Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

MARKETECH Mondays feat. Singapore Institute of Technology’s deputy director for corporate communications, Royson Poh

For this episode of MARKETECH Mondays, our feature showcasing marketing leaders’ career journey to inspire the next generation of marketers, we sat down with Royson Poh, the deputy director for corporate communications of the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Royson has held the position since 2018 and no one would have imagined that with such an esteemed role in communications, Royson actually had his start as a credit analyst at a credit bureau.

The turning point was when within the said analyst job, a supervisor had challenged Royson to take on a responsibility meant for sales which became the spark for him to transition beyond his initial chosen profession. 

Since then, Royson forayed to roles in business development, and for his very first marketing position, he managed the advocacy & outreach efforts of the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) in Singapore. Today at SIT, Royson helms the corporate communications department where he watches over the university’s brand research, web, and social media efforts.

Watch the full interview with Royson on our YouTube channel

Royson’s very first campaign

Royson cut his teeth in campaign management when he was working at SPD. His very first campaign was a national IT literacy program for persons with disabilities with Singapore’s Infocomm Accessibility Centre. 

The campaign’s objective was to drive awareness and registrations for the said national IT training program. Royson shares that this was right at the point where Facebook had just become part of the marketing mix. 

I recall creating my own FB account, testing posts, and figuring out how I could use Facebook to achieve my campaign objectives.

On first marketing campaign

Fast forward to today where digital is now held at a premium, Royson’s leadership at SIT includes heading the school’s web communications and social media efforts. Royson shares in the MARKETECH Mondays interview that he sees his current role as becoming an advocate for digital media, serving as the middle man between on-the-ground social media specialists and senior management. 

“The leadership of the university is typically [going to] be a little bit more senior, [and] they may not be that familiar with social media and digital channels; so for me, I am the middle man working with the folks on the ground who know the channel and the technology [as well as] the agencies who are the specialists, and then kind [of] lobbying for that support or rationalizing with management and getting the buy-in,” shared Royson.

Royson entered SIT in 2014 and was first the assistant director for corporate communications prior to being elevated to the deputy director role. As assistant director, Royson was already responsible for the university’s online branding, communications, and reputation across web and social media. Meanwhile, rising through the ranks, the higher directorial position had him delivering the university’s first digital-led brand campaign which was conceptualized to address specific insights from brand research.

How a banking background helped Royson transition to marketing 

Royson admits that although quite distant, having had his beginning as a credit analyst served as a big help in helping him understand the demands of a marketing job, which has now grown to include data, analytics, and measurement at its heart. 

“[Like] many students, I studied what I was good at, and I was good with numbers. And so I took a banking major, and started working in the finance industry,” shared Royson. 

Obviously now speaking with more expertise and deep insight into the industry, Royson said that while marketing used to be a very subjective field, data has now become a very important part of marketing now involving analytics, web traffic, and social media metrics. 

I think for the young people who are entering the industry and the digital age, they will never realize that marketing used to be a very subjective field. You had a lot of creative types, people working with designs…but that has slowly gone away. I mean that is still a skill set that you need, but data has become very very important.

On how marketing has moved from being subjective to being data-driven

As deputy director for SIT, Royson actually developed a brand management framework alongside producing the first quantitative measure of the university’s brand equity.

Royson said, “The numbers part of the work has really helped me. I see a lot of common skillsets [between] finance [and] marketing especially in the area of data analytics to be able to digest and look at numbers and direct marketing efforts from there. That has been a common thread across my career,” said Royson.

On leadership: “Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team.”

Entering SIT in 2014, Royson was assistant director for corporate communications for four years, where in 2018, he was appointed to his current role of deputy director. 

As a marketing leader, Royson strongly believes in entrusting a team member a specific role by which the person can grow with and eventually gain mastery of.

Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team. They need to come to work knowing that ‘everyone is counting on me’ for this part of the work.

On leadership

Royson compares his preferred approach to the usual rotational work setup. He shares that while this is the way to be in many creative setups, where there is a ‘special assignment’ method and people get assigned to projects, he still believes in the positive result of charging someone a focused role.

“I think that if someone knows what they’re uniquely good at, and they have been entrusted that role, they will come back to work every day [having] a purpose, and they’re motivated.”

Royson adds, “My approach to leadership is really to be very clear about responsibilities, creating roles for individuals, trusting them to do it well, and encouraging them to give them that sense of purpose and that belonging in the team.”

For the new generation of marketers: Keep learning and re-learning 

As a marketer part of the generation that was at the cusp of traditional and digital marketing, Royson shares that it’s very important to never stop learning and to add to one’s experience and knowledge as this is the way to be at par with the ever-evolving industry of marketing. 

It’s very important to have this ability to keep learning and re-learning amid fast-evolving technological advancements in marketing.

On advice for budding marketers

Aside from this overarching view on marketing, Royson also shares his advice on dealing with day to day challenges of the job.

He shared that throughout his career, he learned that sometimes, there is a need to be able to say no and to be able to do that in a professional and mature way, and in a way that delivers value to the organization.

“The biggest challenge of my career is learning how to analyze something critically and having that skill to be able to deliver [an opinon] in a professional and non-confrontational way that would help to complete the final product.”

Royson said that in marketing, it’s important to find a way to express diverse opinions in order to successfully co-create as a team.

Also, his very simple advice, but one that’s equally crucial in the cutthroat world of marketing: becoming your biggest ally and supporter. 

“We face a lot of criticisms in a marketing profession so it’s important to be your biggest supporter and all,” he said.

Ultimately, Royson to the aspiring marketers, “You will never know everything that you need to know [in marketing], you just have to keep figuring it out as you go along.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Royson on Spotify:

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MARKETECH Mondays feat. PSB Academy’s assistant VP for marketing, Jovan Lin

A veteran of the education industry, we sat down with Jovan Lin, the current assistant vice president for marketing of PSB Academy, to get to know more about the career journey and the leadership of a marketing head in the higher education sector.

Jovan may have spent more than a decade in the industry, but one wouldn’t imagine where he actually began his professional career – in construction. Through a combination of having the right opportunity and making the best of it, Jovan’s career in marketing soon took off. 

He started out as a student recruitment officer and a sales manager for academies that focused on providing IT and psychology education respectively. His transition was something of a slow but sure process, where he gradually took on marketing functions before fully foraying as a marketer. 

Watch the full interview with Jovan on our YouTube channel

From managing projects in construction to crafting campaigns

Recalling his days in the construction line as his first step into the professional world, he shares that at the time, he had to drive the company’s lorry to fetch workers to sites and coordinate tasks under the sun and the rain, and this is all the while attending his part-time degree classes all sweaty and smelly. 

It was until Jovan got the opportunity to enter the education industry that he realized it’s the job fit that determines if you can attain some level of success. 

From recruitment and sales roles, he gradually went on to becoming a full-fledged marketing manager at Kaplan Singapore. Before finally landing his position at PSB Academy Jovan had also become the head of product marketing of Management Development Institute of Singapore. 

Jovan shared that more than anything, his initial stages in sales as a recruitment officer are what laid the foundation for him to become the marketer he is today. For him, his biggest mentor had been the marketing director that helped him fully realize his marketer role, Emily Han. 

