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Jennifer Santos has been chief media officer for Publicis One in the Philippines for a little over a year now, in charge of all Publicis agencies from Starcom to Zenith and a staff of around 300. An industry old hand, having started her career in Manila as an account executive at Grey, Lowe and Leo Burnett Santos rose quickly up the ranks during stints at P&G, Mindshare and ZenithOptimediaGroup. Last year she was named one of the Women To Watch in Campaign Asia Pacific’s annual list, an honour she says left her “very touched”.
“Just to be in the company of other women whom I had not met, with stories I found very inspiring, I think it was very heartwarming,” says Santos. “What I really aspire for is for the people who work with me and for me to really see me as a woman who is inspiring, a woman who they eventually might want to be like, a woman whose values they admire.”
So what does Santos’s busy world look like? We covered five key issues in five minutes.
The Philippines as a developing economy:
I am Filipino, was born here, but I was out of the country for about 10 years working in Singapore, Thailand, China and Hong Kong. I came back in 2013. In the decade I was away there have been marathon changes here, obviously for the better. The economy is at its best and as a result, companies are more diverse. There are also lots of changes in terms of skills, especially in advertising. Now obviously everything is digitised—that’s not to say that the traditional is no longer there but it’s about digitising media, digitising commerce. So someone like me who has been working for 21 years would not have been able to survive if I was living in the past.
Working with millennials:
One of the new skills I’ve needed to build is getting on with millennials. I have read so many nasty things about them but frankly this is one of the most fun parts of my job. I learn a lot from the energy and curiosity of these young people. Working with them effectively all boils down to giving them flexibility in terms of how they learn skills, how they do their work and setting their KPIs. You have to find out what they are good at and hone in on that.
We let our staff come in whenever they like between 8am and 10am but really the only rule we have is to do with leaving times. About a year and a half ago I introduced a 9pm lights out rule that we rolled out across Publicis One, meaning people need to get the approval of their CEOs or managing directors to be able to work overtime. We don’t want people working too long hours to the detriment of their health.
Gender equality in the industry:
I don’t think it is a problem in the Philippines. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone but I would say that there are enough c-suite leaders in advertising—and not only in my agency. It’s not male-dominated. We really try to give equal opportunity regardless of gender and I’m not speaking as management, I’m speaking as someone who has grown up in Publicis. I honestly never felt like I was being deprived of opportunities because I was female.
I also don’t think mentors should always be the same gender as you. You should choose mentors based on their values and passions, and their expertise. In my career I have obviously had both male and female mentors and while I do think women provide a certain level of support to each other, which is fantastic, I wouldn’t limit myself to just having female mentors.
I think integrity is the most important thing. Doing the right thing even when no one is looking. I expect that of the people I work for and people who work for me. Integrity is non-negotiable, regardless of industry—but especially in our industry because we are tasked to nurture our clients’ brand and budget.
The second thing is care and concern for people. You need to want to grow your people, not just your own business, not just your own career. I would not be in the position where I am now if I had not benefitted from the mentorship of the people who I reported to in my past life, whether in the Philippines or outside. They showed genuine care and genuine concern and I try to do the same as much as I can with the people I work with.
Women to Watch is Campaign Asia Pacific's annual roundup of the best up-and-coming female talent from the marketing, advertising, media and PR worlds across the region. Those selected by our judging panel will feature in the July/August issue of Campaign magazine and on our website.