May 12, 2015

Women to watch 2015: Formidable femmes

The following 20 individuals stand out for their attitude, acumen and achievements, and are destined to rise to new heights. (Presented in no particular order. Full profiles appear below.)

Tze Kiat Tan
CEO Greater China
BBDO

Tze Kiat Tan’s recent ascendance to CEO following Carol Potter’s resignation is much deserved. Tan — or ‘Z’, as she is often known — has been at BBDO since 2004, the same amount of time as her former boss. Alongside Potter, she helped to build the agency into what it is today, from 70 people to a network of 500 across Greater China. In R3’s most recent Agency Scope, marketers and industry professionals listed BBDO China as the second highest performing agency in the market and the top for senior management involvement.

Clearly, after a decade with the company, Tan has lost none of her drive to build the company. Last year, she led a pitch conversion rate of 70 per cent (80 per cent for local clients), increasing revenue by more than 16 per cent.

There’s also no danger of company structure becoming stale under Tan. She recently formed a system of interchangeable pods of planners and creatives to promote diversity and knowledge-sharing. She has also gone the extra mile in terms of presentation training: operating a monthly ‘night school’, and bringing in image consultants to hone staff body-language for more effective pitching.

Chris Thomas, outgoing chairman and CEO of BBDO AMEA, sums her performance up by saying “the sky is the limit on what she can achieve”.

Nancy Lan
General manager 
Optimedia Shanghai

Nancy Lan has been involved in content and sponsorships for most of her career and since her appointment as head of Newcast China in 2013, she has been praised for her solid leadership skills and for driving strong growth across the business. 

Over the past 12 months, she has been a key factor in growing business for Newcast as well as ZenithOptimedia. She was involved in the wins of Sands Group, Dior Social, Amway and Huawei Social. Following 75 per cent revenue growth last year, she was recently promoted to lead the much bigger operation of Optimedia Shanghai. 

Lan first became part of the agency when she moved to London, joining Newcast Worldwide, ZenithOptimedia’s specialist branded-content/experience arm. As strategy integration director, Lan worked on a content-planning process that was sold to international clients, including Nestlé, and has since been institutionalised across the ZenithOptimedia global network.

Sarah Stringer
Group innovations director
Carat Australia

Sarah Stringer has come quite some way since she started out at PHD Rocket in London: her first job in media involved booking ads for a funeral company. She persevered, joining Carat in 2011 and delivering impressive results on brands such as Disney, Adidas and Mattel. At just 31, she is the youngest member of the agency’s senior management team with her focus now on delivering technology and trends insights to agency teams and clients. In particular, she encourages clients to look beyond conventional media planning and take a ‘70/20/10’ approach, which means setting aside 10 per cent of the budget for experimentation. She has facilitated partnerships between clients and startups, and internally contributes to making her agency more creative by running regular brainstorming sessions that generate ideas to improve client business.

Stringer is noted for her enthusiasm but also for her ability to make new technology understandable for everyone. Her philosophy is that if “your mum wouldn’t understand it, you are [explaining] it wrongly”. She even completed a course in stand-up comedy to ensure her presentations are engaging, informative and entertaining.

Simon Ryan, chief executive of Carat Australia and New Zealand, describes Stringer as “a true innovator … leading the charge of making sure we as a company and individuals are at the forefront of new thinking”. Agencies would undoubtedly benefit from more people like her in the business.

Jen Loong 
Toms China (Toms does not give staff titles)

Jen Loong heads up Toms’ China branding, a position she took up because of her adamant belief about the role philanthropy can play in branding. To date, she says Toms has given away 600,000 pairs of shoes in China, as well as more than 35 million pairs in over 70 other countries. Her focus in China is market-entry through offline and online strategies, which include gamification. She also struck a partnership with Alibaba to help grow the shoe company’s TMall’s sales five-fold.

Toms’ Asia-Pacific sales and marketing director, A. Hajime Birnbaum, says Loong “is adaptive to new cultures and new ways of thinking” but is also “relentless” when it comes to changing lives and convincing partners to participate in the brand’s philanthropic approach.

At only 26, Loong has already played a part in establishing an international portal for Western retailers on Alipay and launching sports brand Lululemon Athletica in Shanghai (punctuating the retail opening with a 900-yogi event on the Bund). As of this writing she was jumping off-the-grid to go photograph a matriarchal tribe in Yunnan. She travels regularly to share stories from underserved communities worldwide through social media and magazines.

