Cheuk Chiang has been appointed as CEO, Dentsu Creative Asia Pacific. He will take on this role in addition to his positions as Greater North CEO and chairman of Dentsu China. Chiang will be based in Shanghai, China, and will report to both Robert Gilby, the newly appointed APAC CEO, and Fred Levron, global chief creative officer, Dentsu International.
Chiang’s hire accelerates Dentsu’s creative ambitions across its agencies and for its clients. He will be responsible for accelerating growth of over 5,000 employees, building on the agencies’ current capabilities and Japanese creative roots, and delivering on the company’s vision for horizontal creativity.
Prior to joining Dentsu in December 2019, Chiang was the chairman of Mutiny Group, a predictive management consultancy and technology company. Before that he was the APAC CEO for Omnicom Media Group where he led over 4,000 staff in 47 offices across 21 markets.
Chiang has presided over 140 ‘Agency of the Year’ awards and award-winning campaigns throughout his 29-year-long career and has twice served as a judge at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as well as chairman and president roles at the APAC Effies, Spikes Asia and Dubai Lynx award shows.
Campaign sat down with Chiang to understand his plan of action for the new role.
Describe your new role and how you will be transitioning into it from your current role.
I'm looking forward to it, it’s exciting and humbling to go back to my roots, go back to where my passion lies. For the next six months, I would be setting the foundations for brand building, strategic planning, and re-positioning our capabilities to give the teams a huge breadth and depth of skills to accelerate growth. Dentsu’s biggest strength is our strongest end-to-end media, marketing, and advertising capabilities. In terms of business, we’ve had more acquisitions than any other network, and the opportunity now is to unleash that creativity to drive that integration.
My priorities are:
1) To position ourselves to growth and cement the future success of our business.
2) Ensure that we fully launch Dentsu Creative in all the markets as we are still transitioning in the region.
3) The key thing that I am working on is to deliver a stronger-than-ever product. I am putting together a plan to getting a better understanding of all the businesses and be able to strengthen each market to access the full capabilities of the group with horizontal creativity, combined with data, media, and CXM for end-to-end modern creative solutions.
You joined Dentsu right before the thick of the pandemic. How did that go for you?
I joined Dentsu as CEO, Greater North APAC in December 2019 for a couple of important reasons. I was very interested in turning around the China business and also wanted to live in China. They say Shanghai is the Madison Avenue of Asia—there is so much energy and transformation going on in China and I wanted to be a part of that.
But the pandemic changed a lot of things. It obviously did not offer the flying start we would’ve hoped. The things that I was used to doing—being very hands-on with every market, all went for a toss with Covid. But then we adapted quickly. From collaborating face-to-face, we created our own working patterns over Teams and virtual interaction became key. We had to accept, adapt, and were determined to grow and become creative in ways we could have never imagined three years ago. It was a very, very challenging situation—but we were determined to come out more fluid, agile, efficient, and experimental.
What are some strengths you bring into this new role?
I am passionate about building businesses, culture, vision and teams. I value creativity for its power to transform brands and businesses. Given my diverse work experience across creative and media side, we will be able to give our clients the full richness of the group, with horizontal creativity, combined with data, media, and CXM for modern creative solutions.
Tell us about your management style and what kind of changes can be expected under your leadership?
I'm a very hands-on, open and a collaborative person. Radical collaboration is our superpower at the company. I am a big believer in innovation and hard work. I like to rally around people. Invest time and effort in mentoring the next generation because people are what ultimately drives success. And that sums me up to a tee really. My style is one that's probably much more creating utility in the team. I don't want to be one of those weekend guys that he's there just pointing fingers and telling people what to do. I want to be able to be there, help my team, nurture, and grow.
Will you be taking learnings from Phil Adrian who was previously in this role?
Phil was in the role for a short time but probably the biggest lesson I took from him was the way he changed the conversation and agenda to one that was around the work and creativity. The sole focus is to further improve the quality of our work. I'm looking forward to growing the legacy that he and Merlee Jayme, Dentsu's Asia-Pacific chief creative officer built.
In your opinion, what's the biggest killer of creativity in Asia at the moment?
I would say that it's an inability to leverage data to generate true insight or provocation. Because great creativity needs strong provocation. It needs strong insight, and the industry is currently lacking that. There is a compelling need for better data-based strategy and that’s where Dentsu sits at a favourable position with Merkle, our technology-enabled data-driven CXM company.
Dentsu Creative had a dream run at Cannes Lions. How are you planning to build on that success for your clients?
We want to raise the bar and do it with purpose and care. The agenda is to have creativity pulsating in every Dentsu office, have every team consistently dip into the depths and breadths of their creative capabilities and deliver. We want to bring in and inspire the very best talent to join us and put the focus on not just the product, but also on building people and teams. Once you have a people-centric approach with best practices, highest standards of unparalleled work and stronger client connections will follow.