[INTERVIEW] Asiance employs high-tech, human touch
Posted : 2017-04-12 15:05
Updated : 2017-04-12 21:13
Asiance CEOs and cofounders Olivier Mouroux, left, and Kim Bo-sun pose in their office in Jeong-dong, central Seoul, Wednesday. / Courtesy of Asiance
Multicultural digital agency connects global brands with local consumers
By Kim Ji-soo
Located on the upper floor of a building in the quaint central Seoul neighborhood of Jeong-dong, where old-style edifices still stand, is Asiance, a strongly growing digital marketing agency. Asked if there is an elevator, the building's security guard gave a slightly gleeful response: "What do you expect from a 100-year-old building?"
It seems like an odd decision at first — a digital agency opening its office in a nearly century-old building — but it actually makes sense. As more companies shift from traditional to digital marketing and as technology continues to advance, the fine human touch becomes even more necessary in connecting with consumers.
"If you are in digital marketing, you should never forget your roots, why you're doing digital," said Olivier Mouroux, co-CEO and cofounder of Asiance, adding that digital is about people. An interview with Mouroux and his co-CEO and cofounder Kim Bo-sun was held at their office and later continued through email.
Asiance, founded in 2004 by Mouroux and Kim, now has 60 employees and 300 clients — including Chanel, Lacoste, Dior and Gucci.
In a time when people are increasingly turning to websites and social media to find products and services for their daily needs, companies are aggressively embracing digital marketing.
But global companies advancing into Korea grapple with the local digital advertising landscape, which is dominated by Naver and Kakao, and this is where Asiance steps in. With Mouroux, a French national and an honorary citizen of Seoul who has lived here for 15 years, and Kim, a native Korean, Asiance can deal with the needs of global companies and help them understand local consumers' needs and the local digital ecosystem.
With the help of Asiance, Chanel launched its newest perfume on its own exclusive e-commerce platform, aimed at the younger generation in an attempt to reach a new consumer segment. This was the first time a single product was offered exclusively on its own platform.
"We are using Korea as a test market, as we have a great digital ecosystem willing to offer new experiences," Mouroux said.
Chanel had not only launched its e-commerce platform in South Korea in collaboration with Asiance, but worked with them to run an offline campaign using beacon technology at its pop-up store in Gangnam, southern Seoul. Beacon technology sends content to users by tracking the location of their phones, so if they are near a specific product in a retail outlet, for example, a brand will send them promotional and other content directly through the brand's application on the users' phone.
"We experimented with beacon technology to reach young, tech-savvy consumers," Kim said, adding that the campaign was a success.
If offline marketing is meant to reach the masses with costly commercials that run for two to three years, digital marketing is about reaching a target consumer segment through omni-channels based on data analytics and real-time media bidding.
For their work with 3M Korea, Asiance focused on creating videos for social media.
"For example, as 3M's Scotch-Brite products were tailored to local markets, as they were in the U.S., Thailand and Vietnam, we needed to create completely new content for South Korea," Kim said, explaining why the agency developed localized video content for the South Korean market. "Global brands now understand the importance of effective localization to deliver a meaningful message to the Korean audience."
Asiance also worked with 3M Korea to create a platform through which the company's campaigns and viral content were uploaded on its social media channels.
"We worked with 3M, as the market here is quite different — Koreans use Naver, the largest search platform in South Korea, in a very different way than Google," Kim explained. "Also, Korean consumers tend to favor campaigns."
Social media videos, a popular digital marketing tool, are much cheaper to produce and air than their television counterparts, which usually cost more than $1 million just for production and run for about two to three years. In contrast, videos for social media are produced on a monthly basis and are much cheaper, from $20,000 to $50,000.
"The key is to make high-quality videos fast, cheap and simple," Kim said.
As the two CEOs said, this is possible, as there is now data to help companies and marketers identify market trends and fragmentation, and channels on which to run their campaigns.
"Digital marketing is a long journey, and we tell stories using different technologies, new channels and specific segmentations," Mouroux said. "That remains the challenge we face every day as everything evolves very quickly in our industry."
Asiance has won numerous awards, including Campaign Asia-Pacific's Korea Digital Agency of the Year 2016.
The 13-year partnership between the two is bringing them a constant stream of clients looking to launch digital platforms for their businesses that are localized for the Korean consumer.
"I think having learned the French language, I've developed an open mind and different views about society," said Kim, who studied the language at Ewha Womans University and worked at a Korean company before founding the digital agency with Mouroux.
As entrepreneurs, the two experienced several failures to get to where they are.
"One project where we had learned a lot from was that in which we were working with a top company in 2011. At that time, we integrated a globally leading content management systems to rebuild their global platform," Kim said.
"It was a challenging project where we lost several good people but learned many invaluable lessons that we have since used to take on more ambitious projects," she said.
The two cofounders said they look forward to the company being a leader in using artificial intelligence-based chatbots or chat robots for their projects, and plan to open a Japan office this year.