitgeist, allowing them to engage authentically and stay on the forefront of social conversations. For example, it’s going to be interesting to see how brands talk about Gen AI over the next 12 months. Brands must navigate evolving messages, showcase new product features and engage with audiences. Shifting the narrative from a technical focus to one that resonates more broadly will be a challenge.”

Purpose-driven campaigns

“Successful purpose-driven campaigns align closely with audience values, demonstrate a tangible commitment and a sustained stance on societal issues. Authenticity is paramount, ensuring that the brand’s purpose genuinely aligns with its actions. Purpose in marketing requires a robust strategy and a bias for action, so brands that excel in this sphere not only deliver on their cause but also elevate the standards for impactful storytelling. A well-defined strategy will help in navigating the complexity between the brand’s overarching goals and the creative execution of purpose-driven messaging.”

The balance of brand versus performance

“Balancing short-term activation and long-term brand building is paramount. Immediate market responsiveness is crucial to convert demand into sales. However, this effectiveness is contingent upon prior brand efforts doing a good job on communicating why consumers should consider purchasing a product or service in the future. Often the mid-funnel is overlooked, where cultivating relationships, building trust, and guiding potential customers toward a deeper understanding of the brand is key. Instead, there’s a natural inclination to focus on immediate, tangible outcomes – the top and bottom of the funnel – where metrics like impressions, clicks, and conversions are easily quantifiable. The mid-funnel is an integral part of the customer journey and brand building, playing a pivotal role in transforming initial interest into long-term loyalty.”

Bhaskar Choudhuri is a passionate marketer with a zest for reinvigorating brands. As Chief Marketing Officer for Lenovo in Asia Pacific, he is responsible for expanding Lenovo’s brand footprint in the region, and driving sales for the entire portfolio of PCs, mobiles, servers, tablets, smart devices and solutions and service offerings for Asia Pacific. With more than 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing, including 13 years at Cadbury India, Bhaskar’s diverse experience in marketing ranges across FMCG, consumer and B2B technology.

Bhaskar on…

Cultural Impact

“Cultural impact in advertising is a force multiplier which significantly improves relatability and therefore memorability of branded communication. When delivered simply, it becomes part of language and, somewhat more rarely, behaviour. This comes from the brand team and the agency team being astute observers of audiences. When delivered well, advertising often verbalises cultural change in a common tongue. Often however such efforts are insincere and come across as clichés! For me, memorable campaigns include Cadbury’s Real taste of life and auto manufacturer Bajaj with Hamara (Our) Bajaj, which captured the mood of India in the early 90s. Coca-Cola does great work at a global scale and Coke Studio is a good example of connecting locally on a global cultural theme like music.”

The balance of brand versus performance 

“In the current economic climate, it is even more critical for us marketers to keep the brand-building investment ‘light’ burning brightly. Business and sales pressures often compel us to swing wildly for the immediacy of demand generation, especially in times of thrift. As senior leaders, I believe our biggest role as brand custodians is to ring-fence the brand-building investment. This is all the more important since Asia Pacific has a concentrated GDP growth potential as compared to most other continents. A dollar invested in a brand in this scenario will yield more than in some of the more recessionary geographies.”

What makes an entry stand out

“We would love to see a great link between strategy, action and business impact driven by marketing inputs. So, in addition to insight-driven creative, output measures like market share and revenue/volume growth which can be linked back to the marketing intervention, will greatly help the entry’s cause. Unrelated vanilla metrics like impressions or unrelated and untimed metrics will not help the case. Any instance of marketing intervention which stirs and impacts the category will certainly make for a stand-out entry!”

Sindhuja Rai was recognised on the Campaign Asia-Pacific Power List for three years in a row between 2021 and 2023 as a pioneer of digital excellence and critical new capabilities in consumer data and personalisation for marketing across the region. She believes her ability to build strong brands through standout consumer experiences is unique and unparalleled. As Wavemaker’s APAC CEO, Sindhuja drives the strategy and execution of how the company positively provokes growth for clients and people around the region.

Sindhuja on…

Cultural Impact

“Marketing and culture are interconnected and they influence each other. Hence, the role of culture in terms of how brands show up is integral. Media plays a pivotal role in shaping and reflecting culture. It has the potential to influence behaviour and perceptions by introducing and normalising new concepts and perspectives. To me, Cultural Impact is about how the influence of media and brands shapes people’s beliefs, behaviours, and perceptions, often reflecting or challenging the values and norms of a society. Wavemaker has been successful in helping brands drive cultural impact. Some examples are Cadbury’s heart-warming and targeted campaigns to support small businesses, Colgate taking a stand against smile shaming, making team songs truly inclusive even for the hearing impaired, and Maybelline New York raising awareness on the online abuse female gamers face in the virtual world.”

Brand Purpose

“Purpose is a double-edged sword. If done correctly, it can be transformative for a business. In the current information era, authenticity or purpose is essential. Otherwise, it will erode brand efficacy and impact business negatively as a result. The lack of authenticity often leads to the erosion of trust from consumers. However, trust is a must to ensure long and sustainable lifespans for brands. Hence, brands need to build meaningful brand purpose rather than paying lip service and not walking the talk. But it shouldn’t be a KPI or a one-off campaign goal. Purposeful marketing should be incorporated into most, if not all brands seeking to create a sense of meaning and mission that resonates with consumers and employees. It can also help build a positive brand image and foster customer loyalty in the long run. Successful purpose-driven marketing involves authenticity, transparency, measurable impact, and a genuine commitment to a cause. Effective storytelling, transparency, and engagement with their audience would also be essential. Brands that align their purpose with their marketing efforts and demonstrate their dedication to making a positive difference can build strong connections with consumers and thrive in a purpose-driven marketplace.”

Strategic thinking in a cost-of-living crisis

“Consumers have become more cost-conscious. ‘Vanilla executions’ don’t count – they need to be value for money in the eyes of each and every consumer. This value can be brought to life via personalisation, meaningful communications, contextual targeting and so on with an aim to drive sales and growth. To maintain agility and adaptability, we continue to develop flexible strategies that can quickly respond to changing market conditions whilst aligning with consumer behaviour with our robust data, products and tools. Embracing innovation and technology via automation, digital transformation, and data analytics can improve efficiency and not only help navigate turbulent times, but also find better ways to grow.”

The WARC Awards 2024 are open for entries now. Final deadline: 6 February. Download your entry pack here