Amanda Goh
Managing director
Edelman Singapore

PR is an industry in need of transformation, but genuine change agents and big picture thinkers are still scarce. Amanda Goh stands out as someone helping to move PR to the centre of major brand campaigns by rethinking how an agency needs to operate. Over the past 18 months, Goh is credited with putting Edelman ahead of the competition by creating a total of 13 new types of roles in the fields of creativity, publishing and partnerships, and strategy. Last year alone, Goh oversaw an increase in headcount of 35 per cent and invested in 2,300 staff training hours. This led to more than US$4 million in new business across sectors ranging from energy to health, sports, technology and financial services.

A former journalist with 18 years of consulting experience, Goh is also passionate about advancing female leadership and is a mentor for Protégé, a programme to further the professional development of women across the region.

“Amanda runs a very smart and disciplined business,” says Iain Twine, chief executive of Edelman Southeast Asia and Australasia. “She has deep relationships with every one of her team, and helps create a happy environment. Edelman’s global network believes that Singapore, under Amanda’s leadership, is a place to watch.”

Caroline Chan
Greater China/North Asia content director
GroupM

The former MD of Maxus Hong Kong, Caroline Chan took on her current role this year, having held senior positions at OMD and most recently Maxus. Under her leadership, the Hong Kong office doubled in both size and revenue over the space of four years. Last year, she led the win of more than US$35 million in new business, with no losses. She has also built the agency’s digital business up to represent 50 per cent of total revenue, considerably above the industry average. She has shown that a media agency can do much more than media planning: last year, Maxus led an online video campaign for Hang Seng Bank, and recommended the construction of a branded merry-go-round for Pandora, which generated strong interest and raised store visits for the Danish brand.

In short, Chan is an advocate of change and being the first to try something. Earlier this year, she led a partnership with NDN Group to launch Hong Kong’s first touchable interactive video, securing the technology for Maxus clients at an exclusive trial rate. This approach puts her in a good position to open new doors for GroupM Sports and Entertainment across North Asia. She also uses her skills in media to support a number of charities including Sedan Chair and Mother’s Choice. In addition to her professional strengths, Chan is described as someone who makes work fun for those around her — no small consideration.

Cheryl Kow 
Marketing director
Kipling Asia-Pacific

Recently appointed to lead Kipling’s regional marketing, Cheryl Kow previously spent 10 years involved in marketing and business development at Timberland, where she helped build the brand in Asia over a crucial period of growth and change.

With the challenge of staying consistent and flexible regionally, Kow set up systems and frameworks within the company with a “robust cycle of briefs, discussions and feedback”. This allowed Timberland to be dynamic locally and in country markets, while still getting support from the brand’s global offices and resources.

For Kow, this culminated in the setup of a global influencer campaign and network last year, with 30 influencers globally, six of whom were in Asia. The influencers in Asia were unique, yet consistent in representing the brand and message they were trying to deliver, a testament to the strong processes in place, allowing Timberland to extend a globally integrated effort.

Kow’s latest role at Kipling sees her using her brand and marketing communications skills to work with Cambodia’s Children’s Fund, a non-profit organisation that takes care of children in the Steung Meanchey area in Phnom Penh. “It’s incredibly meaningful being able to use brand and communications to serve both ends, and to see the value, no matter how big or small on these communities we work with,” she says.

Anabella Yang 
Chief digital officer
MEC Interaction

In her early 20s, Anabella Yang co-founded one of China’s first digital marketing agencies, China Interactive, in 1998. By the time the agency was sold to Nurun in 2006, it had become one of the nation’s top-five interactive agencies by client and revenue size. When Publicis acquired Nurun in 2014, Yang opted to join MEC and help drive the agency’s digital growth in China. In the 10 months that Yang has been working at MEC she has grown the agency’s digital revenues by 50 per cent year-on-year. She has reorganised its digital offering with a strong emphasis on performance marketing, social, content and ecommerce. She also led the team in an award-winning social campaign for H&M and a multi-award winning integrated campaign for Smart. 

