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Faces to watch: The future looks bright with these talented individuals

Campaign Asia-Pacific looks ahead to the future of the industry, highlighting (in no particular order) 40 young people who have already achieved beyond the norm and are set to accomplish so much more. 

Hanyi Lee
Hanyi LeeChief creative officer, The Secret Little Agency
Chiew Ling Tan, director of operations at TSLA, calls Hanyi Lee “a rare, new breed of creative director who is intent on quietly bettering the level of creativity in Asia”. Lee oversees TSLA’s collective creative output from its teams in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The agency’s recent appointment as global creative agency of record by the Economic Development Board of Singapore will see Lee take on global creative output on the account in Asia, North America and Europe. She also led the team to create Social Services, TSLA’s not-for-profit, cultural incubator, including three highly acclaimed projects: Art-in-Film Festival at Dusk, The ABC Shop (an annual pop-up store focusing on Singapore’s endangered sundry stores) and a global tour guide How not to be a Tourist. Under Lee’s creative leadership, TSLA became the first Southeast Asian agency to be named by Campaign UK as one of the world’s leading independent agencies for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013.

Mark Heap
Mark HeapCEO Asia-Pacific, MediaCom
While at PHD, Mark Heap revolutionised the agency in China, taking five years to turn it into a force to be reckoned with. As well as collecting numerous awards, he was also instrumental in winning and retaining Unilever in the market. He has been praised for building a culture of innovation and collaboration, and was behind the launch of Pathfinders, an internal think tank, which gives junior and mid-level staff the chance to work directly with the agency’s executive committee. Those attributes are now MediaCom’s, as Heap, just 38, has just stepped up to take on the regional role left vacant by Alex Crowther. The return to GroupM (he was previously at Mindshare China) puts him in charge of 1,500 people across 21 offices. MediaCom has been on a notable upward trajectory in recent years and that is certainly expected to continue under Heap. “Mark is one of the most talented media CEOs in the region, and has been recognised as such year after year,” said Stephen Allan, MediaCom’s worldwide CEO.

Jeff Cheong
Jeff CheongVice-president, Tribal Worldwide Asia, MD/ECD of Tribal Worldwide Singapore
Jeff Cheong has been recently named VP for Tribal Worldwide Asia, while retaining his position as head of Tribal DDB Singapore and chief digital officer of DDB Group Singapore. His new role sees him responsible for evolving, growing and guiding the network’s regional specialisms and capabilities with Patrick Rona (president of Tribal Worldwide Asia-Pacific and chief digital officer of DDB Group Asia-Pacific) and key Tribal Worldwide managers. Cheong has grown Tribal Worldwide Singapore from a four-person crew to a 95-person team over the past five years, developing its capabilities and service offerings to provide digital, integrated communication consultation as well as a specialist technology unit. He has worked on major clients including Unilever, Changi Airport Group, StarHub, Uniqlo, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s and DBS Bank, winning awards at The Effies, Cannes, Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards, New York Festival and The One Show Interactive. He also led Tribal Worldwide to win Digital Agency of the Year for Southeast Asia at Campaign’s 2011 Agency of the Year Awards.

Naomi Troni
Naomi TroniCEO Havas Worldwide Southeast Asia
In her role, Troni oversees Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Previously the global CMO of Havas Worldwide—a role she took over at the age of 33—she was responsible for leading the network’s global new business and marketing across 316 offices, where the agency also saw major new business wins such as Credit Suisse, Pfizer, Danone, and Pernod Ricard, as well as digital wins that include IBM’s global digital and social media business and Unilever global digital roster. Troni was also responsible for the global rebranding of the Euro RSCG Worldwide network and its agencies as Havas Worldwide last year. As the Southeast Asia CEO, she launched specialist healthcare division Havas Life with a key focus in using digital technology as a functional intermediary between brands, patients, and physicians in the provision of care. She also made a series of appointment to strengthen the digital, integrated planning and channel communications expertise.

Camellia Tan
Camellia TanDirector of network development, Y&R Asia
Camellia Tan helped the network establish Y&R Yangon and an affiliation with Hancomm Korea. She also runs Zed Pod, an in-house digital initiative designed to capture the best local digital graduates to help jump-start digital capability in developing markets. Zed Pod is in its second year in Indonesia and Vietnam, and has just launched in China, in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Tan drives new business pitches in conjunction with markets across the region. She seeks out and develops relationships and strategic proposals for acquisition targets to support Y&R and its subsidiary VML in key markets such as China, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. “She has an innate ability to get to the heart of a client’s business challenge and will pull out all the stops to ensure the agency delivers the best marketing communications solution possible,” says Y&R Asia president Matthew Godfrey.

