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Ignite Marketing Communications U Aung Thura

MI: How did you end up in current position at Ignite Marketing Communications?

It’s a bit of a long story, but after working for other people since I was 19 years old, I decided to do my own thing in 2011 and started Ignite Marketing Communications (IMC). I learned many things working for one of the top advertising agency networks, McCann-Worldgroup in 4 countries (Myanmar, Laos PDR, Vietnam and Thailand) for over 15 years and one of the things I learned was that I really enjoyed doing this Market- ing Communication thing.

I was given quite a lot of different opportunities in McCann-Worldgroup and one of them was in new business development – which meant that I was pitching a lot and I was working heavily in Engagement Strategy Development.

So when I started IMC I saw a great oppor- tunity in Myanmar for a Communication Planner. And that has been the extra val- ue-add that I was able to offer my clients and that is the seed of how IMC was born and has grown ever since.

MI: Please tell us more about your du- ties and responsibilities?

I do have Managing Director responsibil- ities such as finance, administration and HR – but I find myself mostly in Consumer Insight Development (various Marketing Research assignments) and Communication Strategy Development working for clients direct or in collaboration with other adver- tising agencies.

MI: What kind of assignments is your team currently undertaking?

Mostly is consumer insight development, but we also do quite a few, more tradition- al advertising work – TVC, Print Ads, OOH, some digital as well as PR work.

MI: Who are the major clients of Ignite?

We currently work with IBTC (Grand Royal Family as well as NPDs), Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, KissMojo and in fact I collaborate with a few international ad-network agencies on common clients.

MI: How do you secure such high pro- file clients?

Most of them are through the network I was lucky to have built over the years working abroad but also the more recent acquisitions in-market. We are still a small agency and I am able to choose and pick whom I want to work with. In fact that is one the beauties of being an independent. But also I do get a few referrals from old clients and existing ones. MI: What is your target market seg- ment?

That is a bit difficult to answer as I see my- self being in the Marketing Communication segment – which includes Market Research, Marketing Consultancy, Advertising Agency Services – which means that I am involved in or want to get involved in all of the above mentioned subsegments. So if it is about Marketing Communication, it’s something I have interest in – but then, I do not neces- sarily have the time or the resources to be a serious contender in all.

MI: What kind of services Ignite Marketing Communicate provide for local and International Companies?

Usually I get called into for Consultancy work and for Advertising Services. The Consultancy Service is usually about developing communication strategies and brand build- ing to the Advertising Service which is mostly about what people see – TV Commercials, Print Ads, Billboards, Social Media, Events and Public Relations work.

MI: Please tell our readers more about Myanmar Marketing Media Forum?

One of the things I really liked working abroad was opportunity to attend various Advertising Industry events. Most of them are in Singapore like the SPIKES, Festival of Media Asia and APPIES and I get to learn many things from industry experts – whether they are from competitive agencies or not does not matter. It is also a great opportuni- ty to mingle and network.

So when I came back to Myanmar in 2009 – that was even before Daw Aung Sann Suu Kyi was released from her house arrest – I felt closed off and isolated as Internet was almost non-existent then and there was se- rious efforts to block off knowledge from the military junta.

When things opened up almost 5 years ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to do something like the industry events I experi- enced in Myanmar.

I have three objectives in organizing Myan- mar Marketing & Communication Forum which is inspired by the various events that I mentioned previously. The First was to bring in industry experts who can speak about the changes that are occurring in our industry outside our borders. The Second was for Myanmar marketing professionals to mingle a bit with the speakers and also mingle amongst ourselves here. The Third was that we can all do it from the comfort of our country, does not cost an arm and a leg and still able to learn new things.

We have speakers from CNBC, Google, GfK and industry experts coming to Myanmar for the one-day event on the 2nd of Oct 2015. I am very excited about this!

MI: What is your opinion on current marketing trends?

Specifically now – I feel that most advertis- ers/companies are in a wait-and-see mode on what will happen in the elections only 50 days away. Generally I see that we have more companies coming in, but other than a few categories – like the hotly contested Telco sector, most sectors are soft. The oth- er reason may be that these international companies are unable to find the right talent in sufficient quantities for their purposes, so they may understandably be cautious.

MI: What is the best way to secure marketing talent in Myanmar?

That is a good question and I wish there was an easy answer. Coming from a closed market system where knowledge and infor- mation was systematically suppressed, I am surprised to see as many good marketers in Myanmar. But it is not enough – in fact the industry is so small that most of us know each other or if not we know of each other. I tend to look for people with the right at- titude – willingness to learn, open-mind- ed, somewhat passionate about things and are willing to be thrown into the deep end occasionally! Marketing also requires a generalist mind-set and wanting to be par- le-yar-nge-pi-chet (kinda like salt for the non-Myanmar) and a sense of curiosity.

I am on a 365-day recruitment mission where, if I find someone like I described above, I will hire then immediately. Then I will find work for them to do! Not the most efficient way to do things but if I wait to look for people only when I have work – I will not find them soon enough. Fortunately for me, the people I get that way tend to work out well – so far. But I have been burned a few times though.

MI: From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in next 1-3 years?

Actually it’s about finding the right people. If I can crack that, I am confident that I can overcome many challenges. On a more specific note – they also need to be trained up so that they gain specific-skills and gain confidence in the marketing category.

MI: What effect do you think that the sudden influx of foreign companies/ nationals will have?

Good and bad in my experience. I am hap- py to see many opportunities created for Myanmar as the market opens up. We also get to learn from the experiences of the ex- pats assigned to the country. This is import- ant, as we are able to learn things that we have not had the opportunity to learn pre- viously. What does bother me is we also get the condescending types, the know-it-alls and expats who automatically assume that just because we are Myanmar we do not know anything and try to take advantage of the situation.

One of the challenges we face are the pitches that these companies like to call. Quiet a few of us in the local agency scene have faced situations where we participat- ed in pitches (no pitch fee system here yet) and the (potential) clients disappear with- out having the courtesy to inform the agen- cies which participated in the pitches they got the business or not. Sadly this is from well-known international companies with well-known brands and this happens fairly often. That is not to say we don’t have good experiences too.

I often tell my team that this will be the last pitch I participate after such a case, and then when the next pitch comes along I am participating! I think the local industry need to collaborate to a certain extent to pre-empt such situations – like in more developed markets.

MI: Who are your major competitors and what are your competitive strategies?

I operate in the Marketing Communication category, so anyone who is in that category is an automatic competitor. But as someone once said, advertising agencies should go about collaborating more than competing, and I think he is right. Yes we do compete in pitches, but for the rest of the time we need to be working together to improve our industry.

MI: What will be your advice for someone who wants to start a career in marketing field?

Be curious, be willing to go that extra mile and be passionate or rather try to love what you do. The marketing field is not an easy, it takes a lot from you but if you are into what you are doing then you will be better than most of the other people who are doing it only for the money.

MI: If you could make one major change to any government policy, what would it be?

Can I make more than one? The biggest change I would like to see is in how the gov ernment treats knowledge and information. I am not only talking about our education system, but also how we disseminate knowl- edge and how people engage in open dis- cussion on various topics. The government is operating on a daddy-knows-best point of view where only they are able to decide what is good and bad for the people. Let the people decide!

That said I see many great improvements in the last few years, so we just need to keep on moving forward.