In line with that, Heap has created a new operating structure, hubbing the region into smaller “circles” with more specific agendas. This, he hopes, will help produce much better, award-worthy work. What follows is edited excerpts of a recent conversation with Heap.
How would you describe your first year at MediaCom?
In a word: fabulous. My first time within a regional leadership role has been extremely rewarding. There’s been an awful lot to learn and absorb. This has taken me some time because of the scale of the region. We have 1,700 employees across 14 markets. I’ve been very impressed with what we have to offer across APAC. Although we've got great talent thought within each of our individual markets, until now there hasn’t been enough cross-pollination. We were not leveraging the collective brain power and skill sets across our different markets as effectively as we could be doing.
What are your plans for the region?
We’ve finalised a new structural operating system into a series of complimentary leadership groups, consisting of about 40 senior people representing all countries and functions in the business. We’ve managed to create an operating system that will allow me to make sure the company is benefitting from inputs from all of our people
We have five regional leadership circles; product, client, commercial, Southeast Asia and North Asia. The product leadership team will include the company’s discipline product leads across the region, while the client circle consists of our regional account leaders, and account leads from bigger markets like Australia and China. These circles will have a rotating chairperson every quarter, participating in the APAC Executive Committee, which will include myself, the head of business development, talent, finance, trading and country leads from China, Australia and India.
The idea of hubbing circles has been something I’ve wrestled with for some time now. I feel like a collection of smaller focused circles will have much more specific agendas. I’m hoping this will be a more effective way for us to operate.
What measurable impact do you think you’ve had so far?
I hope that some of things we’ve done have helped people produce better work. We’ve had our best award year. I’m trying to emphasise the importance of internal recognition. We’ve helped train people to craft award entries. That’s definitely paid off.
What’s the biggest challenge working in the region?
Time. Technology helps to keeps us in touch anywhere in the world. But we can only fit so much into a working week and we’ve all got our personal lives to juggle. We need to find more progressive ways of working.
There’s a perception that MediaCom has trouble standing out in the GroupM family. How are you changing that?
It’s not a specific goal to stand out. But I think we need stronger internal communications. I care that MediaCom’s people feel proud to come to work in the morning. There’s more we can do to improve our internal branding to effectively demonstrate why we’re such a great company to work for. Externally too, there's a lot we can do to raise awareness. One of the ways to do that is to do great work. Advocacy is a big thing for us.
Agency folk were quite upset with the handling of the Telkomsel pitch. How do you deal with procurement?
Procurement is valuable and is necessary. I think as agencies there is probably a disconnect between understanding what procurement people need. I’ve spoken in the last year with senior procurement people and it is not their intention to screw the agency. Their intention is to get the best deal for clients. It’s often the agencies that are foolish in how we respond to requests. It’s naïve to just say it’s not fair. I do think the WFA, agencies and pitch consultants could collectively do a lot more in this area. WFA should release guidelines to run a credible pitch process. That would be a great step forward.