Elvis Chau
Elvis ChauECD, Anomaly Shanghai
A good degree of China’s rise in creative recognition in recent years has been down to Elvis Chau, the man behind the country’s first ever Cannes Grand Prix win. The much talked-about ‘Heaven and Hell’ campaign for Samsonite put Chau in the spotlight, but there is good reason to expect more from him. He told Campaign last year that China had not yet achieved a consistently high standard of creativity, but says the desire to produce great work was very high: “People here really want to do something groundbreaking.” Heavily influenced by the time he spent living in Thailand, Chau aims to continue to bring a fresh approach to his work in China. He does not lack confidence, recently moving from the security of JWT to Anomaly, a lesser-known agency that is all about deviation from the norm, where as a co-owner with MD Eric Lee he will have greater flexibility to shape things according to his design. “Anomaly is not just a creative company, it is a creative community,” Chau says.

Linda Wang
Linda WangGeneral manager, MediaVest Shanghai
The brains behind MediaVest’s long-term growth strategy in China, Linda Wang was charged with setting up the Chinese MediaVest operation in 2011. She led it on an aggressive business growth strategy that saw it achieve a more than 50 per cent increase in revenue last year, compared to 2011. Diversified revenue (from digital to branded content) also increased by 80 per cent. She was instrumental in winning domestic clients that accounted for 70 per cent of new business revenue, including the local Avon pitch. She was Campaign’s New Business Development Person of the Year for Greater China runner-up in 2012. “New and existing clients alike are won over by her ability to swiftly gain an insightful understanding of their real business context and needs, her deep knowledge of China’s complex media landscape and her decisive leadership,” says Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Bertilla Teo.

Timothy Paradise
Timothy ParadiseCreative director, Tribal Worldwide Beijing
Half-American, half-Vietnamese, Timothy Paradise chose the hard way to learn about his Asian roots: he went to Seoul. His positive, open-minded approach helped breathe new life into DDB, an agency in need of entrepreneurial vision. Still in his twenties, in the absence of an ECD, Paradise took the lead on a number of briefs with impressive results. He led his team to develop three Korea-first campaigns that went on to gain international recognition: McDonald’s ‘Big Mac Chant’ and a ballet-themed film for Levi’s Stretch to Fit jeans both won Lions at Cannes. Paradise’s talents have not gone unnoticed and he recently relocated to China to lead creative for Tribal Worldwide Beijing. Big things are expected.

Prashant Kumar
Prashant KumarPresident IPG Mediabrands Asia, World Markets
Kumar describes his childhood as ‘idyllic’ spent at a boading school set by the Damodar river in the midst of a national sanctuary. He graduated with a degree in mathematics from one of India’s oldest and most prestigious colleges, St Stephen’s College in Delhi but decided to switch to advertising at the Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad. His career with Mediabrands started when he moved to Malaysia in 2003 to helm its local UM office. During his tenure he built up the agency from a team of only 28 to more than 100, tripling revenue and quadrupling profits. Since then he has climbed steadily up the career ladder, rising to CEO of Mediabrands Malaysia in 2008 and was named president of Asian World Markets in 2011. A licensed pilot, he takes to the skies when his schedule affords him the chance.

Aruna Natarajan
Aruna NatarajanManaging Partner, OMD International
Aruna Natarjan has risen the agency ranks swiftly. In a span of six years she went from being regional business director on Johnson & Johnson to managing partner of OMD International, overseeing all global accounts in APAC. Natarajan, 26, has been instrumental in growing OMD’s regional team from four to 25 during the time. She was also responsible for consolidating the Visa regional business across APAC, MEA and Central and Eastern Europe. As a result, she now oversees the business across 27 markets. Having worked in India and China, Natrajan has strong market knowledge of the two largest and most diverse markets in the region. Her category knowledge is also commendable given her experience in automobile, financial services, FMCG, healthcare and pharmaceutical and technology. Natarajan is now focused on helping OMD build specialist capabilities in areas like digital, content integration and activation, analytics and research, and data management.

