Michael O'Neill
Jul 27, 2011

Y&R global CEO David Sable on China acquisitions, digital and the challenge of Asia

TOKYO - Y&R global CEO David Sable spoke with Campaign Asia-Pacific during his recent visit to the region, sharing his thoughts on his priorities for the network in the region, including the prospect of growth in China.

David Sable
David Sable

Campaign caught up with Sable during his trip to the Denstu Y&R office in Tokyo. “Being in Japan is inspiring," he says. "Seeing how quickly the country has recovered. It is a lesson for everyone."

In terms of Asia, Sable outlines Japan and China as obvious priorities. For China, specifically, where Y&R has been slower to take off compared to some of its rivals, he believes the agency is moving in the right direction. “In China, it was always a case of getting our feet into the market. But look at our latest wins and the work we have been doing for Gap. We are now working with top tier clients.”

In regards to the future, Sable says to expect a certain amount of acquisition and market building activity in the China market. “Acquisitions not just for scale — although that is important — but also for expertise,” he says.

Elsewhere, Sable says to expect some interesting developments in India, while he sees Indonesia as a “great market” for Y&R, with huge growth opportunity.

A frequent visitor to Asia over the past three decades, Sable says he is continually impressed by the region’s energy; its “always on” attitude.

“One of the things that has changed in the region is that at one time people wanted to leave here and the only people who visited were tourists and a few expats. Now this is the region to be. There is not an MBA in the US who doesn’t think about spending a few years in Asia. The challenge is that you have to keep up with this change. You have to understand the culture and have respect for doing things differently.”

Previously global vice chairman and CEO at the Y&R Brands digital agency Wunderman, where he worked for 11 years, Sable took over the Y&R role from Hamish McLennan in February this year. His resume also includes time in the PR sector at Burson-Marsteller and Sudler &Hennessey, as well as an earlier stint at Y&R 17 years ago.

Sable believes that this background gives him a strong foundation for leading a modern agency network business, especially given the growing pervasiveness of digital communications. “I have had the blessing to have had a broad view of the industry,” he says.

Despite his digital and direct background, however, Sable appears to favour a more platform neutral approach to marketing. “There is nothing today that is not digital," he says. "I truly believe that for the consumer today there is no such thing as 360 communications; there is nothing specifically direct or indirect. We have to bring the story, the brand story, the reason to buy. That is what I do and what I bring to the table.”



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