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Digital guy likes going viral
Published on Thursday, 09 Jun 2011
Ogilvy Public Relations digital strategy manager Kevin On hopes to become a thought-leader.
Photo: Gary Mak

Poring over Facebook and Twitter may be the pastime of most people, but for Kevin On, these social media can serve as tools to help companies reach their tech-savvy target customers.

As leader of the digital-influence practice team at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Hong Kong, On is exploring potential digital applications in social media marketing. The industry has duly taken note, with On named “Young Professional of the Year” at the Hong Kong PR Professionals Association awards in April.

What is digital-influence practice?

It is social media marketing using word-of-mouth and electronic technology. It originated from Ogilvy’s headquarters in the United States. We help clients develop social media-focused and digital marketing strategies. We have expanded our scope to cover mobile phones and apps [for various mobile devices].

How is this integrated into your marketing campaigns?

The digital-influence team works closely with Ogilvy One – the online visual marketing arm and the advertising arm. We develop holistic integrated digital communication solutions for individual clients. 

To help clients maximise their return on investment, for instance, a Facebook campaign can incorporate some media placements and an outdoor advertising campaign. 

All of us are involved in identifying the ultimate core communication objectives to help expand clients’ businesses.

What are your main tasks?

I update my clients on the latest social media technological innovations. I also help them identify the applications of these innovations to improve customer awareness and enhance the image of their brands. 

We are essentially public relations consultants who have the technical knowledge and skills to advise our clients on new social media technological innovations.

We are also responsible for deepening the digital knowledge skills of Ogilvy’s account staff. The objective is that they will become digital consultants themselves.

Have the honours you have won affected your career?

The selection process for the “Young Professional of the Year” award was intensive. All the contestants were interviewed by a panel of judges consisting of prominent local PR professionals. Throughout the six months from entering the competition until the results announcement, I took the opportunity to reflect on my milestone achievements and considered ways to make further improvements and achieve more breakthroughs.

Social media was still a new phenomenon in Hong Kong when we worked on the “Taking SCMP to The World” campaign in 2007. 

It featured a tongue-in-cheek viral YouTube video of former US president George W. Bush consulting SCMP.com for China’s new developments on his notebook computer during his meeting with [Chinese] President Hu Jintao. The video attracted tens of thousands of views shortly after its launch.

Winning the award in the “Best Use of Digital” category in the Asia-Pacific PR Awards [in 2007] was a major encouragement for our team. 

We realised we had the capability and talent to develop award-winning campaigns. This also gave us a first glimpse of the marketing potential of digital social media.

Which project proved to be the most challenging?

The YouTube Hong Kong launch in 2007 put us under enormous pressure because of the worldwide attention it attracted. The challenge was to make the campaign relevant to Hongkongers. 

By conducting surveys on the street, we built a video collage of people describing Hong Kong in a few words and later sharing their thoughts on a YouTube Hong Kong website. The video succeeded in linking YouTube with the locals.

Another challenging campaign is the Facebook page launch for CPU producer Intel. Because consumer awareness of Intel has increased, we believe we should use a consumer-oriented programme to drive their engagement with the brand. Although the brand is well-known, it’s still something intangible for many consumers [as CPU is inside a computer]. The challenge was to develop something that connected the brand with consumers. We developed this social media-friendly content tied up with Intel’s 32nd anniversary and its launch of the 32-nanometer chip. The end result was a visually stunning video of dominoes falling, interwoven with images of Hong Kong’s heritage and iconic sites. Again the campaign resonated with the locals.  

What is your career goal?

I admire [founder] David Ogilvy. I hope to be able to follow in his footsteps to be successful in this era of social media. I would like to be a thought-leader by building my knowledge and skills and through self-learning.

Any advice for those wanting to break into public relations?

Some may think of the field as mainly about hobnobbing with celebrities for product engagement. Public relations focus on building brand reputation and protection, and communicating the brand to the target audience. We need a thorough understanding of our clients to be able to help them. It is similar to business consulting.

The digital-influence field requires dedicated self-learners. As it is fast evolving, people in social media need to devote a lot of time exploring the sector by being on top of new developments.