Advertising Interviews

Cheuk Chiang

CEO, Asia Pacific | 27 Sep 2013

Media is at a place where India can share a lot of innovation with the rest of the world. I also really enjoy the sophistication in the market. Indians are leading the way in marketing leadership. Indian talent is extraordinary; the best talent in the world comes out of India.

Cheuk Chiang, CEO, Asia Pacific for Omnicom Media Group has had a broad and eclectic experience, and his career to date spans across account management, strategy planning and agency management roles in creative, direct marketing, digital and media agencies. Over the past 22 years, he has worked on a number of high profile brands, including ANZ Bank, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Heinz, Hennessy, HP, Holden, HTC, Kraft, Mars, Motorola, Nestle, Nikon, Tiger Beer and Unilever.

In late 2008, he joined PHD as its CEO for the Asia Pacific region. In 2011, he was appointed to head LIGHT, Omnicom Media Group’s creativity council and served as a judge at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

On conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Chiang speaks about the sophistication in the Indian market, cause-related communication, OMG’s strong focus on talent and more...

Q. What do you think makes the Indian media industry stand out in today’s scenario?

The Indian market place is a hugely dynamic one. With so much changes occurring in India, there are a lot of interesting lessons to be learnt by all other markets. Media is at a place where India can share a lot of innovation with the rest of the world through some case studies such as the ‘Wheel missed call campaign’, which showcases the innovative use of mobile.

I also really enjoy the sophistication in the market. Indians are leading the way in marketing leadership. Indian talent is extraordinary; the best talent in the world comes out of India.

Q. What are some of the best campaigns that you have seen so far this year?

I was a juror at Cannes Lions this year. The best work I have seen really falls in two categories – one, where media is no longer treated as a space for ads but for ideas and innovation. We are seeing media being used as a utility, for example, the IBM campaign where traditional outdoor was turned into a channel and used as media for utility. So, media as utility is one of the biggest trends we are seeing, its basic form is in the form of an app.

The other key trend is media that is a lot more cause-related – for example, the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ campaign produced for the Metros in Melbourne to prevent railways accidents. The other fantastic campaign was ‘Brothers for Life’ from South Africa. I would also like to mention the work that we have done for the ‘Sketches’ campaign for Unilever on Dove.

Q. Do you foresee a surge in cause-related communication?

Throughout the 1980s, there was a surge in commercialism – we saw companies talk about themselves; it was all about them and their brands. Effectively what we saw come out of that towards the 1990s was a shift towards corporate responsibility. As the world has become far more digitised, it has also become far more socialised, so we are currently in what we effectively call ‘the social media economy’, where corporate responsibility and doing what is right for the society is extremely important.

At the same time, every campaign may not be suited to cause communication, but we must bear in mind that our business is all about influence and connection. Clearly, having a voice that is cause-related or standing up for something is very important to consumers. It is no longer about corporations talking about themselves, but how corporations can help the society.

Q. Who do you consider as your best competitor in the APAC region?

GroupM is very strong in the APAC region when it comes to talent and great leadership, and great leadership should be respected.

Q. The Omnicom Media Group has renewed its focus on talent with the appointment of Samantha Webb as Talent Director in August this year. What is the Group’s approach to the challenge of talent retention faced by the media industry at large?

Talent retention is one of the fundamental challenges in our business, and what it finally comes down to is two things – one is offering the right culture and environment for people to work in, and secondly, it is about adding a lot more rigour around the talent and HR side of things. Bringing on board Samantha Webb is a big step for our organisation, clearly talent is our asset.

She has been brought on board to bring a different level of professionalism, not to say we didn’t have it before, but to take it to a whole new level. For example, best practises in terms of how we look at KPI’s Succession Planning. 360 degree reviews, how talent is oriented when they come in, and how we look at exit interviews.

Another very important area of focus is training and development. Webb’s coming on board is really about raising the bar and bring about consistency. Her other area of focus will be how do we bring about a culture of innovation across the organisation.

Q. Are clients investing money in new media, given the current economic scenario?

We have a huge role to play as a partner and key stakeholder, and we need to help clients build their brands and drive commercial success through the work that we do. Whatever we do it is important – we deliver campaigns that are innovative, because innovation delivers a disproportionate and transformational return on investment. In the past, it was always about paid media, it is now all about owned and earned media, this allows clients to achieve a greater return using less spends.

In today’s economy, where it is tough to do business and engage with consumers, innovation is very important as it gives you a competitive edge.

Every client wants strong innovation and clever strategy, our role is to provide them the best advice for their media dollars. We have some very sophisticated tools to help allocate their dollars against particular audiences and demographics, where digital plays a key role. In a hugely fragmented world, digital allows us to leverage the cookie pool, how consumers are behaving, where they are living, and get the statistics that help us re-target them; unlike in the olden days, when a consumer could flip past a banner ad in a magazine and a brand could do nothing about it.

Q. What are your media consumption habits like?

I have very broad media consumption habits. I am a huge consumer of digital and social media, at the same time I also like to balance it with traditional media as well. But I am not a rarity. Media is hugely fragmented today and it is no longer only about traditional or new media, because most consumers engage at various touch points.

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