Nikita Mishra
Aug 15, 2023

Wunderman Thompson names new APAC CEO

Audrey Kuah takes over the role left vacant by the exit of Annette Male in 2021. Global president and EMEA CEO Ewen Sturgeon was heading both regions in the interim period.

Audrey Kuah, APAC CEO, Wunderman Thompson
Audrey Kuah, APAC CEO, Wunderman Thompson

Wunderman Thompson has appointed Audrey Kuah as its new APAC chief executive officer, to lead the creative and strategic growth of business across the APAC region. Kuah will continue to be based in Singapore for the new role; she starts in September and will report to global CEO, Mel Edwards.

Kuah takes over from global president and EMEA CEO Ewen Sturgeon who was also leading both the regions (EMEA and APAC) after the departure of APAC CEO Annette Male in September 2021. At that point, Male had been leading the APAC team for over two-and-a-half years before taking the hotly contested role of leading Meta’s agency development team in the region.

Following Male’s departure, the agency eliminated its APAC and EMEA regional leadership positions in favour of one chief executive of International. Strugeon, the EMEA leader since May 2019, was elevated with immediate effect in September 2021 and the additional oversight of APAC, which comprised 27 Wunderman Thompson offices in 17 countries handed over to him.

One international leader and the absence of a regional head can be a recipe for disaster. However, Campaign remarked in its Agency Report Card of 2022 that Sturgeon was able to use that to his advantage. What worked in his favour was that structurally and operationally, APAC and EMEA remained two separate units in the last two years under different business heads who reported to one international leader. So, in a way, Kuah inherits a consistent and a fairly stable shop from its predecessor who is credited with considerably turning around the high rate of attrition plaguing the agency during the pandemic in 2021.

Kuah is a well-known name in industry circles having worked extensively at both the agency and client side since her career took off nearly three decades back.

She joins Wunderman Thompson from OCBC Bank where she was the group marketing head for the Global Consumer and Financial Services vertical. Her remit included delivering creative, integrated and insights-driven campaigns for the bank. Boasting an innovation-first mindset, she has designed the bank’s consumer arm experience in Decentraland in tandem with the internal brand and communications team.

No stranger to the agency world, Kuah spent nearly eight years at various positions at Dentsu International, the last being the executive director of Dentsu’s APAC media group in March 2020. Prior to that, she worked in various capacities at Group M for almost a decade.

“My recent client-side experience has been invaluable, but agency has always felt like home to me. When I also looked at the Wunderman Thompson proposition—one where creativity and imagination is seamlessly interwoven with data, commerce, and technology, plus to be working with the dynamic and diverse teams across Asia Pacific—the opportunity was too compelling to ignore,” says Kuah to Campaign on her return to the agency world.

Mel Edwards the global CEO of Wunderman Thompson says: “Having worked both client and agency side, Audrey understands and appreciates the dynamics of working with leading global brands. We’ll have the best of both worlds for our people and our clients in APAC with Audrey at the helm, and I have no doubt she will bring her joy for creative problem solving to combine our creative offering and capabilities to drive growth in the region.”

Currently on the Singapore Tourism Board and most recently on the board of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore International as well, Kuah is one of the few women regional leaders in adland.

Kuah added: “My journey in marketing and advertising jumpstarted at J. Walter Thompson Singapore, I’m delighted to come full circle and lead the network’s operations across Asia Pacific. It’s not often this kind of opportunity presents itself, let alone for a network as progressive as Wunderman Thompson. The depth and breadth of the capabilities Wunderman Thompson has to offer is unmatched, and I look forward to working with both teams and clients to deliver their vision in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing regions in the world.” 

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