“I was there on the ground talking to prospective students, their parents, and that’s where I had the common understanding of what [the needs], the [desires], and wants of prospective students [are]. I think that really helped me in my campaigns and try to create content that really resonates with [the] target audience,” said Jovan in the MARKETECH Mondays interview.

The crucial moment [in my career] was my ex-boss who took a risk on me to take me into a full-fledged marketing role, so that really transformed my career to which I’m fortunate to stick by.

On his mentor Emily Han

Jovan remembers the campaign that really had an impact on him during the early years of his marketing career, making him realize how far he is from the knowledge and skills needed for the job. 

Jovan had to create an online lead generation campaign and went through the usual process of working with a creative agency to develop the assets and creating the campaign brief. When the ads were launched and when he was served the ad on Google network and was beaming with joy as he shared it with his boss. 

Interestingly, Jovan shared what happened next, “She replied, good work but you probably [have] seen it because you were retargeted! After which I thought, why should I be seeing this ad when I am not even considered a relevant target audience for this course?” 

Since then, through this quite naive experience, Jovan began to explore deeper the context of performance marketing, things such as creating audience lists for exclusion, and also relying on first-party data to create more relevant reach.

“I wouldn’t say this is the first campaign, but it is one that I still laughed at myself, but it is sort of an important milestone that shaped my principles and beliefs on marketing,” said Jovan.

As a marketing leader: “I have to trust myself in order for me trust my colleagues”

As the current assistant vice president for marketing at PSB Academy, Jovan oversees the full marketing and implementing strategies that align with the business direction. 

As a leader, Jovan’s main philosophy is putting trust in the team. Jovan believes that at the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes and that working harmoniously among the team means succeeding and learning from mistakes together.

I have to trust myself obviously in order for me to know and translate that trust to my colleagues.

On leadership

Jovan’s definition of successes and failures also evolved as he grew both in life and career. He speaks of metrics for success, and how these have gradually changed from something tangible such as target number of leads and then slowly changing to subsequent metrics such as quality of said leads as he gains more knowledge and skill set. 

But Jovan says that as you grow with times, you’ll find that they are indeed important measures that define the level of business success, but that there is also a much more valuable impact amid marketing to students, one that is slightly less tangible. 

“What matters to me right now is what [social] impact I can deliver to my peers, my colleagues, and even to a certain extent, the students,” said Jovan.

He adds, “When you see certain students going through the education system, and [until] they [graduate], you kinda feel there is this self-achievement, and [you think], there must have been certain things you’ve done in marketing that influenced that choice.”

Jovan on pandemic-induced shifts: a time to shape the future of education

With the education industry worldwide taking a hit from the drastic changes brought by the pandemic, Jovan believes that the biggest question of all is what would the future of education now look like. 

Will online classes now be the norm? Shall students go back to the traditional face-to-face classes when nations recover, or must it be hybrid now? 

The challenge right now for every educational institution is how to look beyond this pandemic for the future of education.

On the challenge of higher education institutions amid the pandemic

He also emphasizes that digital today is seeing great transformation taking in all forms and shapes and at a very fast speed due to the pandemic. 

Jovan believes that we may not have all the answers right, but it also spells an exciting time to redefine the future of education.

“We are in an exciting [time] as I see this period as the moment that may shape the future of education.” 

Jovan to aspiring marketers: “Marketing is forever changing”

With more than a decade of experience under his belt, Jovan has some advice for those who wish to enter and succeed in the marketing industry, and he breaks them into two: marketing as a profession and marketing as an attitude. 

First and foremost, he puts out the most important truth of all, and what serves as the umbrella for all relevant principles in the profession, and that is “Marketing is forever changing.” 

As a profession, Jovan says that data is now the name of the game. A lot of technological advancements have emerged when the digital age saw its birth, and now, long gone are the days of who has the biggest print ad or newspaper ad. 

“Obviously with more tools, data plays a very important role and as marketers, we need to be data-savvy, we need to be able to make sense of data, [and] this is a critical skill set that marketers should invest in,” says Jovan. 

However, with more and more platforms, tools, and solutions made available for advertisers, it is easy to get into the trap of chasing one’s own tail because you would want to chase the next big thing in marketing. With this, Jovan says it’s important to not lose sight of the fundamental principles of marketing, and that is placing the consumer at the heart of your strategy and making sure content is developed with their specific needs and behavior in mind. 

At the end of the day, marketing is really about engaging your audience or customers. Whatever we do, we have to place them at the heart of all things.

On his advice to aspiring marketers

Jovan adds, “Just ask yourself, what do you think your audience wants to see or read or hear, and then from then on, how do you actually create a journey and experience you feel that your audience would be able to engage and enjoy.” 

Now when it comes to attitude, Jovan admits that he himself has not maintained a positive mindset consistently for the past 10 years of being a marketer. 

He says what’s important is “possessing the right attitude to allow you to approach your work the right way.”

Being a marketer is a journey, you [will be] [experiencing] ups and downs. Nobody can win all the time, and when you fail, I think that is when you learn.

Jovan says to those who wish to enter and make a name in marketing

Ultimately he says, “Continuously be open to critics because they will never go away, be open to suggestions as well, and continue to work hard and smart.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Jovan on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays feat. AIB’s marketing director, Stephanie George

When a dialogue on marketing is sparked, the industry against the education sector isn’t always top-of-mind, hence, doesn’t always get that much attention due to its non-mainstream dynamics – with students as the ‘consumers’, and with the product, not just a purchase that could be merely classified as either a high- or low-involvement decision, but rather, education and a person’s shot at his or her future. 

We are pleased for the second time to be able to get to know the career and leadership journey of one marketing leader from the education space – the marketing director of one of Australia’s largest online MBA providers, the Australian Institute of Business (AIB)Stephanie George.

Stephanie is a marketing veteran having had more than a decade of marketing experience under her belt. As AIB’s marketing director since 2018, she helms the entire marketing function of the institute which encloses strategy, execution, measurement, and analysis both in Australia and the school’s global markets. 

Just like any first steps into a long journey ahead, Stephanie’s beginnings weren’t perfect and were marked with uncertainty. In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Stephanie bared that she had her eyes initially set on becoming an accountant, something that she simply realized “wasn’t for me.” Thankfully, her foray into marketing – a marketing coordinator role in a tile company – way back in 2007 was a big break in disguise, affording doe-eyed Stephanie a first immersion into the job, that would later have her managing a TV commercial project and a big rebrand. 

Watch the full interview with Stephanie on our YouTube channel

The career journey into becoming the Marketing Director in AIB

Before landing her esteemed role in the education space, Stephanie polished her marketing prowess by managing the marketing of companies from various verticals. She’s become part of the marketing departments of companies HBO + EMTB, Liift, and Devine, which fall under the interior design, IT, and civil engineering industries, respectively. 

Her most recent role before her position at AIB was as the marketing manager for digital acquisition at Optus, which is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Australia providing mobile, telephony, internet, satellite, entertainment, and business network services. At Optus, she was responsible for the acquisition marketing of both the consumer broadband and the small & medium business (SMB) broadband categories.