Marie Gruy
Marie GruyManaging partner, PHD Singapore
When Marie Gruy joined PHD in 2010 to lead Hewlett-Packard, it was their only client and the entire HP account team had resigned. She joined with no experience in HP, PHD, or APAC for that matter, but the former police intelligence officer helped turn around HP’s fortunes in the region. She helped develop its first branded content platform, consolidating China, India and Australia content. It saved HP about US$4 million and even bagged exclusive deals with Baidu. Consequently, HP’s agency tracker metrics went up significantly. In response, Gruy was promoted to managing partner. Her next goal was to translate the success of the account to the entire agency. Her success has been nothing short of exceptional. She doubled the headcount of the agency to 40, increased its billings by 200 per cent and saw profits soar 700 per cent. Client growth surged 45 per cent (worth $17.5 million) with 12 new clients including prized account, Unilever.

Stephanie Yu
Stephanie YuVice-president, head of China healthcare practice, Shanghai corporate practice lead, Weber Shandwick Shanghai
Stephanie Yu’s appointment as China healthcare leader in 2010, saw her having to deal with a sector that requires navigating daunting and ever-changing regulatory systems, educating millions of new patients and entering uncharted territory. Under her leadership, China’s revenue share for the healthcare practice increased to 20 per cent, from 8 per cent in 2010. Yu also identified digital as the critical element for change in the sector, where multimedia and online activities were virtually non-existent. Weber Shandwick China MD Darren Burns says Yu has added a new capability to the China operation. “Her creativity, drive and ability to seize opportunities have helped make many patients’ lives better — and enhanced clients’ business.” Her pioneering digital platforms have become vital, accessible resources for the patients and families, providing educational resources and life-saving information. Yu has also been appointed to head the Shanghai corporate practice and the social impact practice nationwide, steering CSR initiatives for major corporations.

Yeat Mung Koo
Yeat Mung KooGeneral manager, BBDO Beijing
Yeat Mung Koo’s 15 years of experience in brand communication come from both client and agency sides, including First Commercial Bank of Taiwan, Saatchi & Saatchi Guangzhou, JWT Shanghai, TBWA Shanghai, and now BBDO Beijing. As GM, she manages the overall operations of the agency, and leads Mars and Hewlett-Packard — the two key strategic accounts in BBDO Beijing. Under her leadership, the agency won China’s first Cannes Gold Lion for the adidas 2008 Olympic campaign. Koo values the importance of humility, believing it is the foundation of building trusting and enduring relationships. She also encourages constructive debate and leads by example to drive the team towards a common vision of creative excellence. “Through my partnership with her, I have seen how Yeat Mung has led cultural change within the agency, instigating a culture of learning and continuous improvement,” said Clarence Mak, general manager at Mars China. “Being open to tough feedback, she has changed the culture of the partnership to be more transparent, more focused and more future-looking.”

Gary Wise
Gary WiseSenior marketing manager, APAC/head of marketing, Australia, Puma
Gary Wise has travelled a fair distance since his days as communications planning director at ZenithOptimedia — to Melbourne, to be exact. He recently became head of marketing for Puma Australia, added to his role as senior marketing manager for the region. He joined the sportswear brand after a number of years as a collaborator on the agency side. Today he is responsible for marketing activities for lifestyle and running products in 12 markets, which includes communications planning, research and management of creative, media and research agencies. Adrian Toy, Puma’s regional head of marketing, describes Wise as “a future leader who I can depend on when it matters”. Toy credits him with having implemented a more rigorous approach to measurement. “He is not one to sit still; he is constantly challenging the status quo and coming up with initiatives that help the brand,” Toy says.

Luke Eid
Luke EidManaging partner and global innovation officer, TBWA Digital Arts Network Hong Kong
Luke Eid says he was ‘doomed’ to be a tech geek after tinkering with an XT computer in the eighties, in between surfing that is — this was Noosa, Australia after all. In his final year of a BFA in communication design Eid upped his geek cred by attempted to recreate Star Trek Jedi mind powers using gesture control and intuitive interface design. After graduation, he did what every good techie eventually does — launched his own startup. He then moved on to lead digital communications for Queensland Transport and transformed a pure digital publishing company into a full-service agency before developing TBWA’s digital agency in Australia, Tequila (now Digital Arts Network, DAN) into one of the country’s most awarded digital agencies. In 2011, he moved to Hong Kong to head its DAN offering, during which time he set up TBWA’s first social media arts lab (SmArts). Eid was promoted to his current role in June.