MEC credits her with establishing its digital and data play for the next three years and with building up a digital-only client portfolio. “Annabella was a game-changing hire for MEC China,” comments Ben Poole, head of interaction at MEC APAC. “Annabella is at the heart of [MEC’s digital and data] change in China. She has got a fantastic track record and she will be the architect of our seismic shift, leading this transformation.”

Rochelle Chhaya 
Managing partner, digital
OMG Thailand

After graduating with honours in economics, Rochelle Chhaya initially tried her hand at banking but soon realised it wasn’t for her. She pursued an MBA in marketing innovation and then joined a small startup. In 2008, she was hired by OMD Asia-Pacific to handle its newly won Intel business. Among her contributions was the award-winning Intel-Swarm campaign, a group-buying campaign that dropped the price of products as buyers increased.

“There are very few occasions in 25 years in this industry that I’ve come across talent that I’d describe as exceptional. I’d use that word to describe Rochelle,” says then-regional VP marketing at Intel, Greg Fisher. 

In 2011, Chhaya decided it was “time for a change” and left OMD for L’Oréal, where she was media manager, before moving on to HTC as head of marketing for Southeast Asia. When OMG needed someone to spearhead, build and lead its operations in Thailand in 2013, the firm went back to Chhaya. As managing partner of OMG Digital Thailand, Chhaya has quadrupled its business over the past year with a 112 per cent increase in direct revenue by winning 23 pieces of new business assignments worth over US$250 million in billings. The digital division, which at first only contributed 3 per cent of OMG’s overall business, now contributes 19 per cent. Within 10 months, she managed to win an award in Campaign’s Agency of the Year, the agency’s first.

Sarah Tate
Head of agency 
Google Hong Kong 

Sarah Tate began her career in search at Vizeum and then as account director at ZenithOptimedia. When she joined Google UK, she realised she was hearing the same story over and over again from agencies and brands: there isn’t enough digital talent.

Digital education became Tate’s mission and she created a new intensive program called ‘Squared’ at Google to empower marketers in a landscape that is constantly disrupted by technology.

Squared was a success and has since evolved into an award-winning online programme in the UK. Yet, developing and keeping digital talent was an industry challenge globally. Tate brought the course to five Asia-Pacific locations in 2014, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, India and Australia. 

By educating the next generation of digital talent and exposing the industry to the possibilities unleashed through digital, she hopes to make digital core to the agency and brand experience.

Now at Google Hong Kong, Tate partners with large-scale agencies and brands to set-up digital training. She arrived in Asia in early 2014 with one goal: to digitally empower the leaders of tomorrow’s advertising and marketing industry.

Aleetza Senn
Managing partner & co-founder 
Sparkline

Before establishing Sparkline, Aleetza Senn was Google’s sixth employee in Asia, where she managed the giant’s largest customers — mostly Fortune 500 companies — helping them to activate their digital strategies. She also took a risk and became the only volunteer to launch YouTube in Asia-Pacific. It was a risk because at that time, only five hours of video was being uploaded each minute; that number is now 200 hours.

In 2010, Senn won a Global Founders Sales Award for success in monetising YouTube in Asia and won a further award in 2011 for signing a multi-million-dollar partnership between Google and Newscorp. 

In 2013, Senn left Google to pursue an idea and fill a gap in the market. While at Google, she noticed that many large clients were struggling to get the most out of analytics and big data. So in May that year, with her ex-Google colleague Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar, she launched Sparkline, Singapore’s first integrated digital analytics-focused agency. 

In less than two years, Senn has built Sparkline into a global business, servicing 11 countries worldwide. Her team of experts has grown from zero to 15 in a year and provides digital analytics support to customers across 11 languages and 8 vertical markets. She has led engagements with the likes of Reebonz, Ikea and Malaysia Airlines, optimising their digital strategies and acquisition channels.

Doireann Ó Brádaigh
Commercial director AU/NZ 
The Trade Desk

Although Doireann Ó Brádaigh’s ‘online’ experience started in 2000 with a stint at a web portal company, her first taste of adtech started in 2002 with Doubleclick in Ireland, managing sales for its DART product across EMEA. In 2003, she left Doubleclick for a gig with ninemsn Australia but returned in 2005 when it was now a part of Google. It was when she moved to the sales side that Ó Brádaigh found her metier. She quickly moved through the ranks over the years and became one of the top performers at Google, capped with induction into the prestigious President’s Club Award.