Presently as the marketing director in AIB, she leads a team that executes all of the in-house digital execution, customer marketing, and campaigns delivery for the institute. At the MARKETECH Mondays interview, we went back to where it all started and asked the veteran what it felt like to be a first-time marketer. 

I actually thrive in an environment where we’re going at a fast pace, and trying things and learning on the go. I just kinda throw myself into it.

Stephanie on dealing with the industry for the first time

Stephanie took her first step into the marketing journey as a marketing coordinator for tile company Italia Ceramics in 2007. At Italia, she managed marketing campaigns across all media channels such as press, TV, radio, and online as well as in print. At this time, Stephanie had also been part of the brand’s rebranding and new brand execution. 

Stephanie reveals, “This was back when social wasn’t really a thing, and digital marketing wasn’t really a thing. At my time there, I was fortunate that we went through a whole rebrand.”

Stephanie shared that she’s always been the type of person who likes playing in the unknown and observing people that know more than her. 

“With the rebrand comes [recreating] all of the marketing collateral…and I was really lucky to be able to do all of that activity from the get go.”

The best thing about being a marketer: Delivering a product that has an impact on people’s lives 

As the marketing director of the graduate institution, Stephanie shared that the biggest challenge is convincing people of a product that does not only require a financial investment, but a significant investment of people’s time – something that is quite distant from the previous marketing she’s led where products were “household decisions.” But despite this, the reward still outweighs the said challenge, which is being able to help people be closer to a product that would genuinely have a positive impact on their lives. 

Stephanie emphasizes that when somebody chooses to study for a master’s degree, they usually choose to do it on top of full-time work, alongside family commitment, and usually at a time of their lives when they’re juggling a lot of other responsibilities.

“Helping people make the commitment and take the plunge or the decision that they’ve probably been thinking about doing for a while, I mean that can be a bit challenging sometimes,” she said. 

But Stephanie said the effort is worth it as they get to celebrate milestones with their students, whether it’s “completing their first subject, or hitting the halfway mark, or completing their masters in business.”

Being part of that experience in people’s lives, [it’s just] a really special moment and it’s a privilege really to be part of that after all the hard work that they put in.

Stephanie on marketing MBA as a ‘product’

Stephanie admitted that throughout her decade-long journey in the industry, her biggest mentor has always been her dad, who wasn’t even a marketer at all. 

The ‘mentorship’ was just sort of an accident when while growing up, she would always hear her dad, who entered entrepreneurship post-navy, introducing himself as someone who did sales and marketing. That stuck into young Stephanie, and grew up wanting to do the ‘same thing’. 

“I’m not saving lives but I’m doing sales and marketing,” said Stephanie.

I think the thing that I particularly love though about sales and marketing is just the stories that you get to tell, and then you get to fill things in people’s lives, such as encouraging someone to enroll in an MBA, or whether it’s encouraging someone to order a broadband plan.

As a leader: “keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning.” 

Stephanie’s leadership in AIB started in 2018. She said that the kind of leader that she is today is not only because of the ‘great’ leaders she’s met, but also the ‘bad’ ones. 

“I may not [always have] great leaders, but I still learn from those [bad] leaders, sometimes it’s about what not to do. More often than not, I learn from the great leaders, and still, everything I do [is] from the great leaders, and the leadership they’ve had over the years and continue to have,” shared Stephanie. 

Stephanie said that leadership is something that she doesn’t take lightly at all, as being in such position means you are in a crucial place of having the power to influence the people around you. At the same time, leadership for Stephanie is something that must be sharpened through time. 

It’s the type of thing [where] you’re constantly going to be learning [how] to be better. If you keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning, I think that’s an important thing to do.

Stephanie on leadership

Advice for budding marketers: “If an opportunity presents [itself], go after it.”

Stephanie believes that there really isn’t such a thing as failure. She’s always applied the view that opportunities must be grabbed, and with this go-getter attitude, she knows failures are inevitable. 

“On my point of view, I’ve always [taken] the approach that if an opportunity presents itself, go after it. With that comes the risk of failing at it, or not doing a great job.”

And this same philosophy is what she hopes aspiring marketers to carry – to not be afraid of challenges and to bravely own the multitude of opportunities before you as one is only able to figure out the ‘perfect’ opportunity and hone their expertise as they go along. 

[From] one opportunity, another one presents itself, and then another one, and you’ll be surprised [what] you end up doing

Most importantly, she advises, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the newest person on the team, if you’re the youngest [or] the oldest, or if you’re the least experienced, or the most experienced; if you ever have an idea, don’t question whether it’s a good idea; I think you should always bring those ideas forward.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Stephanie on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays: Neil Cullingford, Director of Marketing and Communications, Murdoch University

In the latest episode of MARKETECH Mondays, we chatted for the very first time with a marketing leader in the education space – Neil Cullingford – the current director of marketing and communications of Murdoch University, the Australian-based public university in Perth. 

With this, we aim to bring greater attention to the dynamics of marketing and branding in higher education, and most especially, what strategies are becoming the trend in the industry now that it has become one of the hardest hit this pandemic, shifting students and all stakeholders to navigate virtually. 

Currently, as the lead of marketing at Murdoch, Neil is mainly responsible for the brand, marketing, and strategic communications strategies of the university, to build its reputation and future growth. Within Murdoch, he’s had quite a journey rising through the ranks, starting out as an associate director, and eventually landing his current position. Before we dive further into Neil’s inspirational successes, let’s first get to know his humble beginnings. 

The journalism major that soon became a marketer

Neil in fact started his professional career in publishing. He was a graduate of Journalism, Film & Broadcasting at the University of Wales in London, and therefore started his career in the UK capital.

While not entirely related to marketing, Neil had his jumpstart in managing campaigns through a small publishing company called Quest Media. His first-ever was a B2B campaign with the target to drive subscriptions to a magazine. Neil shared how very different it was back then: direct marketing, sales letters, flyers, and call-to-action campaigns, and even going as old school as involving fax numbers. 

I learned a lot there, and I still carry lessons with me that is about the importance of having good data, [and] also knowing your audience. While it didn’t go as I hoped, [and] didn’t get many subscriptions [at the time], what that did is kind of improve myself as a marketer and also how [I] perform in future campaigns.

Neil in the MARKETECH Mondays Interview 

Neil shared that most of all, the important thing is that Quest Media was an entrepreneurial company, where in such an environment, he was given the opportunity to work with other marketers and learn his trade. 

From there, Neil started venturing to become a marketer of bigger brands such as market intelligence Centaur. He also became a brand and marketing manager at B2B events firm United Business Media (UBM), and most recently at electrical company Western Power, before stepping into Murdoch University. 

Great success: Increasing student numbers

Each industry in marketing is different and goes with that is the uniqueness of what it means to call a branding and marketing endeavor a success. For Neil at the university, it has always been about working with ambitious and determined students. 

What I really enjoyed about working in Murdoch is the audience – we get to work with high school kids going into university, using the breadth of channels, and that is from commercials to delivering campaigns and then performance marketing

Neil entered Murdoch University in 2016 as an associate director, and shortly after that, assumed the role of acting director. Within 6 months of entering the university’s team, Neil was given the big opportunity to lead as director following the incumbent’s leaving. 