Joanne Wong
Joanne WongEVP & senior partner/Asia-Pacific MD, client service, FleishmanHillard
Joanne Wong has been at FleishmanHillard since 2000, when she joined the firm as a senior account executive. Since then, according to Asia-Pacific president Lynne Anne Davis: “She has tirelessly sailed through every door open to her with confidence and intelligence, embracing the pace, intensity and diversity of our business while coaching others to keep tempo with it too.” She is noted for building and leading the company’s financial services comms and public affairs capabilities across the region, from identifying and developing senior talent, to winning and counselling major accounts. In 2011, she became EVP — the youngest ever to be appointed at FleishmanHillard. In the same year, she played a key role in cultivating a large portfolio of clients for the agency’s newly launched global China practice. “Joanne is an inspirational role model to many women throughout our organisation who are becoming working mothers and seek balance to not only cope, but thrive in multiple roles,” Davis says.

Juhi Kalia
Juhi KaliaECD JWT Singapore
Having previously worked in Lowe, McCann, Ogilvy and JWT, Kalia is responsible for managing the worldwide brand development and creative for Unilever’s Lux and Friesland Campina’s Friso business. She was also involved in business wins for Sunsilk, HSBC, Panasonic and Listerine, Started as a writer 19 years ago, Kalia specialises in creative strategy, trans-media ideas, creative use of media, engagement, film, outdoor, cause marketing and activism, where she was credited for winning several international awards, including the first Cannes metal for Indonesia and the radio Grand Prix at Spikes for Lux. Kalia is also using her talent to make a difference, where she started mybabytree.org for WWF that has since planted more than 10,000 trees in Sumatra. With a passion for mentoring, she has spoken at schools such as Award School Asia, Ngee Aan Poly. She also took part in a seminar on “Marketing to Women” last year at INSEAD.

Jye Smith
Jye SmithVice-president of digital, APAC, Weber Shandwick
A musician at heart, Jye Smith found his calling when producing live gigs online in South Sydney, tying together his love of music, media and marketing. He then joined the National Office of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association as events manager, producing events and seminars for Google and Intel and growing his reputation as a speaker in all things digital. He moved on to roles with CBS Interactive and Double Star Media before joining Weber Shandwick Australia as digital strategist in 2010 and was made responsible for planning and leading all online capabilities for Australian clients. Last July, he moved to Hong Kong to take on his current regional role, working with clients and staff across the firm’s 18 offices in the region. During his career, he has worked with more than 30 brands in consumer, technology, corporate and healthcare industries in digital and social media, including Red Bull, Lenovo, Holiday Inn, Hyundai, ANZ bank and the Australian Federal Government.

Angela Spain
Angela SpainGeneral manager, PR & Activation, Draftfcb Auckland
As an astute businesswoman with 16 years of experience in the PR & Activation business, Spain has been with Draftfcb for three years, and this year, she has proudly brought back four Cannes Lions. Spain spent her early years in London where she worked in corporate and consumer PR on accounts such as South African Tourism, The Ryder Cup and Air Berlin. Returning to New Zealand in 2006, Spain joined Professional Public Relations, Australasia’s largest PR consultancy, and was soon promoted to general manager, becoming the youngest ever female to hold this position in the New Zealand market. As a member of the Marcomms Leadership Group (MLG) within the Communications Agencies Association of New Zealand (CAANZ), Spain currently advises clients including Vodafone, Tegel, Paper Plus, Electricity Authority, NZTA, Vodafone, BMW/MINI and the Health Promotion Agency. Spain is also an advocate for public relations and experiential marketing, and has trained students at the Auckland Business School, the Auckland University of Technology and Waikato University.

Catherine Williams
Catherine WilliamsPartner, Mindshare, Singapore
Catherine Williams has seamlessly transitioned from research to insights to account leadership to strategy, touching all fundamental bases of media. She leads the teams across Asia-Pacific to ensure that Mindshare’s strategic planning breaks conventions. Being a creative asset to the agency, Williams has helped to create the nationally successful television show Memberku Hawa for Kimberly-Clark. She is also the chief editor of Culture Vulture, Mindshare’s global trends report on how popular culture influences everything that begins and ends in media. Sitting on the global strategy counsel of Mindshare, Williams has driven the rollout of Mindshare’s strategic planning framework for developing adaptive marketing solutions throughout Asia. Mindshare Asia-Pacific chairman Ashutosh Srivastava commended Williams for “her ability to help develop highly relevant and effective in-market communications strategy, and simplify seemingly complicated ideas”. Over the course of her career in Asia-Pacific, Williams has contributed to over $1.65 billion in new business billings, including clients such as Unilever, IHG, Energizer, Nestlé and Kellogg’s.

