Jessica Goodfellow
Aug 12, 2019

AKQA unites China and Japan under Sam Sterling

The agency will offer clients cross-border solutions across China and Japan as a result of the new leadership structure

AKQA's Shanghai office
AKQA's Shanghai office

AKQA has handed Sam Sterling an expanded remit to manage both its China and Japan outposts as AKQA Tokyo managing director Aika Sawai steps down from the business.

Sawai is leaving the business due to personal reasons, the agency said, and will stay on till the end of September to ensure a smooth transition. She only took up the Tokyo MD role in May.

Sterling, who has been managing director of China for 18 months, will use the opportunity to create cross-border solutions for clients in both countries with broader design and experience offerings.

"China and Japan represent two of the most innovative and culturally-interesting markets in the region, and there couldn’t be a more exciting time to be working with our ambitious clients and partners to drive their businesses to the next level across both markets," she said.

Sterling has overseen the launch of several products in AKQA China over the past 18 months, including its MVP Studio, a three-week rapid sprint prototyping tool, and its 'consumer incubation model', which helps clients understand the nuances of the Chinese consumer. She is currently assessing whether to roll out some of China's products to the Japan office.

She has grown AKQA China's revenue by 22% since taking the reins in February 2018, with new clients including Evian and Ford Motor Company. 

Meanwhile, the Japan office won Lion, MQA, Amazon Echo, Evian and Google as clients in 2018 and has undergone "tremendous growth" since its inception in 2012, the agency said.

Sam Sterling and Brian Vella

AKQA Asia Pacific managing director Brian Vella said Sterling's appointment to managing director of Greater China and Japan was a "natural decision".

“Over the past 18 months, Sam has demonstrated an ability to live and breathe AKQA’s values. Under her leadership, we have witnessed tremendous business growth, as well as the development of a strong, innovative and collaborative working culture that delivers work beyond our clients’ expectations," he said.

"I would like to thank Aika for her dedication to AKQA over the last seven years. As one of our founding staff members in the Tokyo office, she has left a strong legacy. We wish her the very best," he added.

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