Ogilvy & Mather is one of the most well-known international advertising, marketing and public relations agencies. But when it comes to incorporating technology into marketing for brands, the stalwart has been willing to cede a point to a particular startup in Singapore.

Circus Social, which specializes in building social software to help brands and marketers, has been incubated in-house within Ogilvy for a year.

The startup offers two tiers of services: custom campaigns for bigger companies with the budget, and plug and play solutions — which launched late last month. Starting from $10 a month, these plug and play apps let smaller brands and startups create and manage their own Facebook apps and campaigns without having to concern themselves with technical issues such as coding and hosting.

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Managing director Shalu Wasu, who was previously head of Ogilvy’s social media practice, pitched the idea of Circus Social to the agency about one year ago.

The company “loved it and had the foresight to invest in something that in many ways will complement and in some ways also compete with Ogilvy’s offerings,” he tells TNW.

Circus Social is now partly owned by Ogilvy, which has a minority stake in the company.

Social marketing is not as easy as it seems

It is difficult not to be skeptical about Circus Social. There are already a few plug-and-play social marketing software resources on the market for small businesses such as Offerpop — and Circus Social is pretty late to the game.

However, its relationship with Ogilvy is what helps it stand out — Circus Social itself admits that the link means “specialist skills are only a phone call away.”

Circus Social’s two-tier offering will also probably help inject more confidence into startups wanting to try its product — as seeing big firms pay for custom marketing solutions gives a sense that Circus Social actually knows what it’s doing.

A common problem that Wasu spots in integrating technology with marketing is that most marketers still look at Facebook as a destination.

“By integrating into the Facebook API, campaigns can now be ‘platform agnostic’ — for example the same campaign can run seamlessly on a brand website, Facebook page and on mobile. Most brands are still unaware of this,” he says. Furthermore, companies tend to look at Facebook campaigns as singular events rather than the start of a relationship with potential customers, in the process losing out on gathering tons of customer data, he notes.

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This is where Circus Social steps in. Wasu explains his impetus to start the company:

Technology was no longer something that got slapped on after someone came up with the idea, technology sometimes (and increasingly so) was the Idea. This trend is even more pronounced when it comes to Social Media marketing. All the leading social platforms offer rich APIs to build software that can leverage on many of the platforms features and 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 APIs and innovative software, and applications allow a brand to ‘Do More’ than what would be ordinarily possible.

Future plans for Circus Social

Circus Social is still new. It recently crossed its one millionth user — for both its custom and plug and play solutions — after being in operation for a year. More than 500 marketers have signed on for its plug and play apps since launching a week or so ago from three different continents.

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Running Facebook campaigns alone isn’t extremely comprehensive though — as companies nowadays tend to be on a lot more social media platforms. Circus Social therefore has plans in the future to offer ‘platform agnostic’ plug-and-play apps — which means users will get to create apps that can run on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and their own websites all at once.

It is also seeking to offer its apps in more languages, in particular Asian languages such as Mandarin, Thai and Vietnamese.

With the abundance of alternative options for marketers to carry out their social media marketing though, Circus Social’s selling point is almost certainly its expertise — as the people running it have already carried out marketing campaigns for years. Playing up its link with Ogilvy will likely stand in in good stead, though it could also mean that Ogilvy may very well acquire it one day.

Headline image via Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images