Katie Rigg-Smith
Katie Rigg SmithCEO, Mindshare Australia
Promoted as the CEO for Mindshare Australia in April at the age of 34, Rigg-Smith is the youngest and the only female CEO in her industry. She was the chief strategy officer prior to the CEO appointment, where she grew the strategic team from four people to 28 and maintained a churn rate in her team at 7 per cent for 18 months. She has also been instrumental for the agency’s business wins. “She has a tenacity, intelligence and spirit that is unrivalled in the industry. She played a key role in all new business wins for Mindshare and is instrumental in mentoring teams around her,” Chairman/CEO at GroupM John Steedman says. Rigg-Smith is a regular speaker at conferences in Australia, as well as a guest lecturer at several universities including University of Technology, Sydney and Sydney University. She also runs workshops for ‘NGen’, an Australian Media initiative for all media people with less than five years experience.

Yoshihiro Yagi
Yoshihiro YagiCreative director, Dentsu
Hailing from Kyoto, Yoshihiro Yagi has always had a keen sense of individualism and an eye for good design. Even in kindergarten, the photographer’s son would often follow a different path to those of his peers, angering his teachers by colouring his birds black instead of, well, in colours. Though a talented basketball player, he decided to pursue a career in design because he did not want to end up as “a PE teacher or a salesman selling leg warmers”. As a ‘Design Ninja’ at Dentsu (a team comprised of top art directors and graphic designers in the Kansai region of Japan), he has gone on to win numerous awards at Cannes for work such as ‘Get back, Tohoku’ for JR East; ‘The Ultra Asian’ for the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation; and ‘Life is electric’ for Panasonic. Yagi says his approach is defined by the pursuit of simplicity. “I don’t take clients’ briefs at face value,” he explains. “I listen to their briefs, then I delve in to find out their value systems and what their real intentions are.” He is also a highly inclusive leader. “I care very much that everyone on my team feels assured that he or she is part of the team, and that they have responsibility in coming up with the solutions they are asked to contribute to the project.”

Cindy Dai
Cindy DaiGeneral Manager, UM Shanghai
Dai is a key driver in UM’s new business wins. By bringing Chrysler, Jeep, Claire’s, Lindt, Q-Med and Sompo into the UM fold, she was responsible for a 57 per cent increase in new billings in 2012. In the same year, Chrysler and Supor named UM as their best business partner – a testament to her exceptional talent. She achieved this by raising the bar dramatically of the quality of service UM clients receive. Being a passionate advocate for developing talent, she has been spurring her teams toward higher levels of achievement. Her work includes introducing a management trainee program that coached university graduates and allowed them to grow professionally within the organisation in their own ways; and designing an ‘adaptable training’ program for employees of all tiers. The proof is in the pudding: a year-end survey showed training satisfaction levels rose from 48 to 88 per cent.

Nico Abbruzzese
Nico AbbruzzeseHead of digital Asia-Pacific, Maxus, Singapore
From a youth spent playing with computers in Italy, Nico Abbruzzese has built a solid career in the digital sphere. After moving from Europe to Australia in the early 2000s, he spent seven years with WPP agencies, including Y&R, Ogilvy, JWT and RMG. In 2008, he struck out on his own with Kineo, a strategic consulting group that combined design, technology, marketing and advertising. The agency worked with clients such as Vodafone and Commonwealth Bank and was eventually sold to STW group’s Campaign Palace. It was at this point that he was offered his current role at Maxus Singapore, a new field for a man without prior media experience. But embracing the chance to “make a difference”, Abbruzzese jumped right in. Since then he has built up Maxus’ digital capabilities across the region, a major part of which includes co-founding the network’s global technology research and development division Metalworks with director of technology Tom Kelshaw.

Debbie Aryandari
Debbie AryandariCEO, iProspect Indonesia
Debbie Aryandari is a big deal at Aegis Media. Originally from a multimedia background, Aryandari joined Carat as a freelancer in 2009 to help broaden its digital services. She quickly moved up the ranks, and when Carat won the Nokia account in 2012, she was entrusted with setting up the iProspect brand in Indonesia. As a one-person team, Aryandari doubled business year-on-year by winning account after account, building iProspect into one of the strongest performance marketing brands in Indonesia. Her most important wins for the company include Axis Telecommunications, GM, Nutricia, Bank Mandiri, Philips and AIG. Today, she oversees a team of nine in the fast-growing Indonesian market. It is hard to believe that this former graphic designer began her career with Femina, a lifestyle magazine in Indonesia.

