Danny Wirianto: Turning Around a Negative Image

Internet users here are no doubt familiar with the kaskus.us community forum, which is an online forum for the exchange of information as well as a market for users from various communities based on mutual interests and hobbies. Kaskus is the largest original Indonesian online forum and is the sixth most frequently accessed site among Indonesian Internet users.  

One of the key persons behind the online community forum is Danny Oei Wirianto, the chief marketing officer of PT Darta Media Indonesia, which owns the website. He joined the company in March 2008.  

“I had known about kaskus for quite some time and was actually surprised that although the website had an unattractive appearance the traffic was quite high. So I contacted them via email,” recalled Danny, who was born in Jakarta in 1974.  

Danny’s vast experience in websites is acknowledged by many. Before joining kaskus, Danny established Semut Api Colony, which is an advertising agency that also manages and operates a number of websites belonging to several major companies. “After I reviewed the content of kaskus further, I found its plus points, which were its successful community forums and the informative content. The minus point was the pornographic content that damaged the image of kaskus.”  

Danny was later offered the opportunity to join the operation and management of the website with a mission to revamp the website’s image. Initially, kaskus was set up by Andrew Darwis in the US in 1999. At the time, Andrew was in the States studying. While there, he studied multimedia and web design at the Art Institute of Seattle and computer science at the University of Seattle, from which he earned his Master’s. Andrew established kaskus while there and paid US$7 to rent the hosting for a year and $3 to buy a domain.  

In its early days, kaskus, which stands for kasak kusuk (gossip), was an online news portal. However, not many Internet users accessed the site. A year later, Andrew changed the format to become an online community forum. The first forum was for game enthusiasts. Then it was expanded to include other forums, such as photography, ornamental plants and even an adult forum.  

After that, kaskus.us gained popularity among underground virtual users. Unfortunately, the popularity was due to the adult forum, which contained lots of pornographic content. When Andrew returned to Indonesia in 2008, he brought his seven servers so that he could manage and operate kaskus. He asked his cousin, Ken Dean, to join in the establishment of PT Darta Media Indonesia to manage kaskus more seriously. Danny later joined as part of the management team.

Danny acknowledges that the heaviest burden lay on his shoulders. “But the challenge was in fact quite interesting. Would I be able to change the negative image and turn it around?”

During that period a new law on information and electronic media, Law No 11/ 2008, came into effect and ruled that websites should not have pornographic content. Eventually, kaskus decided to drop the adult forum and gradually the perception of being a pornographic website faded. Soon the tarnish completely disappeared from kaskus’s image.  

At that time, kaskus had 350,000 registered members, who were referred to as kaskusers. By the middle of this year, the number had grown to 1.8 million, which means an increase of 500 percent over two years. Meanwhile, kaskus has over 30 million visitors with an average access time of 35 minutes. It has page views exceeding 15,000,000 every day and to date kaskus has had more than 190 million postings.  

These achievements have not been easy because extra hard work is required to build a new, positive image and to change a previously negative perception in its marketing and brand.  

Danny uses a number of unique marketing techniques, such as community empowerment, building close relations with business partners, guerrilla marketing and becoming famous by association. “We also use a nationalistic campaign by enhancing the new image of kaskus as the original Indonesian website that is capable of competing with foreign websites,” said Danny, who is a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University, Michigan.  

Due to the great number of kaskusers, the website is attracting more ads, meaning revenue from advertising has also increased. Danny said that when it was previously not managed professionally, the income of kaskus was only “X” per year, but now it has become “2X” per month. “However, we are fully committed to community development and how users can interact conveniently,” explained Danny.  

Talking about convenience, kaskus has added a number of features for kaskusers, such as e-payment, e-commerce and kaskus Mobile. The e-payment is called Kaspay, which can be used as an e-wallet for online transactions. The Selling and Buying Forum has become a convenient e-commerce location for users, while kaskus Mobile makes it highly convenient for mobile users.  

The successful strategy and its achievements to date prove Danny’s capability in marketing the company. Danny’s career in website marketing has indeed been brilliant even though his education background is fine art. His work experience at Agency.com, which manages the e-business of a number of major companies such as Nike.com, Compaq.com and LG.com, has proved to be useful. He was also sent to Seoul, South Korea, to head a joint venture company owned by Agency.com.  

Before joining kaskus, Danny set up Semut Api Colony in Chicago, the US, in 2001. When he returned to Indonesia in 2003, Semut Api Colony picked up a number of major clients, namely Djarum, BCA, LG, Samsung, Bank Niaga and Microsoft. This year the agency was named The Best Rising Star Agency while kaskus has won three awards in the past two years: The Best Marketing Innovation, The Best Market Drive and The Greatest Brand of the Decade.  

Next to being CEO of Semut Api Colony, Danny is also CEO of a digital marketing communication agency, Klix Digital. Semut Api Colony and Klix Digital are marketing consultancy companies under the umbrella of PT Merah Cipta Media. Albeit in the same field, marketing communication, that is, each company has a different focus. Semut Api Colony handles total marketing communication campaigns and Klix Digital handles digital marketing communication, including the Internet and handsets. (Ade Irwan Trisnadi)  

The Jakarta Post, July 14, 2010

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