Q&A: Winnie Pua – ‘I Believe Brands Should be Ambitious in Breaking Norms and Barriers’

Winnie is Managing Director of Singapore-based antics@play, which she founded in 2009.

For more insight into branding and marketing in our constantly evolving world, we recently caught up with Winnie Pua, Managing Director of Singapore-based antics@play, which she founded in 2009.

A veteran in the industry with nearly two decades of brand and marketing experience, Winnie has worked with both global and regional brands across the fashion, beauty, F&B, hospitality, finance, and consumer technology industries – all driven by her dream of building  “a differentiated branding and PR agency into not only a successful business but also a state of mind.”

Over the course of our conversation, she talks about how brands can tread lightly in their messaging in today’s consumer landscape, how B2B brands are leveraging TikTok,  the importance of ESG as a focus for both brands and agencies, how AI will affect the creative marketing industry, and more.


 

Your bio describes you as “an intrepid traveler of life both real and embellished.” Tell us more about that.

I believe brands should be ambitious, in breaking norms and barriers. Most times, it starts from visions and compelling stories. They may sound embellished before they become realities. In my personal life, I seek to create moments that friends can laugh about for years to come.

You founded Antics at Play in 2009. What’s behind the name, and it being “founded on the belief of creating new realities for brands and the lives they touch?”

It is really a rally cry to brands, to remind that brands have purposes, reasons and rights-to-exist in customers’ lives. Marketing is both art and science and should inspire and shape the future. Beyond answering the brief, hitting the numbers on your data sheets, we ‘played’ in new territories and with possibilities.

“In the long term, in a more connected world, marketers need to track more closely not just news and regulations but also engage regularly with communities and real people. Sometimes, it is just about timing; when and where we try to exert influence for the best impact.”

Not a lot of people talk about TikTok for B2B brands. Tell us more about that and how brands can leverage the platform and engage potential business clients.

I do see that B2B brands are increasingly exploring TikTok. This is unsurprising given that millennials form a large part of key decision-makers now and they are present on TikTok too. Even if we are not discussing TikTok, knowing how to create content on various short video platforms e.g. YouTube shorts will be important, since video formats are more popular than ever.


 

Viewers are open to digesting content when browsing TikTok so brands can consider influencing potential customers with edutainment, or lobby and engage for support for select CSR causes. It doesn’t always have to be created only for TikTok. I enjoy viewing management advice from several creators who also do longer formats on Youtube. Content can be tweaked to suit TikTok environment.

In today’s climate, brands must often tread lightly with their messaging. What navigation advice do you have for them, and where do you see this trend heading in the long term?

Not just lightly but also firmly and surely. While brands should be aware of on-ground sentiments, cultural nuances and definitely the maturity of regulations in the particular market, they should articulate firm and consistent values. If brands are seen as swaying to popular demand, or bowing to commercial gains, then brand trust will be broken. The recent Bud Light controversy is one such example, where both left and right are confused with where the brand stands.

In the long term, in a more connected world, marketers need to track more closely not just news and regulations but also engage regularly with communities and real people. Sometimes, it is just about timing; when and where we try to exert influence for the best impact.

“If brands are seen as swaying to popular demand, or bowing to commercial gains, then brand trust will be broken. The recent Bud Light controversy is one such example, where both left and right are confused with where the brand stands.”

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) has become a key focus for both brands and agencies. What are some of the key challenges in implementation and how can they be overcome?

ESG considerations have evolved over the years; from focusing on select United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), to embarking on Scope 1,2, and 3 for carbon footprint measurement. Now, brands ask themselves, how does my ESG strategy and efforts differ from competitors?

Brands and clients wonder if they have gone too broad or general in their communications e.g. climate change, or have they gone too specific e.g. transgender issues.

I thought the lens could shift from planning or messaging to execution strategies. New metrics and standards can form but ultimately, the KPIs and reporting metrics remain. Depending on the types of business/brands we are, it is less of focusing on areas simply because they are untapped but because we generate the greatest impact by delivering value to the environment or society. And better if it can be executed creatively and thoughtfully.

antics@play embarks on our own ESG blueprint and journey this year and I believe internal buy-in and alignment of blueprint is important too.

There is much talk about AI and its effects on the marketing and creative industries. What’s your take on how it unfolds and what the future holds?

AI is part and parcel of our lives. We have enjoyed technological efficiencies e.g. Face ID and smart devices to personalised experiences e.g. Netflix, and it will only continue to permeate. As always, there is nothing inherently good or bad in a tool.

But as an ideas and creativity fuelled industry, we want to ensure regulatory, ethical and transparency frameworks are in place.

“With using any new tool, we want to know its capabilities and limitations e.g. AI can create but is it creative? Will it break norms? As long we all agree on how to use a tool, I think new tools are great.”

With evolving technology, legal and ethical frameworks have not caught up. antics@play recently prepared agreements for clients keen to use generative AI in their marketing work. We want to ensure protection of intellectual property rights as well being transparent about work creation processes.

And with using any new tool, we want to know its capabilities and limitations e.g. AI can create but is it creative? Will it break norms? As long we all agree on how to use a tool, I think new tools are great.

What are some campaigns you’ve worked on over the years that you are most proud of?

Beyond Profit, Schroders

That your investments can make a positive impact is both an exciting and complex concept that we helped make simpler and more relevant.

MerrySips, Starbucks

The inclusion of gamification across the slew of engagement tactics made this campaign fun and current. With live campaign reporting, we were able to adjust messages, and engagement plans in an agile manner.  See more here.

Oversized, Evian

As part Live Young series, this APAC campaign is meaningful as we engaged women across cultures, sharing their attitudes towards the young at heart. See more here.

 


Quick Hits:

Book everyone in the industry should read: Net Positive, by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

Favorite show you’re watching lately: “Do you like Brahms?” Korean series. Icky plot, lovely music

One album you would take to a deserted island: Any recording of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at: Spanish, German, Arabic

Picture of Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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