Charlotta Lagerdahl-Gandolfo
Charlotta Lagerdahl GandolfoRegional business director Asia, MSLGroup
Taking on the role in February 2013, Lagerdahl-Gandolfo oversees reputation-building, employer branding, talent development, business strategy and planning for 38 offices and 1,675 employees. She led large assignments within crisis and change management for major MNCs, where she advised at the highest levels, leading the strategy for response far beyond PR. Lagerdahl-Gandolfo has supported the agency’s organic growth of more than 30 per cent, and outlined a strategic roadmap to increase the level of consultancy assignments in the region. Under her leadership, the agency has achieved zero unplanned staff turn-over. “Charlotta is highly trusted by her clients, her reports and her peers for her ability to perform while maintaining a ‘have heart attitude’,” said Glenn Osaki, Asia president of MSLGroup. “Her strategic, solutions-focused approach and steadfast commitment to those around her has been the reason that her star continues to rise. Charlotta’s ability to stay ahead of the ever-changing communications landscape, her flexibility and visionary outlook make her an asset to MSLGroup.”

Lizzie Nolan
Lizzie NolanHead of planning, APAC, MediaCom
With nine years at the agency under her belt, Lizzie Nolan can be called a MediaCom veteran. She spent her first five years at the agency in London running communications planning for United Kingdom-based clients. She later moved to Singapore to join the regional team to support the Asia-Pacific strategy for Procter & Gamble (P&G). There she quickly recognised an opportunity to fundamentally change the way that the American multinational company’s prestige business operates. First, she set up a team of luxury mindset partners in the Lion City and throughout the region, tapping into analytics and end-to-end digital capabilities to grow the business for both the client and the agency. She then went on to win the P&G prestige business for Southeast Asia. MediaCom was invited to pitch for the rest of the Asia-Pacific P&G business a year later. The organisational intervention that Lizzie designed for the premium part of the business was reapplied across another five categories spanning 30 brands and 10 markets, and was worth $2 billion. Nolan was recently promoted to head of planning for her efforts. Nihar Das, MediaCom’s regional managing partner for the Asia-Pacific P&G team, describes Nolan as “extremely idea-centric yet organised”. “She always strives to do more for people around her, delivering above and beyond for her clients and inspiring her team,” he says. “It is no wonder that she has always had a loyal fellowship, and is my personal inspiration.”

Saurabh Sharma
Saurabh SharmaPlanning partner, Ogilvy & Mather Beijing
Saurabh Sharma is a planner who believes that creativity is something that should not be limited to ‘creatives’. This should obviously be self-evident, but for all the talk, not everyone in the agency world puts this sort of thinking into practice. Sharma is different — his positive approach has had a big impact on the agency since he arrived from Mumbai seven years ago. Mickey Chak, chief planning officer at Ogilvy China, credits Sharma with inspiring a more creative approach in the planning department all round. Sharma has won WPP’s Atticus award for original thinking in marketing services four times. “If I don’t create something new for 48 hours, I feel uncomfortable and think I’m wasting life,” he told Campaign earlier this year. Another of his passions is language, and he recently published the book Turbo Chinese, an account of his mastery of Chinese characters that explains visual processing techniques that anyone can use to achieve surprising results.

Mazuin Zin
Mazuin ZinManaging director, Lowe Malaysia
As one of the youngest managing directors in the business, Zin led Lowe Malaysia’s transformation from a conventional advertising agency to a distinct specialist. Under her leadship, the agency introduced Shopper Marketing & Engagement platform services for Danone Dumex’s Growing up Milk, and launched a Digital & Social Engagement Practice to help Unilever’s Rexona drive deeper conversation with Malaysians. In addition, the launch of Marketing Consultancy services has generated business wins like Burger King Malaysia, KLIA-Gateway, BIC Shaver, Jotun Paints, and Paramount Property. At age 35, Zin was appointed group GM for Leo Burnett Malaysia and ARC Worldwide. She has led the accounts including Petronas, Malaysian Airlines, Philip Morris, Proton and McDonald’s to name a few. Calling Zin a “proven business leader”, Rupen Desai, regional president at Lowe Asia-Pacific, said Zin has the foresight and skills to lead the agency in today’s dynamic environment, making a marked difference in the time she has been with Lowe Malaysia.

