“Our core motto is – whatever we do, it should impact a certain level of change in the mind space of people”: Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live

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Lintas Live was born with a view to being the digital-first creative agency. As the brand completes its 1.5 years as a renewed entity, it underlines the core motto to bring sharing and talkability to any business.

In an exclusive interaction, MI talks with Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live about their brand philosophy and vision.

Q) It’s been a year and a half since MullenLowe Lintas Group rebranded GolinOpinion as a digital-first creative PR agency. How has your journey been as a renewed entity?

Ameer: It’s been a compelling year for us! Post the launch of Lintas Live, we’ve had great business successes, with over 25 wins. In fact, we onboarded our first full-service client Yezdi and our first global client as Lintas Live – Lagos Free Zone, those were some of the many exciting developments that have fueled our passion. Our unique model of LIVE communities of #TrendSpotters, #CreativeArchitects and #NewsJackers is proof of how this confluence of capabilities comes together to give a campaign idea wings and talkability in this sharing economy.

It is important to understand that the silos and barriers between the two worlds of advertising and PR are blurring. Today a creative idea can come from anywhere. Digital gave us the landscape understanding and data-driven insights that we could not get earlier. The unique opportunity of digital when combined with the power of creativity and PR can transform brand narratives and helps brands build greater relevance in cluttered industries.

Q) Was the pandemic a challenging time for Lintas Live?

Ameer: The lockdown gave us some time to think and reimagine our business model. Like I spoke earlier, we restructured some part of our group into what we call live communities. We got together and thought about how our brand could help clients become relevant in the world of LIVE conversations that now form opinions and create perceptions. We then rolled this out to potential and existing clients.
Our new LIVE model consists of 3 communities who we call Trendspotters, Creative Architects and Newjackers. Their role is to ensure that our clients get an unfair share of attention by becoming part of conversations that are current, topical and relevant. The team of Trendspotters helps scan for relevant news and conversations, tracks what is trending and captures relevant topics in client reports. These trends and insights are then passed on to the second group, the creative architects who understand where the opportunities lie and start churning out content relevant to that particular trend or insight that can in turn be flipped back to the client. The last community is that of the newsjackers. This is the team that take this content developed by creative architects to journalists or bloggers or any other mediums that is best suited to get conversations going on the brand. We power these communities with the right tools and technology to ensure they are able to punch above their weight and exceed client & industry expectations.

Q) How does being a Digital-first agency helps business?

Ameer: We are the first of its kind creative PR agency powered with digital-first and creative capabilities. Today the importance of impactful storytelling for clients and brand-building for them through earned media and digital couldn’t be greater. Our renewed Lintas Live model of integrated and LIVE storytelling allows us to do this with great precision and specialist capabilities for far greater impact.
I think the most amazing thing here is to see how well you can navigate digital opportunities. These days these challenges are relevant for everyone, whether an individual, agency, or marketer. We must understand that digital has changed everything. Opinions are formed very dynamically and immediately shared on social media. Thus, from a consumer understanding perspective, digital planning always is a strategic imperative. It helps us create cohorts of various consumer mindsets with a complete understanding of their digital behavior patterns. This rich data helps us smartly navigate to reach the right target audiences.

Q) What are your ORM investments?

Ameer: It is not just ORM; we have a team that we call ‘trend spotters.’ Today, it is a huge task to be online and keep a track of every activity that is happening around us. So, we married our ORM team members with some social media and PR team members. Wired in the now, their insights provide assessment/insights at the first level and then give trigger points for ideas that can be contextually relevant and have a greater chance of getting noticed. These are a young team who are connected to consumers and GenZ directly.

Q) Do you think Web 3.0 would affect the PR industry?

Ameer: I think the agency world is accepting the reality of Web 3.0. Metaverse and NFTs are a new reality. Many brands are launching NFTs as a modern way to position their marketing. In my view, it is only impacting the PR industry positively at the moment by providing new avenues for idea deployment. Having said that, I think we are far away from this entire ecosystem taking structured shape and this evolution will be interesting to witness and partake in.