In 2007, Ó Brádaigh joined the team that launched The Rubicon Project in Asia-Pacific. Starting anew and with the market at the nascent stage of RTB and yield-management implementation, Ó Brádaigh was still able to drive significant revenue.

In 2014, Ó Brádaigh joined The Trade Desk as the company’s first employee in Australia/New Zealand, as commercial director with one simple goal — to build The Trade Desk’s local team up from scratch. She now has a team of seven with more hires in the pipeline. In Australia, The Trade Desk now powers five out of the six automated trading desks in the market. This is in addition to working with some of the largest aggregators in the Australia/New Zealand market. From nothing, she has grown business to millions of dollars in billings and she has also established The Trade Desk as a viable competitor in a Google-dominated marketplace.

Eunice Tan
Head of planning
The Secret Little Agency

When Eunice Tan joined TSLA in 2009, the new independent agency was still working out of the dining room of an apartment. Today, she leads the largest department at the company, heading up a team of 13 strategic planners. 

Tan is credited for TSLA’s creative briefing methodology and format that has resulted in the development of work for clients including Shell, Evian and the Economic Development Board of Singapore. She was on stage when the agency took home Creative Agency of the Year 2013 and 2014. 

Tan is also praised for having an instrumental role in growing young talent at TSLA, where she introduced the planning associate role at the agency in 2014, to create junior placements for planners who made it through TSLA’s internship planning programme. With a strong background in senior client management, she also often works with TSLA’s creative directors and internal team to contribute in the ideation and concept development phase.

Anne Ridwan
Group managing director
Leo Burnett Indonesia

Anne Ridwan has been described as a fast thinker who believes in her intuition, but also as someone listens intently and is highly analytical. Her style seems to be paying off. In 2014, under Ridwan’s leadership, Leo Burnett Indonesia was awarded Digital Agency of the Year and Media Agency of the Year by advertising festival Citra Pariwara. The agency’s creative ranking also rose significantly to the number two spot for ‘most creative agency in Indonesia’. According to the agency, Ridwan holds the unique position of being the first Indonesian to lead Leo Burnett in Indonesia, as well as being the only local woman in the market to lead an agency of Leo Burnett’s size. 

Described by colleagues as genuine and sincere, Ridwan does not take herself too seriously and is “not afraid to dance like no one is watching”. When she’s not dancing, Ridwan is passionate about mentoring and developing her team and is driven by insights on people and great creative ideas. Ridwan is also an active guest speaker in Indonesian universities to help attract young talent to the industry.

Rika Sharma
General manager
Social@Ogilvy Singapore

Rika Sharma has risen swiftly through the ranks at Ogilvy in the past four years, climbing from senior strategist to being named general manager of Social@Ogilvy Singapore, in 2013. Today, she leads Ogilvy & Mather Singapore’s fastest growing team of 25 social media experts servicing 20 clients.

Her early experience as a small business owner has clearly paid off and Sharma has shown strong leadership and management skills, while growing the business steadily. In the past 12 months, she has grown Social@Ogilvy Singapore’s revenue 39 per cent, winning 11 new clients and retaining 100 per cent of existing business. Last year, the agency picked up 13 awards, including two Cannes Lions (silver and bronze).

In 2014, Sharma oversaw the launch of the Singapore Content Studio at the agency, providing custom, real-time content to clients. Within a year of its launch, the Content Studio has produced more than 800 pieces of real-time, which have engaged more than 120 million fans who have seen, shared or liked the content. Described by her colleagues as a “real digital expert”, Sharma is praised for explaining digital in a way that’s easy for others to understand. 

Radhe Vaswani 
MD, SEA and Hong Kong
Lowe Profero

Radhe Vaswani’s peers describe her as a true connector who is passionate about influencing people from different cultures. They also say she has the ability to identify problems and derive solutions with a strategic goal in mind.

As a core team member at what was then Draftfcb, she put that sentiment to work, overseeing integration of media, creative, research and PR, while managing 14 partner agencies on a multicultural campaign in the US (for the country’s 2010 Census survey). In the past, she has also worked with Fortune 500 clients, including Diageo, Lufthansa and Unilever and she managed digital-platform development for Smirnoff.com across 180 markets.