Amar Urhekar
Amar UrhekarExecutive vice-president, Asia-Pacific, McCann Health
To say that Urhekar’s 13-year career at McCann Health has been impressive would be an understatement. Having joined as the division’s first employee in India, he proceeded to turn operations in that market, China and Japan into profit centres, one by one. His efforts were recognised with his promotion to McCann Health’s youngest regional head. Last year, he led the network’s fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth, pulling in nearly 330 new business wins. Known for challenging norms, he also managed to engineer the Interpublic Group’s first acquisition in its 50-year history in Japan — that of MDS, which was fully integrated with McCann Health in just three months. That he has described the achievement as akin to “dental proctology” is testament to his tenacity. McCann Health has already been awarded Specialist Network of the Year multiple times, and it does not expect this year to be the last.

Sapna Nemani
SapnaHead of strategy P&G Asia, Starcom (China)
Terms like ‘strategic powerhouse’ and ‘indispensible’ are often used to describe 37 year old Sapna Nemani, head of Strategy P&G Asia for Starcom MediaVest (China) by her peers. Indeed with 15 years of experience and strong insight driven expertise, Nemani is a key figure at SMG. She is known to combine left brain and right brain thinking for seamless impact and action. In fact, she is considered the only person in the agency across Asia to head the ‘Human experience strategy and data & analytics expertise’. She is an active contributor to the global network and is driving disruptive innovation in China that is being recognized as best in class across the world. Nemani’s strong experience across media and creative agencies also gives her a distinct advantage. She has also worked in almost every key market in Asia including India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and China.

Kana Nakano
Kana NakanoCommunication planner, future communication department, communication design centre, Dentsu
Through her works, Nakano has showcased her outstanding creativity, from ‘iButterfly’, an AR coupon application that won the 2012 World Summit Award for Mobile, to a prototype of a ‘neuro-tagging map’, a smartphone app that allows users to target locations and share their ‘feelings’ by analysing their brain waves. As one of the founding members of ‘neurowear’, a project team focusing on creating communication through bio-sensing technologies, Nakano helped invent Necomimi, a cat ear-shaped communication neuro headset, which picked up a Bronze Lion in the Mobile category of Cannes Lions 2013. “By making the most of her avid curiosity and comprehension of digital technology, as well as the sensitivity and good taste that she has cultivated as a consumer, wife and mother, Kana has developed her forte in translating and converting complicated ‘hard’ technology into easy-to-understand and accessible ‘soft’ ideas,” says Masataka Hosogane, head of future communication department, communication design centre at Dentsu.

Intan Mokhnar
IntanGeneral Manager, BBDO Singapore
Intan Mokhnar joined BBDO/Proximity Singapore as account director in 2006 and within five years she took on the role of general manager. Mokhnar is responsible for BBDO’s strategic direction and overall direction while also handling the Blackberry account regionally. Under Mokhnar, BBDO Singapore has seen a 25 per cent growth, primarily driven by BlackBerry, Exxon, Visa and HP. She is also responsible for maintaining core client relationships. This includes on boarding APAC regional clients as part of global wins, specifically for Johnson & Johnson, BlackBerry, Exxon and Visa where she was the transition director for three months. She was also responsible for building BBDO’s below-the-line capabilities as a separate division that would allow rapid turnover of work. Clients including BlackBerry, SingTel, HP, Fonterra, J&J and Guinness have benefitted from this. Mokhnar also champions numerous cultural initiatives in the organizations. Most noteworthy of these was the CSR project, where BBDO Singapore helped build homes in Batam by raising over SGD40,000.

Angello Dias/Santosh Padhi
Angello DiasFounder/ECD, Taproot
A little philosophy can go a long way. Dias (right) has described himself as someone without much vision beyond the willingness to improvise and try new things. Since founding Taproot four years ago with Padhi (left), that approach seems to have paid off. The agency has become one of India’s most celebrated agencies and counts iconic brands such as The Times of India among its clients. The Santosh Padhiduo sold the agency to Dentsu last year but show little sign of losing their independence. In many ways, it is the happy-go-lucky approach that Dias and Padhi take to their existence as copywriter/art director entrepreneurs that suggests that they will continue to enjoy considerable success. One advantage is that they are not set in their ways, and so are more than ready to evolve according to client needs. According to Dias, “you can’t have an iron-clad belief system because often when you come to implement something, you find that it is no longer valid”.

