In 2015, Campaign Asia-Pacific named Anne Ridwan as one of the 20 “formidable femmes” to watch out for in the year to come. She has lived up to those expectations.
Last year this time, she was named the CEO of Publicis One in Indonesia, looking after Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia, Publicis Worldwide, MSL Razorfish and Sapient. Prior to that, she was the CEO of Leo Burnett Indonesia since 2012.
And today, O&M Indonesia named her as its CEO, replacing Katryna Mojica, who took up the position of Ogilvy Hong Kong CEO in January. Ridwan, who officially starts with O&M in June spoke with Campaign Asia-Pacific about what prompted this move and her vision for the agency going forward.
You started your career with JWT. And now you are back in the WPP fold. How do you feel and what prompted this move?
I am quite excited to come back into a large, well-respected multinational corporation like WPP, which is on a progressive mode. I have always admired Ogilvy for its solid systems and a client-focused approach and am happy to be here. The new global CEO is transforming the agency to make it a lot more collaborative by breaking silos and simplifying the agency’s brand offerings to the clients. In all my years in advertising, especially the last few, I have believed that this is the only way forward and am glad to be continuing the process here at O&M Indonesia.
How different do you think the systems at O&M will be from Leo Burnett, where you have spent a good six years?
I don’t think they are different at all, besides the few basic cultural differences. O&M has been pushing a lot more integration, collaboration and agility in its approach to help clients solve their business issues. We were driving the same thing at Leo Burnett and even more at Publicis One. And personally coming from a large multidiscipline agency, I think I have the expertise and the experience to be able to add real value to our clients here.
You had personally nurtured some key clients such as Indofood, Telkomsel and McDonald’s at Leo Burnett. Do you think they are in safe hands?
It’s never easy to let go of old relationships but I also believe that an agency is not about any one person. It is teamwork and collaboration of many hands that creates a successful agency. I wouldn’t be a good leader if things were to fall apart with just me moving on. I have invested immense amount of time in the last six years to build skills and capabilities in in the right talent and empowered them by giving them opportunities to grow. At Publicis One, we have what is called “succession planning” where systems are put in place pre-emptively to reduce any impact of someone moving. The new CEO, Brian Capel, has been my partner for the longest time and is the best candidate for this role, the management remains the same and there is no way that my move to O&M will stop Publicis One’s progression plan in Indonesia.
In an industry where most top positions are taken by expats, you are one of the few locally nurtured talents. How did you achieve that?
My mentors at JWT were the ones who gave me wings to fly, and I learnt the importance of sharing skills and knowledge to those reporting to you so as to empower them to be able to fill in your shoes very early in my career. Indonesia has never been an early adopter of changing trends and technology and thus, we have needed outside help to keep us competitive. That said, one plan that I bring with me is to train and educate the local talent in all aspects of advertising. They should strive for much more than a middle-management position. They should be able to reach for the stars, and we will give them the skills to do just that.
Taking forward Campaign Asia’s conversation on “gender diversity”, how was it to be a woman climbing up the career ladder in Indonesia?
As far as my experience goes, I have found mentors who looked beyond my gender and believed in my capabilities. Thus, I would say it’s a fairly level-playing field here in Indonesia not just in advertising but everywhere.