Matthew Miller
Jun 25, 2020

Charles Wigley to step down from BBH

After 20 years with the company in Asia and 24 overall, the Asia chairman will depart BBH and move to the UK, but says this is probably not the end of his story in the business.

Charles Wigley
Charles Wigley

BBH Asia announced that Charles Wigley is stepping down from his chairman role and leaving both the agency and Asia. He will serve until the end of the month.

Wigley, known universally as 'Chaz', joined BBH in Singapore in 2001 and became chairman in 2005. He had worked for the agency for four years in London before moving to the region.

The move is purely personal, Wigley told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "I started talking to global a year or so ago about making the move," he said. "Both our kids [twin sons] are doing their last two years back in the UK for school, and we’d like to be with them." Wigley's plans for the immediate future include gardening and renovation work on an inherited countryside home.

However, he added that he doubts this is the end of his adventures in the industry. "The mind is still too active, and I still love our trade," he said.

BBH has no plans to appoint a new regional leader. "Our three offices in Asia are in constant contact with each other both management-wise and by discipline in weekly calls," Wigley said. "We are not huge, so the offices are very aware of the need to help each other to prosper." Global and regional management meetings will keep people talking, and each office reports to global CEO Neil Munn, he added, before quipping, "Mind you, someone will have to take over the seating plans for the regional dinners—good luck with that one."

In a release, the agency praised Wigley for having made a huge impact on BBH Asia’s business, working on key clients such as NTUC Income, Sentosa, UOB, Singapore Tourism Board, Singtel and Max Factor. He has also handled large global clients such as Levi's, Coca-Cola and Johnnie Walker across the region, "delivering transformative strategic work", the agency said.

"We have been very fortunate to have Chaz's razor-sharp brain working for BBH and our clients over the last two decades," Munn said. "I know of very few minds that are capable of being as broad and precise at the same time. Chaz has made a fine contribution to the health of the industry in Asia and will be leaving with our immense gratitude."

BBH Singapore had only been in operation for a few years and had 36 people in a shophouse on Duxton Hill when Wigley joined. It now boasts 300 employees across Shanghai (established in 2006), Mumbai (2009) and Singapore. Wigley said he can only see the Publicis-owned agency going from strength to strength and said that "they certainly don't need me anymore".

"We’ve built a great brand for BBH in Asia," Wigley said. "A ‘rebellious leader’ as Nigel Bogle says. A high-quality strategic and creative agency that always strives to give clients best-quality advice. Everything else—business growth, client satisfaction, creative awards without the need to resort to scam, the ability to recruit some of the best people in the business—flows from this."

With Wigley's departure, BBH's strategic planning leaders are Jacob Wright and Rebecca Ash in Singapore, Siyuan Aw in China and Sanjay Sharma in India.

Asked if he had any thoughts about how the industry has developed in Asia over his tenure, or any parting words of wisdom, Wigley offered the following:

Looking at things from a day-to-day perspective, it’s easy to get down about the industry. A seeming decline in creativity. A too frequent focus on the short- rather than the long-term marketing. Holding companies running their agency brands into the ground, etc. But a 20-year overview helps balance things out.

As markets develop and get more competitive, the recognition by Asian businesses that brands and branding are key is significantly higher than it was in the past. In parallel with this, client marketing departments have become far more sophisticated. They are streets ahead of their predecessors.

Most importantly, I think, is the fact Asian creativity has come to the fore. There is no need in people’s minds to ape a Westernised approach anymore. Indeed, people are far more aware now as to what actually works for their Asian consumers in terms of storytelling.

And, as ever, I think the future is bright for those people and companies that have something genuinely useful to offer and don’t make gratuitous overclaims. Know what you are good at it and deliver it. Not that complex, really.

CHAZ IN CAMPAIGN

Charles Wigley has been a consistent contributor to Campaign Asia-Pacific in recent years, offering pithy and piquant observations about the industry in APAC. Here are a few of our favourites.

How many grown-ups can your agency put in the room?
Advertising is a young person's game, but things have gone too far.

Show me your shi**iest work 
It's a question more clients should ask, and agencies should be prepared to answer. Because perhaps your lowliest work says more about you than your highlight reel.

Can we all stop developing advertising the way small children play football? 
When everyone is running to one spot, I despair.

Are we baking the cake, or just icing it?
If an agency's role is going to be limited, maybe we could waste less time in pitches.

The power of 'no'
For agencies, remembering to refuse when necessary can have positive impacts.

Agency megamergers: Will the fat birds fly?
Will the recent ad-agency megamergers soar to new heights, or fail to take flight? It may come down to questions of organisational culture.

In praise of dull
In an industry that constantly wants to throw out the old and proclaim the new, it's worth remembering that brand-building is about the exact opposite approach.

Is 'demonic' Dominic Cummings currently the best adman in the UK?
Even if you don't care about UK politics, the way Brexit was sold to the public underscores important but oft-forgotten advertising advice.

Note: Tune in tomorrow, when we will publish Wigley's personal compendium of his 20 favourite pieces of BBH work over the last two decades.

 

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