Eva Ng
Eva NgPlanning director, Publicis and Publicis Modem, Hong Kong
Ng’s approach to strategy is strongly grounded in the management of ‘brand’ as a corporate balance sheet asset that drives business. Since she joined Publicis Hong Kong in 2011, Ng has overhauled the planning process and spearheaded the adoption and application of the new global Publicis strategic process with many locally developed elements. Ng works with key clients including Citibank, Tempo, the Nestlé portfolio of coffee and infant nutrition brand as well as APAC/ regional planning for clients such as Marriott International and AXA. “As a planner, Eva is both intuitive and data driven. As an advertising mind, she understands the business and the creative, and is a valued contributor to every major pitch. As a brand guardian, she constantly refocuses the team through lens of the consumer,” said Sue McCusker, CEO, Publicis Hong Kong. “The most telling measure of her success is the ability to win a pitch on strategy alone – something quite unexpected for a creative agency.

Sascha Engel
sascha_engelDeputy Head of Digital, China; National Director, Digital Lab, Ogilvy & Mather, China
Six years ago, Sascha Engel started his career in digital advertising and marketing as a manager of Emerging Platforms at Ogilvy & Mather China. He spotted a trend in technology that would combine creativity and tact to reach business goals, adopted it and took it to the next level. Not surprisingly, in those six years Engel has gone on to head O&M China’s Innovation Practice and to oversee the first-ever in-agency Digital Lab in China. His clients include Philips, Red Bull, LensCrafters, Tsingtao Beer, Cerebos and e-commerce website Yihaodian, in which he created the world’s first GPS location tagged augmented reality virtual stores app that has generated lots of usage and press coverage last year. He is also the principal architect behind location-based game Buick that has garnered more than half a million downloads and increased the company’s Weibo followers by 30 per cent. At 30 years old, he is now also the agency’s deputy head of digital, leading the planning, guidance, coordination and implementation of O&M China’s digital development strategy and growth across its disciplines and offices across China.

Michel de Rijk
Michel_de_Rijk_XaxisManaging director, Asia-Pacific, Xaxis
A child of entrepreneurs, Michel de Rijk worked from childhood in his mother’s computer shop while growing up in The Netherlands. His early encounters with computers and the internet stamped him for life. “From day one, I was sold,” he recalls. Following in his parents’ footsteps, he founded his own company Reactor Events & Bookings, which organised dance events in the Netherlands that were promoted through digital advertising and online publications. “It combined my two passions: digital advertising and music,” he says. Three years later, De Rijk joined De Tele­foongids, a leading search engine in the Netherlands, managing their online sales team and in 2008, he moved to EyeWonder, a rich-media adserver. While helming the tech company’s Dutch office, EyeWonder started to field requests from the Middle East. De Rijk coaxed his chief executive into letting him fly over and a week later, contract signed, he launched the company’s MENA division in Dubai — and two years later went on to launch its Asia-Pacific operations. After DG Mediamind acquired the server, De Rijk opted for a travel break, but was contacted by Xaxis New York to launch its Asia-Pacific network. “Best move of my career,” says de Rijk.

Meg Chen
Meg ChenEVP, digital investment, Aegis Media China
Joined Aegis early last year at the age of 38, Chen spent the past 12 months focusing on digital resource consolidation within the group including the newly-acquired digital companies CatchStone and OMP, where the consolidations resulted in a threefold growth on digital volume and more than 15 new business wins in just the last six months. “She demonstrates her excellent capabilities in effectively consolidating group investment resources and proactively responding to the new opportunities through close observation and understanding of the industry and market,” KF Lee, CEO at Aegis Media China, says. With the aim to become a leading digital group in China in volume, innovation and leadership, Aegis launched various valuable reports and research to the industry under Meg’s leadership, such as “online video effectiveness research” with video sites as well as monthly “dual-screen report” with iResearch. Under her supervision, the agency also launched three workshops with different media including Youku/Tudou, Tencent, and Baidu early this year.

Wong Tse San
Tse San WongHead of communications planning, Vizeum Malaysia
As head of communications planning based in Kuala Lumpur, Wong Tse San has been instrumental in retaining and winning key accounts for Vizeum Malaysia. She has helped the agency hold onto four of its most important clients that went into pitch mode this year. She believes that retaining clients can often be just as challenging as winning new ones. Her ideas have helped challenger brands such as Nippon Paint and Perodua emerge as category leaders. Wong’s compatriots say that her work with these two clients not only won awards across categories, but more importantly has significantly helped profitability and brand equity. Andy Miller, chief executive of Vizeum, describes her as a “team player of the highest calibre”. Prior to leading communications planning at Vizeum Malaysia, Wong was client services director, a role in which she helped grow unit billings from $9.14 million to $22.8 million, clinching the accounts of CIMB Group and Uniqlo.

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