Staff Reporters
Sep 21, 2022

Women to Watch 2022: Ji Watson, McCann Worldgroup

On top of successfully running two high-pressure roles at the network, Watson manages to lead her teams with diversity and respect at the core.

Women to Watch 2022: Ji Watson, McCann Worldgroup
Celebrating outstanding talent in marcomms

Ji Watson

Japan CEO and APAC CFO
McCann Worldgroup

Ji Watson is no stranger to the advertising industry with over 25 years of global experience across media, client and agency. She kickstarted her career at Turner International in a marketing role before joining The Coca-Cola Company where she rose to the position of director, global agency management. Following stints at Ogilvy & Mather and Samsung, she now oversees McCann Japan’s operations as CEO—a role she was promoted to in October 2021—as well as the network’s regional finances as CFO. She also happens to be the only woman CEO of a creative agency network in Japan.

In the past year, amid a tough climate, Watson reduced costs in Japan by double-digits, resulting in a significant margin increase. She also oversaw the creation of a dedicated business unit servicing a large and complex cross-agency client that brought in multi-million revenue for the agency. Plus, she led the launch of McCann Alpha, a division in Japan that aims to serve as a co-creation partner for clients. Under this division, clients such as Panasonic run alongside the agency team throughout a project’s lifecycle, from ideation to realisation.

While wearing her APAC CFO hat, she led regional pitch procurement negotiations that resulted in new business wins across 10 markets, representing an annualised revenue increase of 4.8% for the network. Adding to Watson’s busy schedule is the Value Council, an initiative she established and chairs across markets to develop an innovative pricing model for the network’s product-service offerings. This pricing model has been implemented at the local, regional and global level at McCann and has led to clients benefitting from new pricing menu options in Singapore and Hong Kong.

In Japan, where gender representation in leadership positions isn’t yet ideal, Watson is especially passionate about correcting this imbalance. She led IPG’s Women’s Leadership Network’s (WLN) Japan launch in 2018 and functioned as its co-chair from 2018 to 2021. Not only does she speak at multiple forums and events on the matters of gender, she has also conducted confidence-building workshops for external undergrads to inspire careers in communications and help participants realise their full potential. This, plus a series of other inspiring initiatives, has led to 80% of team members strongly agreeing that the “agency has a climate where sharing diverse perspectives is encouraged”, and 82% believe that their “manager treats all employees with respect”.

Celebrating outstanding talent in marcomms


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