I took that opportunity to really draw [out] what I felt were the important things the university needed to do at the time. The experience has been really beneficial for me in terms of my development as a person but also as a professional. It’s taught me [to become the] determined and persistent [person that] I am. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working in academics and the importance of that when you have your research, you gotta be spot on with that.

According to Neil, when he entered the university, the student numbers were in a decline, and so to name a great success within his journey, without a doubt, would be being able to lead the marketing team to increase the market share of Murdoch University. 

“It’s a massive achievement for anybody. [To think] [that it’s a] very mature market, a disruptive market, and with some very strong local brands in terms of the universities here [in Australia], [and then] to see that growth and come back from the decline, so we’re very proud of it,” added Neil  

One top achievement that Neil also cited is the recent rebranding of Murdoch University. It was unveiled in May, coinciding with its 50th anniversary, and was executed with the aim to better represent the University’s vision of a modern institution. According to a statement from the university, the revamp supports the university’s goal to be recognized as a world-changing university by Western Australians as well as national and international communities.

Leadership: “I believe I am someone who brings people and ideas together.”

Within almost 20 years in the industry, Neil started his leadership journey when he became a marketing manager for United Business Media. From there, he took on roles of brand and marketing manager and consultant at Western Power, and presently as Murdoch University’s director for marketing. 

Neil said that as a leader, he is someone who brings people and ideas together, and strives to be a leader that drives change, and is committed to growing himself and those around him.

“You can’t achieve anything alone so it’s really important to work with others in a positive way in which everyone sees the benefit,” Neil said. 

“First of all, I am myself. Being authentic is critical. I surround myself with talented people who share my values. I also believe that as a leader my role is to join the dots and see the opportunities ahead,” he added. 

Marketing strategies for higher education

When we asked Neil what the biggest challenge higher education is facing now, he said that international student mobility is the imminent and obvious one. Adding to that, he said one of the challenges is demonstrating to students both local and international the value and relevance of university education. 

With this, here are his go-to strategies as best response: 

  • Have a brand strategy that is a platform to differentiate and relate to both current and future students. 
  • Higher education institutions must challenge traditional notions of education and be prepared to adapt their educational offerings to meet the needs and expectations of students. 

I think the biggest challenge in a university sector that is well-established is how do you keep pushing the boundaries, how do you stay relevant to your customers and stakeholders, and everybody that you want to connect with. And that kind of takes me back to looking at the brand and understanding within yourself what you are, what you stand for, and showing yourself authentically.

Advice for budding marketers 

As part of his last words in the conversation, Neil shared his simple tips on how aspiring marketers can get their headstart and eventually trail the path of their own success:

  • Don’t wait for the world come to you – always look for how you can do something differently or make a difference 
  • Be true to yourself and others – believe in yourself but always seek to be self-aware of your strengths and what you need to work on
  • You’ll never know it all – and that’s ok, just believe and be kind to yourself. 

“Don’t put yourself under too much pressure too soon. Let yourself make mistakes, understand where you’re at, at your career, and don’t be someone else, be yourself. People will quickly see through it if you know yourself,” said Neil. 

Watch the interview with Neil:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

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AirAsia PH’s head of marketing on beginnings, failures and successes, and top advice for budding marketers

It would be hard to believe that Allenie Caccam, the head of marketing of one of the biggest airlines in Asia, AirAsia, in the Philippines is a self-confessed introvert–but now that she boasts of more than ten years of PR and marketing experience, you would think–she must have done something right. 

Allenie didn’t just thrive her way to an industry that is still mostly tagged as an extrovert’s world, but she did it with so much excellence that she rose through the ranks to become a top executive of a top airline brand. 

She started out as a marketing manager for the airline in the Philippines in 2014, eventually climbing up the ladder to become its senior manager for international marketing, then finally, assuming the role of head of marketing at a period that is none other than during the height of the pandemic. 

No surprise there–if you had to tap someone to trust your marketing during an unprecedented crisis, it would be Allenie. She is a Mass Communications graduate from the top national university in the country, University of the Philippines (UP), and carries a master’s degree in Business Administration from Asia School of Business. 

Fresh out of college, she began her grip in the industry as a PR manager at Grey Group which was still called Campaigns & Grey Philippines at the time. Before stepping into the world of aviation, she also had her time whipping up marketing strategies and creative campaigns for milk consumer goods company, Alaska Milk Corporation. 

In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Allenie did not just let us in on her great career journey, but also gave insights that only a person with a unique experience of hers could impart – on failures and successes, on leadership, and ultimately, a veteran’s advice to the budding marketers of the new generation. 

An introvert’s foray into the colorful but sometimes rowdy world of marketing

It’s been months since we’ve started our MARKETECH Mondays webisode, and if there’s one thing marketing leaders speak in consensus, it’s that marketing may look fun on the surface, but is actually a work demanding of great determination and grit. 

Admitting to being an introvert, starting out as a PR manager took a challenge for neophyte Allenie at the time, sharing that her first dip into the industry immediately thrust her to do a lot of ‘people work’. 

As an introvert, it was very hard for me to talk to media, to talk to different kinds of stakeholders, presenting in big meetings. It was really going out of my comfort zone.

Albeit a challenge, Allenie said that more than anything, the experience was ‘exciting’. 

Allenie Caccam_MARKETECH Mondays_Olay_CAPRI
Allenie’s PR unit CAPRI in 2011 at the launch of Olay Natural White Bar

“Most of the skills that I learned during that time are also the same skills that I think have been useful in my career journey even after staying in the PR industry.” 

Allenie’s PR unit at Grey was called CAPRI, where she did PR campaigns for multinational companies. Her first PR event was a launch for a fashion brand and was tasked to do media relations. 

She shared that as a beginner, she had a lot of sit-down engagements with her bosses, hence, reiterates the importance of feedback at such stage of one’s marketing career. 

Learn as much as you can. I was always having one-on-one talks with my managing director, my direct boss during that time, and we would always sit down and discuss what are the things that should be happening in the day-to-day.

Allenie adds, “A lot of it is also trying to figure out what you really want to contribute to the group. For example, if you’re really into a certain type of industry, then that’s also I think [something that] you should voice out to your manager or to your direct boss so that you could actually hone your skills first at something that you’re comfortable with, and then as you become more confident in what you’re doing, then you start to venture into other industries or [to] other products, or [to] other companies that could actually expand your knowledge or your expertise.”

How the concept of failure and success evolved for Allenie

Having started a decade ago, Allenie said that with growth, her concept of ‘failure’ and ‘success’ has also naturally evolved. When before, failing would mean that a creative idea or campaign has not translated to sales or the target engagement, being a leader changes those entirely, where now, a fallout or a victory is more closely anchored to people management. 

Earlier marketing stints saw Allenie launching Alaska’s Krem-Top coffee creamer product to compete with leading Nescafe brand at the time, and when she stepped into the AirAsia company, earlier roles had her driving the network expansion plan of the airline in the country and lead digital campaigns to promote international routes. All of those–she shared, was what used to be her ultimate metric of success and failure.

