To create an ‘Aha!’ moment, create experiences: Jeff Cheong

It was in June this year that Jeff Cheong was promoted to president of Tribal Worldwide Asia as part of DDB Group’s leadership and succession strategy to enhance digital creativity within the region.


In 2008, a year after winning the Singapore Airline business with TBWA, Cheong helped kick-start Tribal DDB Singapore. In a short span of five years, the agency has grown to 120 staff with expertise from user experience to e-commerce and a tech innovation team.


Under Cheong’s leadership, Tribal has built an expertise on delivering innovative digital-to-life solutions for regional clients such as Unilever, McDonalds, Changi Airport, DBS, StarHub, Ministry of Communication and Information and National Library Board.


Recently, Cheong also led the Singapore office to launch the DDB i-store, featuring over 30 tried-and-tested tech solutions, which have been adopted as DDB Worldwide best practice. He has been tasked to grow the best practices in digital creativity for the region across technology, social media, content and e-commerce platforms.


In a t?te-?-t?te with’s Priyanka Nair, Cheong, talks about his views on the talent in Indian digital marketing space, creative challenges on the medium, expectations from this market and much more.




Is being creative on digital much more challenging than other mediums?


Creativity has always been challenging in the business of communication. The idea of being creative is to spark a human conversation. This is the very reason why we follow the philosophy of creativity in humanity. According to me, market scenario also plays the role of an influencer in creative processes.


Maturity of media platforms and infrastructural barriers are a few other things that could pose as challenges in bringing out creativity across the table. Having said that, nothing stops from being creative. To create an ‘Aha!’ moment, create experiences. Using technology for the sake of it is not cool. Going forward, we want to create experiences that are enjoyable.


What are the key things that brands need keep in mind to build a healthy conversation on social media?


Adding celebrity quotient in communication plans is a big thing in a market like India. According to me this is a very interesting and smart route taken by many brands. Worldwide too many marketers have understood the power of influencers on social media. Brands need to work on identifying the right set of influencers to help create the right buzz.  


When bloggers are spotted and involved in an activity, their posts are as good as a classified advertisement. Engagement on social media cannot be force fitted but needs to be very strategic.   


How has marketers’ demand for digital marketing changed in the recent years?


One observation that I have made is that across markets, the social media landscape has changed. Brands are constantly looking at driving conversations that in turn helps in building a large fan base. This constant process turns out to be the key performance indicator for many brands. It can be noted that Facebook changed the algorithm over night.


These are major factors that have pulled brands to use this medium interestingly. The challenge that needs to be addressed by agencies time and again is to be realistic on this medium. This fact also answers your first question on why is it challenging to be creative on digital.


What do you have to say about India’s talent pool in the digital marketing space?


The talent I am exposed to here is fantastic. I had the chance of interacting with the 22Feet team in person. I felt as if I am entering my own office back in Singapore. The energy is the same. The kind of questions raised during brainstorming was similar too.


I also had the opportunity to attend a few client meetings. I like the spark that digital professionals have here. The future looks extremely promising.


What are your observations on India as a market in digital eco-system?


I would have to draw a parallel observation with Australia to elaborate on this further. Five years ago situation in Australia was not the same. The market scenario today has been elevated to another level. Today, Australia leads on the chart of smartphone business. Mobile has changed the game for consumer marketing there. If this could happen within a short period of time there, India is not far behind.


India is a young country, with tech savvy people. As infrastructure improves, there will be an explosion in the business of digital communication as well. The country will catch the next wave soon, its time wait and watch!

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