Q) How have the business dynamics changed in recent times?

Ameer: Our economy is relatively stable so there is cautious optimism in most sectors. Even during the pandemic, a lot of the industries were hit especially Travel and Tourism, Hospitality, etc. but we decided to stick by our clients. The ones who believed in us, even if they took a pause, all came back as soon as the pandemic ended. Having said that, we had several clients who continued to communicate and use our services even during the pandemic; the likes of which include Etihad Airways, Leela Group, and many more.

Our business is going to flourish with great new digital opportunities, it’s exciting to see what all could be done next. That’s why, after 26 years in the agency, I am still excited about the potential of Lintas Live. Growth will come from new sectors that have opened up, such as health-tech, we will see technology fuel many new sectors.

Q) Which is more challenging bagging new clients or retaining the existing ones?

Ameer: Retention of clients is far more challenging than winning new ones. The industry is evolving at a faster pace than ever and today clients want to see ideas that are impactful. They rely on their agency partners for innovation, and it has become imperative for agencies to keep a tab on the new trends. Hence, smart PR agencies have managed to reinvent themselves with offerings that are built for new realities and collectively have made sure that the relevance of PR is as strong as ever.
In our journey, we have been fortunate enough to have some of the longest-standing partnerships with our clients like Starbucks and Etihad Airways to name a few.

Q) Tell us about your latest wins. Also, your milestones?

Ameer: First, onboarding Sarvesh Raikar as the first senior creative lead had been the most significant milestone in the initial part of our journey. We have such an excellent bank of creative work that is recognized by the PR and advertising industry, but this is just the beginning…there is more to come.
Second, we won our first full-service business of Yezdi in a pitch with 13 other creative agencies. We were entrusted with the responsibility of relaunching and reviving interest in this legendary brand – an icon 20 years ago. We deployed a digital film and full integrated services to successfully launch it in January 2022.
Third, we won our first global business from the Tolaram Group, being appointed the lead agency for Lagos Free Zone. Its objective is to market this zone across key markets in the world.

Q) Tell us about your renewed brand philosophy and brand extensions?

Ameer: The brand philosophy, in a nutshell, is to make our client’s work stand out in a commoditized market. It has become challenging to capture the attention of people today. Therefore, our core motto is – whatever we do, it should impact a certain level of change in the mind space of people, thereby encouraging sharing and talkability. The aim of the agency is to catch the pulse of every trending and topical conversation happening online and use creativity to make brands a part of these conversations.

Over the years, we have enhanced our crisis management skills. We have extended our service stack to creative, social media, ORM, and influencer management along with corporate and brand PR. We call our crisis management process ‘Shield’. We have dealt with all kinds of crises, from debt to sexual harassment to fire in a facility.

Q) How do brands get a handle over sending out the message without getting people hurt?

Ameer: Lintas Live as an agency believes in research, pretesting, and listening to current sentiments. All our teams are trained to guide clients on keeping communication current, yet not offensive. We have a stepwise model by which communication and insights are analyzed at different stages by in-house as well as cultural experts, in addition to social listening that powers teams and clients with the current mood of the audience. It’s important to also vet any third-party brand associations from this lens. We have also curated scenario planning workshops for clients, to help identify and plan for such important cultural realities that could potentially be reputation-damaging if not managed right.

Q) What are the future plans for Lintas Live? What is your vision?

Ameer: Aim for 3 objectives for the business, which are captured in simple words, fun, fame, and fortune. Now, I will explain it to you. I want to bring together people who have a passion to make a difference. Agency life also gets motivational with significant, modern, and recognized work. That will make Lintas Live the preferred brand to work for. Finally, I want this brand to be the agency brand that has broken the mold and that becomes a much larger scale business for the group and a top 3 player in the industry.

(The interview was first published in Media Infoline)