Allenie Caccam_MARKETECH Mondays_AirAsia 1
International team of AirAsia Philippines in 2018

From just projects [and] meeting the targets, now it’s also more of how successful am I in building or training the members of my team. Now, failure for me is if they didn’t learn anything, or if they’re not improving, or if they’re not growing.

Success then would be the counter of such possible shortcomings in team management. For Allenie, success now meant being able to successfully launch those under her to manage their own, or heck, see them become even better than her, or when those that are more senior to her are able to recognize the efforts of her team. 

Now having assumed two senior leadership roles in AirAsia in a span of three years, she shared that at times, her team members have grown to be more confident that they don’t bother anymore to ask for her opinion – to which she agrees is a “good thing.”

Seeing your team being able to handle their own [projects], [and when] you would see the difference between you holding their hands before versus now that they don’t even ask for your opinion anymore because they already know what they’re doing–those are the moments that I think I’ve been really, really successful.

As a leader: ‘As above, so below’

Allenie is no doubt a leader not just in title but in heart. Even after a decade-long professional career, when it comes to leadership, she still clings to a principle that she learned way back as a university student which is ‘As above, so below’–a philosophy pertaining to the close relationship between the forces taking place below a surface and above it, such as leaderhip.

I always make it a point to be more self-aware [because of that perspective]. For example, if your team is not doing well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not good, but also because maybe, it’s your style of leading them, and maybe there’s something more that you need to do from your end so they could do better.

AirAsia marketing team 2020
AirAsia marketing team 2020

Allenie believes that leadership is looking at your team as a reflection of how you are as a leader – how you manage, how you decide, and your mood as a leader. 

“I always make it a point [to] do self-reflection, especially when I’m having a stressful day [or week], [I try to see] how does that affect my team, and however they are performing is a reflection of how I am training them.”

On a more operational level, Allenie scratches the idea of “imposing things,” instead, engages the team through conversations to talk about the important ‘whys’. 

“[I like] having discussions with them to talk about the ‘whys’ like ‘why do you want to do this’, or ‘why is your strategy this and not that’”

I think when your team understands their ‘why’, why they are doing things, why they are performing a certain task, then it becomes more natural for them to initiate actions or to initiate solutions because they understand the reason why they’re doing it.

To budding marketers–specialization and being collaborative are the ways to go

Specialization–that is Allenie’s advice to the upcoming generation of marketers as we conclude the MARKETECH Mondays interview. You would think that carrying such ‘versatility’ in the profession – with experience in product development, PR, and aviation and route management – such advice would be ironic, but it actually takes someone who has successfully made ‘the rounds’ and experienced different pathways in the profession to know that being out in the field and experimenting is only part of sharpening the saw. 

Know everything or know the basics, and then you specialize [in] one thing, so that you have a specific skill set that only caters to that before you expand to the others, [because] that will also help you get a direction on what career path you want [to take] in the marketing industry.

Allenie also touches on another important thing, something that transcends expertise and one that encourages good work ethic – and that is being collaborative. 

Allenie believes that while marketing is one of the core departments in any company, it is only one part of the equation and that whatever success comes out of one brand’s marketing efforts, it is always, and will be a product of a good collaboration with other departments. 

Just because you’re [in] marketing, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care [about] all the other departments. Marketing is one of the core departments in any brand or in any company, and [if you] know how operations work, know how finance, [sales] [or] [PR] works, [and just] know how all the other departments work, you can come up with better marketing strategies and better campaigns that [are] more holistic and [more] collaborative.

She adds, “If you just focus on marketing, it’s not just about shouting prices, it’s not just about coming up with buzzwords, or the next big thing, [because] a lot of those insights come from the feedback of the [other] departments. Usually, successful campaigns are successful because it involves full cooperation of the other departments in the company.” 

Ultimately, she said, “Sometimes, the real core ideas of our campaigns also come from other departments. Stay collaborative all the way.”

Watch our live interview with Allenie Caccam on our YouTube channel.

If you are a marketing leader and have an inspiring story to share, email us at [email protected].

Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMondays: Raffy Bariso, Executive Director, Technology and Platform Services, MullenLowe Treyna

“The pandemic is the biggest digital disruptor” – these are the very first words from Raffy Bariso when we chatted with him on the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

Raffy is currently the executive director for Technology and Platform Services or TAPS, the digital unit of integrated marketing communications agency MullenLowe Treyna in the Philippines; and with the pandemic pivoting everything to digital, the word “busy” has taken a whole ‘nother meaning, with Raffy disclaiming, “busy but rewarding.”

Raffy’s entry into tech and digital has been a straightforward path, starting out as an account executive for a website back in 2004. The journey may not have been dotted with exhilarating career turns that are straight out of the movies, but still can be said to be a work of fate, with the field not being Raffy’s well-intended path.

As a communications major, he desired working for the big names – the multinational agencies in the creative industry – but with little luck, took his first professional gig in the area of digital within a boutique agency; and from there, his expertise grew.

By 2010, he was taking on a senior managerial position for digital projects, and that’s when a former boss peddled his services to MullenLowe, eventually moving into a consultant role for a campaign on food seasoning brand Knorr. MullenLowe Treyna was one of the multinational agencies that invested in building a digital team, and when he started working fully for the firm in 2011, his work spanned creatives, digital media, and social media marketing. 

Now at TAPS, he heads its services, which is mainly the use of creative technology to answer clients’ marketing challenges, coming up with products that leverage on the firm’s expertise in strategic narrative, content and media, PR, activations, and production.

Armed with an omnibus of experience in digital 15 years after, he goes on to share his most fulfilling campaigns, his definition of success and failure, his creative heroes, and how he manages a team landscape that has more profound generational differences than ever.

Value-led campaigns under his belt: Knorr and 7-11

For Raffy, the most remarkable campaigns he did were those that advocated and fronted social values.

Most recently, he worked on a family-oriented campaign for Knorr – a short film called “Kanya, Kanya” which means “being on one’s own.” The project was close to Raffy’s heart as it brought the message of togetherness despite circumstances that may cause a family to take space and time apart.

“[It’s about] how sometimes [being] exposed to a lot of technology, and the [pandemic], sorts of divide the family; but [that] at the end of the day, your family can bring comfort, and that comfort can come from like a food, lovingly prepared by your loved ones, or your friends,” said Raffy.

Another remarkable project is that of convenience store chain 7-11, which he revealed as “one of the highlights of my career.” The campaign was launched at the time of the presidential elections in the Philippines in 2016, and with the use of the famous self-service Gulp cups from the brand, the campaign intended to inspire citizens the importance of voting.

With the candidates’ images printed on the cups, the store chain ran an informal vote canvassing, called “Gulpihan sa 7-11,” with the Gulp integrated to the word which means “Fight.”

Raffy said, “My involvement was more on helping us react to the country that was being divided by the elections. This was Gulpihan sa 7-Eleven.”

“It was important for the mere fact that we wanted to encourage people to vote instead of being undecided. We won awards both internationally and locally.”

