Global viewpoint from Singapore
A view from Neil Stewart

Global viewpoint from Singapore

A major global commercial hub, Singapore is at the forefront of technological innovation yet steeped in a history of conservatism, presenting an interesting dichotomy for media strategy.

Having attributed the country’s financial success over the past 49 years to just three industries, the government launched an ambitious diversification and growth drive, which is now serving as an accelerator for multiple industries and start-ups. Factor in sky-high purchasing power, hi-tech electronics manufacturing and a plethora of state-led initiatives and incentives tempting businesses to set up here, and conditions are creating the perfect storm for Singapore to become the Asian Silicon Valley.

This means we have a larger stack of clients to service than ordinarily in a country of this size – plus an exciting opportunity to be their trusted media agency partner as they evolve. We’re inspired to tap into that wider culture, capability and appetite to develop innovative technologies, products and services. In the past three months alone, we have had six outstanding interns at Maxus Singapore from digital and engineering technology backgrounds.

Singapore has technological innovation and creativity hardwired into its DNA. Along with Sydney, this is where the "maker movement" took seed and the natural habitat for Maxus’ global creative R&D unit, Metalworks. Metalworks is at the "bleeding edge" of an invent-and-invest approach, integrating new tech into the standard media product we’re familiar with.

Conditions are creating the perfect storm for Singapore to become the Asian Silicon Valley

While media spend is climbing steadily, we’re working with a relatively government-controlled media monopoly – the government remains one of the biggest advertisers. This presents a huge opportunity. A lack of advertising legacy to constrain us and scarcity of ad dollars create demand for the most creative solutions.

Singaporean cultural tension also plays its part in media planning. Organisations such as the Infocomm Development Authority urge us to tap into the latent desires of younger people, yet this is historically a tightly censored nation. And while you might think it straightforward to advertise to a population of just five million, Singapore is diverse, with four official languages. With the country’s two major terrestrial TV stations carving up audiences into Chinese- or English-speakers, media plans are determined by the target audience first and foremost.

Visit Maxus Singapore directly from our London offices and you’ll be struck by the difference. Maker culture influences everything down to office design (we’re more "chemistry lab" than "chemistry meetings"). And forget lunching alone "al desko" – here, we all dine together at noon precisely. Great for morale, not so great for getting your favourite table at the restaurants in the local hawker centre.

Neil Stewart is the chief global client officer at Maxus