Robert Sawatzky
Jun 13, 2024

Grey changes Asia Pacific leadership, appoints Sarah Trombetta as APAC CEO

After 33 years with Grey, global COO and international president Nirvik Singh is leaving the business. Grey also has appointed Masahiko Okazaki as its new CEO in Japan, replacing Yukiko Ochiai.

Grey changes Asia Pacific leadership, appoints Sarah Trombetta as APAC CEO

Grey is shaking up its Asia Pacific leadership, bringing back a regional CEO role and appointing its first woman to the position in its history since entering the region. Sarah Trombetta, currently AMEA chief client officer for P&G for WPP, based in Melbourne, has been appointed APAC CEO, effective immediately. 

The move, part of global CEO Laura Maness’ efforts to reinvigorate the Grey brand worldwide, aims to generate more business growth from the region with a sharper focus on clients and strong creative and commerce work.  

Calling APAC a “growth priority” for Grey, Maness says the change reflects her efforts to shift away from a two-market approach (North America and International) to a more unified structure globally, underpinned by key global client relationships across regions. 

It also marks the agency's return to regional management. Grey confirmed that global COO and international president Nirvik Singh, who has presided over the region since 2010 and served as Southeast Asia CEO as far back as 2004, is leaving the business.  

Maness thanked Singh for his 33 years of service at Grey, telling Campaign, "Nirvik leaves us in great shape for the future. He played a meaningful role in improving our productivity and performance across the region, and we wish him all the best for his future endeavours.” 

Grey global COO and international president Nirvik Singh is leaving the business after 33 years

In Trombetta, Grey is elevating a seasoned leader with 20+ years of agency experience in APAC and the UK. She served as Grey’s Hong Kong CEO from 2016 to 2019 before leading Red Havas as CEO out of Sydney, with prior roles at Hill+Knowlton and GCI in Hong Kong and Melbourne, respectively. 

Trombetta will continue to retain her role as WPP’s client chief for P&G in the region. Maness was quick to praise Trombetta’s “client-focused leadership,” noting that Grey plans to expand its roster of global clients in the region with not only P&G but also the likes of Haleon and HSBC. Grey will also leverage the recent alignment of AKQA in China, now under Grey's management, to grow relationships with brands like Nike, L’Oreal, and Volvo.  

New CEO in Japan

In Japan, Grey is also making a further leadership change as Yukiko Ochiai, its president and CEO for the past six years is leaving the industry. As part of Grey’s reinvention drive, the agency is promoting COO Masahiko Okazaki to CEO of Grey Tokyo, effective immediately. 

Okazaki joined Grey in January 2022 from TBWA Hakuhodo, where he had been head of planning and consulting. By July 2023, he had been promoted to COO. Like Trombetta, Okazaki has managed some of Grey’s key relationships in the market like Uniqlo, Domino’s and Volvo Japan. As such, Grey's leadership says it has been building a succession and growth plan for him for some time.  

Masahiko Okazaki (L) is Grey Tokyo's new CEO, replacing Yukiko Ochiai (R), who is leaving the industry to pursue a new opportunity

“Masa’s stature in the marketplace and client connections will spearhead growth for Grey’s clients and the agency,” Trombetta says. “Grey Tokyo is well renowned for our award-winning creative standards, and I look forward to Masa raising the bar even higher.”      

Locally-driven growth in APAC 
Central to Grey’s new plan to drive further growth from APAC will be to empower local market teams and leaders to create the ‘famously effective work’ that the agency’s tagline promises.  

Trombetta tells Campaign that because client needs vary significantly across different APAC markets, a key focus of hers is in having the best local talent to execute on those diverse needs, which will come from both recruitment and upskilling existing talent. 

“One of the things we're most excited about is how we embolden the local studios to really drive that excellence locally,” Trombetta says. “The more we talk to clients, [the more] they want fabulous talent on the ground who know how to win where their consumers are.” 

This move to reinvigorate local teams will involve several elements, the leaders say. Work culture will be a strong focus for Trombetta, a board director of Wear It Purple, which aims to provide supportive and safe environments for rainbow young people. “A super-inclusive, super-connected, hyper-collaborative, zero-ego team is the culture I’m going to want to cultivate,” Trombetta says. 

But it will also involve working more smartly and efficiently. Maness is bent on leveraging more technology to remove redundancy and duplication in back-office work and invest more in value-creation work. This, in turn, will help local teams facilitate similar changes with clients’ who increasingly want support for digital transformation efforts, Trombetta says. 

While Grey’s work focus spans five key areas: brand storytelling and content, brand experience, creative technology, brand design and identity, and growth strategy and optimisation, the agency plans to look to APAC for leadership and growth in commerce, particularly, which is the ‘effective’ part of its ‘famously effective work’ promise.  

“We think about commerce throughout every aspect of our work, that spans the full capability and offering,” Maness tells Campaign. “Using creativity to drive business results in growth, particularly in a market with mobile-first thinking. We have evidence-based insights, data and applied AI that underpin everything we do, and the level of innovation in the region is unmatched. That's something that we're looking to capitalise on.” 

Campaign Asia

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