His creatives hero: the mentor who reframes challenges into solutions

Not everybody is able to name on top of their heads a particular mentor, with most owing their inspiration to a multitude of exemplary individuals. Though not entirely an exception, with Raffy looking up to a number of female leaders, it was clear-cut – his biggest mentor of them all is MullenLowe’s chief product consultant, and formerly president Leigh Reyes. 

“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and I’ve been blessed being in the same breathing space with a lot of advertising legends, but I think out of all of them, Leigh Reyes would be the person that had the most impact in my career, and actually my personal life.”

According to Raffy, in every meeting that Leigh would be present in, one is able to get a lot of value from such simple interaction. 

“What makes her great for me is her generosity as a leader. A lot of the marketing principles that I’ve learned would have to come from her.” 

“[During meetings], the way she reframes arguments and challenges, and comes up with solutions, [which] she can put together in a stack, in a new technology. ” 

Raffy further said, “When she was inducted into the Creative Guild Hall of Fame in 2015, she said something about being generous with your ideas, [and] that by doing so, you let other people shine, and this reflects back to the whole team and industry.”

Failure for him is, “Everytime I do not apply myself.”

As if Raffy’s creative credentials in digital and tech isn’t enough to call him multi-talented, there comes the history of his passion for the performing arts. He said that for him, failure is when every time he’s not able to apply his passions.

Back in his college days, Raffy actively pursued singing, dancing and scriptwriting, and even described his experiences as that of theatrical series Glee. 

“Categorically, I cannot say there are any [failures] that [qualify] as great; however, I failed at pursuing other interests like doing performance arts, scriptwriting, or simply pursuing a career overseas.”

His other passions may have taken a pause, but only for the reason that he already found one of his great loves: advertising. 

“[The] opportunities I’ve turned down in the past, I realize [I’ve done them] because I enjoy what I am doing in advertising.”  

“So the best thing for me [now] is to maximize my time in learning from everyone I work with, so that I can create opportunities that can help further my contribution in the agency.”

For the great success on the other hand, Raffy said it would be his tenure and post in MullenLowe. 

“I have been here for almost 10 years and so much has changed. MullenLowe Treyna has given me a room to grow and maximize my potential, so staying around has been an easy decision.”

Raffy as a leader in a youth-dominated field of digital

Raffy describes his team as “most being really young, and in their early 20’s.”

He shared what he loves about Gen Z’s: “They really seek out mentorship, and information, and want to have that kind of high-touch interaction with you. And I think, I feel pretty privileged that I get [to have that kind of interaction]. 

Raffy says he considers himself a little green on the job, as only prior to two years ago on his appointment as digital lead at MullenLowe, he was used to working alone.

“[Stepping into the position], there’s a side of me that I’ve already known, and just sort of confirming those things for me; and there are portions of myself [as a leader] that I have come to discover.”

Even in the mid of achieving full growth into the senior role, Raffy abides by his approach that centers around “vision.”

His personal mantra is that of American author Seth Godin, which goes, “The secret of leadership is simple: do what you believe in. paint a picture of the future. go there. people will follow.”  

Raffy said, “I had to set [a] vision for my team. [This] sets the tone and direction for everybody, and [from them], I have to sell that vision, [so that] I can build that trust, and they can get behind my goals.”

He also upholds that sense of responsibility for his team, to nurture their talents, because he believes “it starts from the top.” 

“Let me tell you first that I am not perfect. It is easier to spot the mistakes, and call them out; but as they happen, you should reflect if there are bad habits that you tend to pass down to your team.”

“When you see them able to stand on their own during meetings, execute decisions without you, failing and learning from their own mistakes. That’s a moment.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 6:30 pm PST.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

Main Feature Marketing APAC

#MARKETECHMondays: Prashant Kala, Country Manager, ShopBack Philippines

Before joining rewards and discounts platform ShopBack in the Philippines, Prashant was with the Philippine arm of India-grown restaurant aggregator Zomato for five years. 

What made him do the big shift? In Prashant’s words, he said he wanted to do something “different than what he was used to working on.” Having always been on the B2B side of things, he was looking for a project that will make him work on both B2B and B2C and stumbling upon Shopback, the opportunity on the platform gave him the challenge of not just building its partners but growing its users as well. 

Now the country manager of ShopBack, we sat down with Prashant to know more about his humble beginnings and the journey he took before becoming the head of one of the leading shopping platforms in the region.

First foray into marketing

Fresh out of a master’s degree, Prashant didn’t veer away too far from roots, and in fact, had his very first job right in the university he graduated in, as an assistant manager for sales and marketing in the Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (IILM) – Institute for Higher Education in Delhi, India.

Working with students as a target segment, he shared that the type of marketing the role had him doing was not in the likes of big advertising projects, but rather, more personalized.

“I was handling marketing for the college across North India and a couple of international markets. The whole focus was to attract a huge student pool to apply for our courses and finally assisting them with their admissions and courses,” he said in the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

“It was more about talking to people, [more about] community building; It was a lot about knowing exactly what people are looking at, [and more] of career development.”

On Mentorship: “Everybody has taught me something.”

When asked about his role models, Prashant struggled to name one particular person and said that he’s the type who seeks inspiration from every person he meets.

“Professionally, I have had a chance to work with some amazing people over the years and I would say everyone that I meet has been able to make me learn something new. I don’t really have one mentor for all aspects of my professional development but I seek advice and guidance from multiple role models in my life.”

That is at least, professionally. But when it comes to his personal values, he didn’t have to think hard and said he owed his good ethics to his parents and uncles.

“In terms of personal growth, I think my parents and my uncles have always been the biggest source of inspiration in my life. I have learned the value of hard work and most importantly, I have learned the value of how to be true to people who expect your feedback and suggestions in life no matter how harsh the truth is from my father and my uncles.”

“I’m still waiting for the greatest career success.”

It would be naive to say that with Prashant’s experience, he still hasn’t claimed success, but for him, there is still a greatness ahead that’s yet to be tapped.

“I really hope I find it later in life and not very soon as I really want to keep getting that rush of trying to get smaller successes, and I want to keep dreaming of [greater success]. I think that thought drives me every morning so I wouldn’t want to achieve it that fast.”

Of course with successes also come the failures. And still within the context of “great,” he believes there is no such thing.

“I won’t call any failure a great failure [as] every failure comes in with disappointments, and I don’t think we can categorize something [as great].”

“Instead of failures, I would say I had many challenges where I was unable to find a solution quicker which would have been ideal.”

Making that more specific, he said that the most critical setbacks were when good people leave your team.

“I have lost a few teammates in the past and that always sets your plan a few feet back but I think every situation teaches you something new, but one takeaway that one such setback gave me was to have a plan B but not to rely on it and give plan A 100%.”

He added, “Also plan B cannot be a totally different plan from A and they both have to be interconnected, else you are going to start from scratch which will push you to take a lot of reverse steps.”

Prashant’s words to live by: “Be a best friend to yourself.”

For Prashant, the secret to success need not be too far away from oneself, and the key is to be your own best friend, an honest and frank one at that.

“Keep it real, no matter how difficult it is, and be your best friend so you can talk real with yourself.”

