Use technology to improve lives.
This is the message of Renesar A. Deunida, the Chief Executive Officer of the Philippines’ leading digital advertising company, SARTiNE, to Filipinos who want to be successful in life.
Armed with a 20-year experience working as Information Technology (IT) specialist for the United Nations, HSBC and World Health Organization (WHO), Deunida is a living testament that technology and innovation can catapult one to the top.
Deunida said the name of his company comes from a Greek word that somehow means question mark, a mystery.
But after a massively successful seven years (and counting) in the business, SARTiNE isn’t quite a mystery anymore.
The secret is out in the bag—SARTiNE delivers the goods, servicing big-time brands and prominent politicians from presidential candidates down to congressional bets in the last three Philippine elections (2016, 2019, 2022), using algorithm data as a weapon and social media as a platform.
After stints with HSBC, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself to Deunida – an IT job at the WHO managing 16 countries in the Western Pacific regions of the United Nations.
“IT expert ako, managing the international projects. Kasi ‘yung ginawa ko sa UN, dati maliit na agency lang under ng United Nations. Sabi ko sa boss ko, boring, hindi ako sanay ng ganito,” said the 44-year-old Deunida, who proposed a consolidation of the UN’s IT business unit.
“Kung mayroong WHO that specializes on health, why not United Nation Information Technology? And that will handle the entire technical aspect of the entire United Nations. Sabi ko sa boss ko, let’s start slowly. Let’s build our big data center and then after nun, ‘yung mga maliiit na sub agencies,” said Deunida.
But Deunida wanted something more challenging after his UN accomplishments.
“I was mid-thirties at that time, so nag-file ako resignation, three, four years before nag-build na ako nu’ng company, shell company na, so what I normally do is data mining, kasi I know data mining is the next jewel and I know that 100%,” Deunida said, paving the way for the creation of SARTiNE.
As a leading digital company, SARTiNE has the means to monitor the dissemination of altered information, detect bogus social media accounts, and promote ways for voters to differentiate facts from fake news.
“The last three Philippine elections in 2016, 2019, and 2022, have clearly proven how social media became a big part of the election system and, true enough, that social media can make one a Philippine president, just like what happened in 2016 (Rodrigo Duterte) and in 2022 (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.),” Deunida said.
At first, clients’ grasp on emerging technologies was shaky. Most were unwilling to embrace the latest trends in social media algorithm and analytics.
“The hardest part is, hindi nila naiintindihan ‘yung technology side. They think na, ‘ganito lang ‘yan eh,’ kasi sanay sila sa mainstream. Ang mindset ng mga big clients usually, mainstream pa rin. Pero saan ka ba nasasaktan ngayon? Hindi ba sa Facebook? Dapat mag-react ka doon, kasi ang technology nag-e-evolve. You need to grasp the algorithm. Wala ka maitatago sa social media; kaya ka i-search. Lahat ng pagkakamali mo, puwede ilabas at hindi mo mabubura ‘yun. There is no such thing as delete,” said Deunida.
The SARTiNE chief said digital advertising and marketing have come a long way.
“Dati ang budget ng malalaking companies, laging nasa TV, radio, print. Dati iniismol nila ang digital media. Mga 2016, nasa around 5 percent lang ‘yun. Pero 2019, umakyat na ‘yan ng mga 35 percent. Ang budget mo ngayon, halos pantay na with the mainstream.
“In fact, mas gusto ng mga politicians at brands ngayon, ibabad mo ako sa social media. Pero mainstream will always be there, as legitimacy. Halimbawa, naglabas ako ng PR, for Anti-Terror Bill. Lumabas na siya sa Manila Standard, then gagamitin na siya sa social media for reference because it is a legitimate story,” explained Deunida, who added that data analytics is a key component in the creation of content for ads and campaigns.
“Gusto mo gumawa ng ads or mga campaign. Noong araw, nakadepende sa creative director mo, kung sa tingin or pananaw lang niya, mabubuhay mga ads ko. Pero in a digital world, hindi, kasi bago kami gumawa ng ads, tingnan ko muna kung ano gusto ng market. Kung may data analytics ka, you have to treat it as a Bible. There is no such thing as guts mo lang. Kung may means ka naman to get your data analytics, why not use it?” Deunida said.
