Like most in the events business, global engagement and marketing
agency, MCI, has had to make a few tweaks to its business model in the
last few months.
Last August, the agency launched D.I.V.E, a proprietary methodology to help clients create user-focused experiences. And last month, the 34-year-old company completely overhauled its
brand to reflect the extent to which the industry has changed as a
result of Covid-19.
It hasn't been an easy journey, but one that MCI Hong Kong &
Macau general manager, Olinto Oliveira, says has allowed the agency to
take on a more consultative role, rather than "simply being a production
or execution partner".
This is a critical shift that is taking place across all segments of
the business events industry, especially as our engagement channels
become increasingly hybrid — fusing physical meetings and live
activation with virtual/digital interaction.
Here's what Oliveira shared with M&C Asia during a recent interview:
How have your clients’ needs changed as a result of Covid-19? And how do you expect these to change in the future?
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the
industry. Very early on, we saw a complete shift from live to virtual in
a matter of weeks. This shift to virtual has pushed brands to explore
different formats, mediums and platforms to engage with their audience
in a more personalised way and these are likely here to stay.
Clients are looking for more flexibility in operational avenues,
being able to have multiple contingency plans, depending on the fluidity
of current health guidelines. This means offering solutions with
different strategies, formats and locations.
Your new brand was designed to reflect MCI’s “human-centric
solutions”. In a digital and hybrid age, what do human-centric solutions
It’s all about coming back to people first, and how can we tell
stories and create experiences that are real, authentic and resonate
with the audience, regardless of the medium. We spend a lot of time
profiling our clients' brands and their target audiences, so, as we
design campaigns and experiences, there is a holistic view of the
challenges we are solving and how their audience wants to be
A great example is when we worked with a major integrated resort in
Macau to revamp their HR communications. Traditionally, the focus of the
campaign would be on the company itself, the corporate accolades and
After a series of surveys, we flipped the idea on its head and
created a campaign that focused on the individuals, how they uniquely
fit into the company's culture, and highlighted how their journey can
take shape at on much more personal level. The campaign was very well
received and was a huge success. In fact, it was so successful that the
client has asked to partner with us for the coming years.
Last year, MCI launched D.I.V.E, a design-thinking methodology
to co-create engagement solutions with clients. How can event
professionals in Asia adopt a design-thinking approach?
I believe that as an industry, it is an essential shift. Nowadays,
simply being a production or execution partner delivers very little
added value to our clients. What is needed more than ever is a
consultative and collaborative approach where a client's knowledge of
their brand and audience is coupled with our insights and skills to
deliver truly impactful experiences — especially with the tight
turnarounds and pace of the Asian market. But it all starts with trust,
especially from the agency's side, and a true passion to deliver value,
and not just work, to our clients.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, what would you say is the
secret to a successful business pivot? Is there a way to “pivot
properly” to ensure the change permeates the entire business?
It all comes down to the people. Transparency is key and so is being
able to communicate what "pivoting" means. We need to ask ourselves:
“Does my current team have the skillset to pivot? Can we re-skill our
existing team, or is restructuring and reshaping required? Is the pivot
really addressing the needs of our clients or will we need to go out and
hunt new ones and what do our existing clients really need?
Far too often these questions are not asked, and many companies jump
blindly into a transformation. At the end of the day, the pivot will
only work if your teams buy into the idea and are prepared for the
At MCI, we often emphasise that the transformation will inevitably
change the way we work — the way we deliver projects may look different,
but the "why" of it remains the same.
What has Covid-19 (and its ongoing implications) taught you about leadership?
At the end of the day, it’s about transparency, communication and just simply being human. For our team, this means, providing our employees with flexible working arrangements and clear communication to ensure the health and safety of our employees.
From a business perspective, we’re taking on a more collaborative approach with clients and working partners. Agencies have long been seen as execution vendors for brands, but we’re starting to see a shift, especially during the pandemic.
We're seeing more and more brands coming to us asking for new ways to engage with their audience virtually. This collaborative approach has allowed us to create some of the most engaging experiences for our clients to date.
Olinto Oliveira is general manager at MCI Hong Kong & Macau