After learning a telecom client needs a customer service-related Facebook app, Shalu Wasu starts the search. He looks high and low but can't find anyone to build a Facebook app in three days. As the head of Ogilvy & Mather's social media division in Singapore, it was Wasu's job to figure it out while juggling his other responsibilities as director of [email protected].
"In the time I spent leading Ogilvy's social media practice, I noticed the increasing role that technology played in advertising and communication solutions," Wasu says. "Technology was no longer something that got slapped on after someone came up with the idea-technology was the idea.
"This trend is even more pronounced when it comes to social media marketing," he says says. "All the leading social platforms offer rich APIs to build software that can leverage many of the platforms' features to enhance the user experience.
"The best marketing and communication solutions are now created when a great idea is combined with an excellent understanding of the API's, and innovative software and applications allow a brand to 'do more' than what would be ordinarily possible."
With this in mind, Wasu introduced the idea for Circus Social to Ogilvy in October 2012. The international advertising, marketing and public relations agency loved the thought of a startup that specializes in building social software for brands and marketers. So much so that Circus Social has been incubated in-house within Ogilvy for the past year. Ogilvy also invested in the startup-which in many ways will complement and in some ways also compete with Ogilvy's offerings.
In fact, Circus Social operates independently, and works with other agencies and independent clients as well. "We have delivered over 50 projects for brands like Coke, Unilever, Nestle, SingTel, and many others," Wasu says. "And we have worked with non-Ogilvy clients like Singapore Management University, Sofitel, and SMRT. We have also worked with non-Ogilvy agencies like We Are Social.
"As social media budgets have increased, so has the pressure on marketers to deliver measurable business results," says Wasu, the fire-breathing managing director and ringmaster of the social startup. "Circus Social creates software solutions that help brands and marketers 'do more' with social media platforms, and helps them achieve business goals."
Custom campaigns for bigger companies with the budget and plug-and-play solutions starting at $10 a month are the two tent poles of Circus Social's services. "Our team is an excellent combination of geeky, tech superstars, and experienced marketing and communication professionals," says Wasu, who himself has 14 years of sales and marketing experience across Asia and earned an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, before founding Circus Social.
Hucksters of plug-and-play social marketing software for small businesses are out there, but Circus Social isn't one of them. "Our delivery centre in Bangalore helps us keep our costs low, and quality and predictability high," Wasu says.
Circus Social's unique "hospital medical school" model is a safety net for brands and marketers. "Delivering custom solutions helps us understand marketers better and helps us build better products," says Wasu. "Building products helps us reuse components for custom solutions, keep costs low, and deliver with lightening speed."
The startup's special relationship with Ogilvy also means that they always know what the leading marketers in the world are thinking, and it helps that deep specialist skills are only a phone call away when needed.
Wasu says Circus Social's goal in the next three years is to sign up 1 million subscribers for its web-based applications and tools. And five years from now, the Singapore-based startup that also has offices in Bangalore hopes to be a full-service, global DIY communications agency that is cloud-based.
These acts are not hard to believe since Circus Social recently reached 1 million users of its applications, including custom apps. The launch of the plug-and-play apps last month has already accelerated the pace of the startup's business. "Since our launch, we have had 562 marketers from around the world use our app platform to date," Wasu says of the startup that has grown to a troupe of 20 full-time, multi-talented, international people-just like a world-class circus.