Improving his company
Deunida recently attended three of the tech world’s must-attend events on information technology innovations, cyber security, and digital marketing in the United States within days of each other to catch up on the latest trends.
“SARTiNE’s goals in coming to AWE, the RSA Conference in San Francisco, and the Digital Marketing Convention (DigiMarCon) in San Diego were to bring back home and adopt for the peculiar needs of Filipinos the latest technologies that could elevate our quality of life, empower businesses and, ultimately, help our country traverse the ever-changing digital trade and social media landscape,” Deunida said.
Deunida also shares his take on many tech issues and trends.
On internet availability: “Soon, hindi na natin kailangan ng SIM card, gagamit ka na lang ng satellite. Ang hindi ko maintindihan, siguro mga $150 to $400 ang full satellite launch, ang US multiple satellites ‘yan, kasi ang laki ng mapa niyan, hindi kaya ng isang satellite. Ang Pilipinas, isang kapiranggot na satellite lang ang kailangan mo diyan, kahit saang sulok ka ng island natin, may internet ka. Malaking solution ‘yan, once and for all, you have to implement things that the generation will enjoy.”
On Metaverse: “Time will come, even si Facebook, papunta na tayo sa Metaverse. During my recent travels, na-feel ko na in 2023 or 2024, papasok na tayo sa Augmented Reality world. Noong nasa reality pa lang tayo, pumapasok tayo sa virtual, puwede ako sexy doon, guwapo, matangos ang ilong ko doon, it’s my avatar, I can do whatever I want. Now, in the next coming years, si virtual world, papalitan na siya ni AR.”
On the use of English language in search of data: “Tatanggalin mo ang English language sa atin (sa curriculum). Okay lang na mag-debate kayo ng Tagalog, pero huwag na idamay ang mga estudyante. Bakit ang dami ng OFWs mo? Kasi marunong mag-English. Tayo, ultimo taxi driver, nakakapagsalita ng English. Global tayo, eh. Papaano ka magiging isang magaling na technical man or whoever, mechanic or engineer or IT guy, saan ka magse-search, ‘di ba sa internet? Hindi tayo nagde-discriminate, but that is the reality. You want to grow? Learn English.”
Improving lives through tech
Deunida is what he is today because of tech.
“Sa Pilipinas, since 18 years old ako, na-grasp ko siya (IT), nakita ko ‘yung changes from ground up, tapos nakapag-abroad ako, hindi ako nagpalit ng career, so meaning wala ako ibang naging trabaho other than IT,” he said.
Deunida said the technology is available to all Filipinos, it’s just a matter of knowing how to wield it.
“May mga Pilipino sa DE market, ‘di sila umaasenso kasi ‘di daw nila naiintindihan kung paano gamitin ang technology. But those in the DE market, rather gamitin mo ang technology for research, kung paano mo i-improve personality and buhay mo, ginagamit lang nila for Facebook or TikTok. This means, nagagamit naman nila ang technology, hindi lang alam kung paano,” Deunida said.
He added: “’Yung mga bata instead of doing TikTok, bakit hindi mag-aral using technology? Ilang percent ang nagti-TikTok sa atin, ilan percent nagpi-filter sila ng mukha, sumasayaw sila, pero kung ginamit mo ‘yan to learn, sana mas madaming matatalino sa atin. Hindi ako naniniwala na ‘yung mga sa public schools, ‘di sila makagamit ng technology, how come? Nakakapag-TikTok and FB ka nga, pero ‘di ka makapag research? So hindi siya limitation of technology, ‘di niya lang alam ang gagawin, ‘di lang siya na-guide,” said Deunida.
As a parting shot, Deunida encourages Filipinos to embrace technology in their everyday lives, if they haven’t already.
“Ang karamihan ng Pilipino ngayon, nag-a-adjust na sila when it comes to technology, which continues to evolve. ‘Yung mga hindi, they will be left behind,” Deunida said.