“Best friends don’t shy away from telling you harsh truths. As a team lead, I try to be as real as possible with my teammates, clients and even [the] people around me. I don’t shy away in giving or taking feedback and I try to keep it timely, as well as even [to] myself.”

How about for those who are eyeing to enter the world of marketing?

Prashant said, “Read a lot, follow great brands and their campaigns, [and] take risks but always calculate what you want to achieve out of it. Always have the eye on the goal and do backward mapping, or back designing to achieve it.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 5:30 pm PST.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.

Main Feature Marketing APAC

MARKETECH APAC’s Top 5 Stories For September

This month, MARKETECH APAC truly lived up to its name. For the top 5 stories this September, we saw a diverse set of newsmakers hailing from around the APAC region.

The top stories were identified based on Google Analytics from August 17 to September 15. In the list, two great brands from Southeast Asia and East Asia flexed their creative prowess to showcase novel brand marketing moves. Marketing leaders also continue to dominate the list; a marketing executive from South Asia recounted her almost two-decade marketing journey, another one, an APAC business director filled us in on a growing buying trend that no one saw coming amid the pandemic, while a significant appointment from ANZ also grabbed people’s attention this month. 

Top 5: Shopee gets fictional character Phua Chu Kang as new face of the brand

Ever since eCommerce platform Shopee was launched, it has only been putting its trust to big, international names to represent its brand – that would be Kpop girl band Blackpink and professional footballer Cristian Ronaldo. During its 9.9 super sale, the brand decided to show what hyper localization really means by getting not just any local personality, but a deeply rooted cultural icon – sitcom character Phua Chu Kang.

Phua Chu Kang, played by actor Gurmit Singh, is the title character of the longest-running sitcom by network Mediacorp, which revolves around the misadventures of the Phu family.

The show ran from 1996-2007, and within that time, Singaporeans grew to love the eccentric, overly confident, and yellow-boots wearing contractor. So what has truly made the Shopee team go for this rather unconventional stint?

Speaking to MARKETECH APAC, Head of Marketing Tiger Wang said, “The [appointment] marks another milestone for us as we continue to build on the hyper-localized approach and deepen our engagement with the local audiences. Phua Chu Kang is a household name and a celebrity, [and] local icon. His ability to resonate with and unite local communities aligns with Shopee’s vision, making him the best choice for us.”

Top 4: Hong Kong-based Towngas cooking academy extends its expertise to YouTube 

Amid in-person limitations during the ongoing pandemic, many brands and businesses alike have turned to the virtual side of things. Take Hong Kong-based cooking school Towngas Cooking Centre as an example. The culinary academy which has flame cooking at the core of its program, has gotten things rolling this September as it forayed to YouTube this month, and it doesn’t stop at that. It has a bunch of high-caliber celebrity chefs to boot, tapped to showcase the school’s virtual sessions.

Healthy Monday, French Wednesday, Culinary Tips4U, and Star Chef Weekend and Sunday Mom & Dad are just some of the quirky-titled lessons that are slated for its YouTube viewers.

General Manager for Retail Marketing & Sales Catherine Wong said that the occurrence of COVID has definitely pushed Hong Kongers to prefer home-cooked meals to dining out, and this is what ultimately brought the brand to make the most out of the situation. 

Top 3: Healthcare marketing maven Jasrita Dhir

Last month, the #MARKETECHMondays episode of Philippines’ Mark De Joya entered the top five list, and this time, another one of the webisode’s guests – India-based marketing leader Jasrita Dhir has been one of the stories that garnered the most views.

Jasrita’s marketing expertise expands almost two decades, where she’s worked with a list of well-known brands such as consumer product giant Procter & Gamble, hospitality brand Oberoi Hotels and Resorts, and television media company NDTV before having focused entirely on brand and marketing for healthcare services. 

Currently, she is the assistant vice president for healthcare provider Fortis Healthcare in India. When we sat down with Jasrita during her #MARKETECHMondays episode, she shared some very helpful advice that could be very well treated as a guiding light to budding marketers. 

“I just have two things to say to [marketers]; the first is, please never forget why you decided to become a marketer. There would be times in your journey when you’re feeling low, but constantly remind yourself [your why], [which is] because you want to be your consumer’s voice inside your organization,” said Jasrita. 

‘The second is keep upgrading; it’s nobody else’s responsibility to upgrade your skills. Because your consumer is going to keep changing; there are new avenues, [mediums], [and] new platforms. You have to have their pulse,” added Jasrita.  

Top 2: Stella Berry’s take on a new phenomenon in shopping amid the pandemic

Have you heard of revenge shopping? We bet not, but we too are sure that it would be a term soon to ring bells. In a nutshell, revenge shopping goes hand in hand with luxury shopping. It is a phenomenon that sees luxury stores opening their doors to shopping-starved consumers looking to avenge their months spent holed up at home during the lockdown.

This month, Regional Business Director of mobile advertising solutions Adludio, Stella Berry dedicated a full thought leadership article on the buying trend.

Stella said that it is a testament to the unique relationship consumers have with luxury. 

“No one could have predicted that after months of lockdown, the need for luxury goods has resulted in long queues outside of boutiques. This phenomenon is the result of brands, really making the effort in continuing to engage with people even during the lockdown,’ shared Stella.

All looking positive for brands and consumers, but Stella also puts out a caution.

“Returning to business as usual at this [rapidly] accelerated pace could bring about a negative impact [on] the environment, and consequences on sustainability. So luxury marketers need to find their balance to ensure the brand continues to remain sustainable, but also well-loved,” said Stella.

Top 1: Cognizant ANZ ropes in former PwC executive Jane Livesey

Our top story for the month comes from Australia and New Zealand, and from global IT firm Cognizant at that. In August, former PwC managing partner Jane Livesey was roped in by the firm to become CEO

Livesey breathes and lives IT. At PwC, she led over 800 IT professionals for the company’s technology consulting practice team in Australia; while for 12 years, she served as tech managing director for Accenture. With a seasoned IT experience under her belt, Livesey has also become an active advocate for women in the field of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, or STEAM. 

It hasn’t been very long since Jane settled into the role, and as we checked up on her, she shared with us, “It’s been great to join Cognizant and hit the ground running in Australia and New Zealand. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with both our clients and our teams. At Cognizant, we are focused on how to enable organizations in ANZ to keep on top of era-defining innovations and drive growth in the face of continuous technological and market changes. As CEO of ANZ, my priority is to provide local enterprises and governments with high-quality, market-leading digital transformation capabilities that enhance the lives of people and support digital-first.”

Watch the MARKETECH APAC REPORTS of these top five stories, with exclusive appearance and commentary from the newsmakers themselves.

If you have interesting stories, thought-leadership pieces, and case studies in the area of marketing, technology, media platforms, and SME, please send us an email at [email protected] Who knows your story could be part of our top 5 next month.

Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

#MARKETECHMondays: Norman Agatep, President and Managing Director of Grupo Agatep in the Philippines

To thrive in marketing and public relations where creativity is the name of the game is already a challenge on its own, let alone to achieve tenure in such industry. To become a mainstay—that is a different story altogether.

