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Friday October 30 2020

Agency Giant and University Take Action in Singapore to Foster Millennials


Written by Stephanie O'Brien

May 3, 2017

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In a bid to appeal to the millennial workforce, all types of organisations are amping up their activities. Whether it’s the launch of labs, consulting or press drives, the competition for young professionals is high.

Jeff Cheong, President of Tribal Worldwide Asia, admits they were tempted to take the same route in Singapore.

Instead, in October 2016, DDB Worldwide partnered with Temasek Polytechnic, launching the first satellite office of Equator on campus, to groom the next generation of creative technologists in Singapore. Equator is DDB Worldwide’s first-ever global centre of excellence for technology and innovation to pioneer digital transformation marketing solutions.

Through his heavy involvement with Education in Singapore; as a board member and part of the advisory committee, Jeff saw the struggle but also the potential for schools. Working with them to merge education and experience was going to foster the workforce of the future.

“It is a worldwide phenomenon”, Jeff suggests, that agencies are not attracting fresh graduates. They are losing out in competition with startups.

Rethinking the agency model

Tribal wanted to develop students by engaging them on active projects. Through doing so they hope to be able to attract them back following graduation. “We decided to put people on campus who have an interest in teaching and prototyping work” said Jeff.

Equator is DDB Worldwide’s digital innovation hub, globally. They work with clients just as any agency does, however, they engage students to work on these projects. This gives students invaluable hands on experience and in exchange Equator gain insight from this new generation.

It is not a compulsory part of the curriculum, it is an elective, so students apply, go through tests and a rigorous interview process. Only the students with the best aptitude and attitude are selected.  “Equator thrives on Commercial and Community” Jeff advised

Commercial: Jeff and the team expect the students to join the agency in real work where they will have exposure to assignments. They select students from various disciplines and through the eclectic mix of dynamic, they get an output of diverse ideas.

Community: Equator challenges the students to look at real-world situations and solve it with technology solutions. An initiative that Jeff hopes will benefit the community, not only in Singapore but globally.

Although Equator owns these projects, “the magic happens” Jeff suggests, the moment they release control and let the students own it. “They see it as their own business, they’re always on and they learn very fast. They’re so in tune with the world; they know what works and what doesn’t. It’s almost as though you’re working with a live audience,” says Jeff.

This rapid prototyping process, allows them to cut through all the clutter and get a proof of concept setup in just a couple of days.

Vision for the future

“We want to replicate this across various universities in Singapore and soon the region. Gone are the days where agencies work in silos. We need to harness the power of the new millennial workforce”

Equator have already had invitations coming in from other Universities in Singapore and Jeff believes that they will expand in the next 6 months. Longer term plans involve expansion to other countries and offices around the world. The model already being presented in London, New York and to all market leaders in Asia.

When sceptically questioned by his peers why he would invest in this, Jeff responds “This is a long-term investment with an end goal in mind and that is to provide the industry with a better equip workforce”.

“We want to create hybrids and short-circuit the whole process for the next generation, so they come out stronger.”

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Written by Stephanie O'Brien

May 3, 2017

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