In 2013, Vaswani relocated to Hong Kong with Profero to lead ecommerce implementation for luxury retailer DFS, part of the LVMH group. The brand has since launched an entire new digital ecosystem, including a new web site, the retailer’s Shop & Collect service and its first ecommerce store.

In January 2014, she opened Lowe Profero’s new office in Hong Kong, becoming general manager and then in March 2015, she was again promoted to managing director for the agency’s Southeast Asia operations. Her new remit is to capitalise on an already successful two years of growth.

Anjali Kapoor 
Marketing director, Asia-Pacific 
Dow Jones

Both in her role at Dow Jones and as a board member of the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), Anjali Kapoor shows dedication to creating new opportunities for the publishing industry.

Near the start of her career she concurrently pursued an MBA while working as research intern for BBC World News in Mumbai. She went on to manage marketing operations for BBC India as the company’s youngest senior professional. CNN later brought her to Hong Kong to lead APAC brand management, where she rolled out major campaigns, forged partnerships and enhanced brand positioning to help CNN secure recognition as the top news brand in Asia in the TV Asia Awards.

Now at The Wall Street Journal, Kapoor pushed out the publication’s biggest multi-media brand campaign in Asia to date during 2014. The effort increased subscriber growth, brand familiarity and reach, and contributed to WSJ’s ranking as the No.1 brand among all international dailies in Asia from BE Asia. She is passionate about intuition and using common sense for marketing decisions. Her view is that data can help to guide, but it takes brains to make good judgment. 

Mim Haysom
Managing partner
M&C Saatchi Australia

In a career-defining role, Haysom headed the regional team for ANZ bank while at Whybin TBWA in Melbourne. She was pivotal to the strategic direction and observers give her credit for helping double ANZ’s brand asset value in two years, rocketing it to become the most valuable bank brand in Australia. Haysom’s leadership spawned a remarkable number of notable and award-winning campaigns, including ANZ’s ‘Buy ready’ and the groundbreaking GAYTM campaign.

Last May, Haysom moved to M&C Saatchi Australia to take on the lead role for CommBank. The agency says she fostered solid stakeholder relationships, and was instrumental in delivering impressive work, including the multi award-winning ‘Where’s my wallet?’ interactive game.

In February, CommBank claimed back the title of Australia’s most valuable banking brand from ANZ, which had itself taken it from CommBank when Haysom was on that account. That it was Haysom who led both to become number one seems like more than mere coincidence.

Omnicom Media Group’s Asia-Pacific CEO Cheuk Chiang says, “I find it interesting that Mim needs to be grouped with ‘women to watch’ when it comes to celebrating her talent. Her skills are unmatched and gender has never hindered or enhanced her ability to succeed.”

Varidda Voraakom
Head of strategy & social 
MRM/McCann Thailand

Varidda Voraakom’s consumer focus gives her an edge in digital marketing. While most experts rely on KPIs and numbers, she started her career in consumer trends and insights, where her passion for finding what makes people tick shone through in her strategy, creative and use of technology. She put her skills to work in a number of high-profile FMCG, retail, youth and lifestyle brands.  

Early on, Voraakom’s ambition to create work that drove community movement, not just for the sake of communication, became clear. In 2014, she helped MRM/McCann achieve strong digital business growth with inventive revenue-generation models through digital lab and social platforms. In 2012, her team was also awarded Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Southeast Asia New Business Development Team of The Year award. 

Monica White, CEO of McCann Worldgroup Thailand, calls Voraakom a “gem in our industry”. “Her passion for consumer insights and trends and ability to creatively bring them alive is highly inspirational” to both colleagues and clients, she says.

Ronda Ng 
Managing director
Full Circle Public Relations

In November 2012, Ronda Ng set up Full Circle PR with J.P. Morgan as founding client and the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge as its inaugural event. In less than two years, Full Circle PR has grown from a humble one-man team to a strong team of six with 10 retainers including Nike, Extreme Sailing Series, Prudential Singapore Swim Stars, Pure Group and Masters Football Asia. 

Ng has been involved in many of the major sporting events in Singapore in the last decade and her career has risen and developed in tandem with the rise of the local sports scene.

At 35, and the mother of two, Ng sets the example by being present at all events even if they are over the weekend, but also ensures that her staff has sufficient rest and takes their due holidays. Colleagues describe her as nurturing as a mentor and firm as a boss, but humble and always encouraging, even when  mistakes are made. 

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