For the first #MARKETECHMondays episode this September, we feature Norman Agatep. A name that may have been, over the period of time, synonymous to advertising and PR in the Philippines; a living and breathing example of a man whose passion in marketing and corporate communications has lent him an undeniable feature of success, that is, longevity in the field.

Norman is currently the president and managing director of Grupo Agatep, an integrated marketing communication agency put up by his father, Charlie Agatep, a veteran PR man himself.

Norman has been working in advertising and PR since 1990 prior to becoming chief of his family-run agency. But from the year 2015 onwards, that was when he saw his expertise unfold in a novel way, being appointed to roles that would charge him not only with overseeing clientele work, but also with contributing to the growth of the country’s communication industry.

In 2015, he stepped in as president of the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP). Then in 2016, he was elected chairman of the 4As, or the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines, a non-profit organization covering Ad agencies in the country. The year after, he was reelected to the position, all the while being named as chairman of the advertising regulatory board, the Ad Standards Council (ASC). Currently, he serves as president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.

Truly a soldier of the creative industry, his devotion to the work of media and communications goes over and beyond running an agency, but now has proven to be that of dedicating oneself to the country’s advertising and PR landscape.

With all these credentials under his belt, one would wonder, who was he before all of it? We go back to the night of his graduation.

Starting out as an English lit teacher
Before doing agency work, Norman was with the academe, teaching high school students on an array of subjects that are still close to communication: English literature and composition; film theory and appreciation.

As a man looking for a career to build, from the very start, he need not look far ahead having a father that was well-immersed in marketing. But there was this brief incident at the night of his college graduation that further pushed signs that he was meant to do work in marketing communications.

“I remember very distinctly, walking out at the venue of our graduation, I was with my dad and the president of an ad agency came over, and was recruiting me on the spot to join his agency,” said Norman during the #MARKETECHMondays interview.

“When he asked me, my father was there at the time. My dad was saying, ‘But wait, before you even ask my son in your agency, I might as well be the first one to ask him’.”

As inconclusive it may be, accepting that impulsive offer could still have turned a different path for him, but a father has got to know—doe-eyed Norman was very well destined to become successor.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
To say that Norman’s father, Charlie Agatep, is an inspiration to him would be a complete understatement. Norman says that a big part of his passion and work ethic could not have come elsewhere, but has always been deeply grounded from his roots.

The senior Agatep built the agency in 1986, where years later, would be joining forces with multinational advertising leader Euro RSCG, more commonly known today as Havas Worldwide. In 2016, the company returned to its local roots and is now the independent agency, Grupo Agatep.

“The mentoring that I got from my dad was holistic. I would see him at home, and then at work, then back at home again,’ shared Norman.

“The very way that he would dispose [of] himself at home, and the examples he would demonstrate through work ethic in the office, then back at home again; [that] is seamless. So it was something that I was surrounded with 24 hours a day.”

He shares further, “He would demonstrate exactly what effective communication would be. He would be very clear on how he would communicate.”

One of the best lessons he learned from him, the balance of the right and the left brain.

“He is results-oriented. That’s something difficult [for me] [because] I am more on the creative side of communication, so sometimes, it gets difficult for me to focus on results, because I am so buried, entrenched on the task of creating.”

“But [my father], he’s not like that. He’s able to distance himself from work, and see where the work is headed to and what objectives are still needed. So he is results-oriented, [something] I am continually learning from, [and] the quality that I am trying to learn.”

A tale on pitches: failures and successes along the way
When asked about failures and successes, Norman touched on the pitches that he was able to see through and those that just didn’t get the green light.

For him, there have been disappointments in the career he’s led just like everybody else’s; probably an account that he lost or a pitch he didn’t win, but trying to remember them will never be as vivid, as he lives by the attitude of always “moving forward” and never lingering on the missteps.

“I don’t remember them distinctly because the attitude should be to take that situation, and see how you can be better because of it.”

With successes, it would come as a surprise that a particular pitch he felt most proud of was one he didn’t immediately bag, and was in fact only a second choice to the winning idea at the time.

The pitch was for a big advertising campaign for a beverage brand, where five agencies were in competition. Norman’s team was the smallest agency of the bunch. Easily a boulder to overcome at the start, his team had been asked to revise and present twice. But hard work paid off when they received a call the night of the second round.

He recounts, “The night of that second presentation, the brand manager called [and wanted to meet].”

The brand manager goes, as Norman remembers, “We were not so impressed by [your] idea, [and] the other agencies had bolder ideas, but we [enjoy] [working] with you, we feel like we can work through an idea.”

Then the next thing the manager says is something we all ought to learn on the topic of attitude:

“The pitch is an opportunity to see what ideas you have, but it’s also an opportunity to see if we will be able to collaborate on this brand. We did not feel that with the other agencies, we [felt] that [with you], [that] as we collaborate even more, we will get it right.”

Norman as a leader
Leadership is something that has defined most of Norman’s career.

He maintained a directorial position for 19 years before becoming Grupo Agatep’s president. He was creative director of then Euro RSCG Manila for nine years, then managing director of the rebranded Havas
Worldwide Manila for another 10 years.

So how is he as a leader? Even after being in the industry for so long, he reveals that he’s the kind who’s ever hands-on.

“I [wear] several hats. In the office, it’s managing the teams and making sure the clients are happy and serviced well, and making sure delivering what we had promised to our clients; also ensuring that the quality of work is up there. I check on a lot of the work that’s coming out.”

We also asked about the ongoing elephant in the room for the tenured individuals in the creative industry, the ones that hadn’t been originally acculturated to the digital medium: how do you evolve, and lead a young, millennial- and Gen-Z- dominated team?

The way he’s able to manage such team, he chalks it up to his professorship.

“Both my dad and I used to be teachers, where he taught both high school and college. A big part of leadership is training [newcomers]. It [gets] tiring when people eventually move on, and then you have a new set of people to train, but I really like it, and you have to like it to be able to survive this cycle of forever teaching even the basics of PR and marketing.”

He adds, “It’s about loving the craft and being updated yourself, because when I started 30 years ago, there wasn’t online marketing yet. You just have to keep growing as well, and being several steps ahead of the people you’re going to train, and having an open mind that you’re [also] going to learn from them.”

“PR work is grassroots”
Norman gives advice to would-be and aspiring marketers, and he imparts one that is brief, but hits home to the perpetual misconception of what PR work really is.

“There is a preconceived notion that marketing and PR would be a glamorous job, which is sometimes, it’s like that, but it’s a lot of hard work too.”

“If you want to get into marketing, you’ve got to understand it fully. A lot of PR work is grassroots. It’s going to communities, and trying to understand them better, and trying to think of ways to solve the problem of the brands you’re working with.”

Ultimately, he adds, creative PR work starts with oneself.

“Understand brands. Take a look at the brands that you like, try to figure out what makes them successful for you. What did the brands do right that made you patronize them, [ask yourself] how can you use that, and translate that to other stuff that you could do to other brands.”

Watch the full video of this interview on our YouTube channel, going live today at 6:30 pm PST.

If you’re a marketing leader and you want to share your career experience to inspire the marketing industry, please reach out, we want to hear your story.