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Opinion and Insight

Meet the Ogilvy APAC A-Team

The big Asia Pacific reshuffle has created an all-star line-up under Eugene Cheong

Meet the Ogilvy APAC A-Team

Call them the Ogilvy Avengers or the APAC A-Team, but Eugene Cheong has cast a roster of real heavy hitters as he pulls together his regional leadership team. Last month saw the departure of the inimitable Graham Fink from Ogilvy China, but a slew of power-ups and homecomings look set to shake things up for 2018. Hong Kong’s Reed Collins and Japan’s Ajab Samrai have been promoted to North Asia CCO and ASEAN CCO respectively, while Sonal Dabral returned to Ogilvy last year to lead the charge in South Asia and erstwhile OgilvyOne China ECD Doug Schiff will be returning to Asia to head up Ogilvy Japan. 
 
 
Eugene Cheong – Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy Asia Pacific

LBB> You’ve described the regional line-up as a ‘dream team’ – what were you looking for when assembling this team?

EC> According to David Ogilvy, there are five kinds of creative directors:
 
1. Sound on strategy, dull on execution
2. Good managers, who don’t make waves
3. Duds
4. The genius who is a lousy leader, and 
5. Trumpeter swans who combine personal genius with inspiring leadership.
 
Sonal, Reed and Ajab are these rare birds.

They have proven time and again over decades that they are personally capable of radical thinking and beautifully realised work. As creative directors, they have the strength of character and emotional quotient to create atmospheres within which creative mavericks can do jealousy-inducing work.
 
LBB> Reed and Ajab were already heading up really successful markets within the region and Doug is no stranger to Ogilvy’s APAC family – but what was it about them and what they’ve achieved that meant you wanted to expand their remits (and in Doug and Sonal’s case, bring them back to the Ogilvy family?)
 
EC> As the saying goes: to those who have, more will be given. The plan is for Ajab and Reed to do to five offices what they did so spectacularly well for one office. Doug and Sonal have arguably the harder job, which is to maintain the creative standard of what are already great offices.
 
LBB> Entering 2018 with this super-powered regional line-up must be exciting – what are your hopes and ambitions for Ogilvy APAC for the year?
 
EC> The Holy Grail for us is to be both big and good. We are certainly big in Asia, but I want us to be good across all our key markets. It’s not an ambition that can be achieved in one year, but we’ll get there because we’re obstinate donkeys disguised as human beings.
 
 
Reed Collins – Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy North Asia

LBB> Your new role coincides with a slew of huge global sporting events in North Asia over the next couple of years – Winter Olympics in Korea, Rugby World Cup, Olympics 2020… Are you looking forward to a sporty few years with the agencies and clients?
 
RC> I’m definitely looking forward to these events! The creative opportunities they bring are also massive. But I better look into getting some seats early!
 
LBB> You’re moving from an intense, high-density market like Hong Kong to a far bigger and broader canvas – how are you preparing for that challenge?
 
RC> Having worked in Hong Kong for the last five years I’ve already been lucky enough to work with many of our people in offices across the region. I look forward to strengthening these relationships and producing even greater creative ideas together. This time as a collective.
 
LBB> What are your ambitions for the new role?
 
RC> To form a creative community among the offices. With the ultimate aim of producing the most incredible work for our clients. This is an extremely ambitious part of the world and so am I.
 
LBB> You’re now one of Ogilvy’s APAC A-Team / Avengers – what do you bring to the fight?
 
RC> Snacks!
 
 
Ajab Samrai – Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy ASEAN

LBB> You’ve spent several years working in Japan, which is a really exciting market when it comes to design and innovation. What do you think you’ll take from your time in Japan in terms of your approach?
 
AS> Working in Japan these past five years has been exhilarating - the creative journey of my life. I’ve learned more than I can say, not only in terms of the Japanese people and their deep rich culture, but also how the old and traditional collides with the super modern tech savvy world. These are contradictions in the West you would probably not put together, but I’ve discovered you must embrace them!
 
It led us to brave, bold work that won us Campaign Asia’s Creative Agency of the Year title in Japan, and - a personal high for me – being named Campaign’s Creative of the Year in 2017.
 
Yes, the Japanese aesthetic is second to none - they dominate the world’s award stage with sublime design and craft ideas. I will be pushing this in the region – crafting great ideas within an inch of their lives.
 
In addition to this, I’ve also learned that you really need to love people. People is where I invested much of my time in Tokyo. You need to empower them, mentor them, reward them, and set high expectations. You get that formula right, and they’ll rally behind you with mind-blowing results!
 
LBB> Within your remit are a bunch of the really exciting markets like Thailand and Philippines, big spenders like Indonesia and Malaysia, and then ‘newer’ advertising markets like Vietnam and Myanmar. Who are you really looking forward to working with?
 
AS> I see all the counties as one big ASEAN family, but all unique with their own character and DNA. I’m looking forward to working with all of them equally and pushing cross collaboration.
 
ASEAN is one of the most exciting regions on the planet, the counties are growing at an exponential rate through modernization, creating consumers with real spending power. I look forward to capitalizing on the new business growth and creative opportunities this brings.
 
Furthermore, these cultures can all absorb creative work that is not only happy and sad, but zany, idiosyncratic and ironic. We need to create big ideas that play to these emotions. It’s very exciting, never has the creative canvas been so vast and open in a vibrant region – I’m relishing getting my teeth into it.
 
LBB> You’re now one of Ogilvy’s APAC A-Team / Avengers – what do you bring to the fight?
 
AS> Passion for the people, and passion for the work!
 
 
Sonal Dabral - Group Chief Creative Officer and Vice Chairman, Ogilvy India
 

LBB> You’ve been at Ogilvy since last summer – what’s the experience been like there so far? And why was now the right time to come back?
 
SD> Coming back to Ogilvy has been a wonderful experience. Getting back to working closely with Piyush once again after so many years is fantastic. We’ve always had a great working equation. The five new CCO’s leading the three offices - namely Harshad, Kainaz and Sukesh (Mumbai), Ajay Gahlaut (Delhi) and Azaz and Mahesh (Bangalore) - have been doing stellar work all these years. Meeting them and working with all their teams has been a joy. One other thing - I guess because I had spent so many years in this network across three different countries, that from the first day itself in my new role, it felt that I had come back home. I guess there was no right or wrong time for me to come back. Anytime would’ve been the right time.
 
LBB> What are your ambitions for the new role?

SD> Ogilvy India is full of amazing talent. Be it account management, planning or our creative strength, we’ve been consistently creating great work across the board. One of my jobs would be to help the teams keep shining, brighter and brighter. Ogilvy has been the top mainline agency in India for over two decades now. However, technology is opening more and more opportunities and avenues faster than we can imagine. We need to stay on top of this rapidly changing landscape. We need to be the best in this new world too. That’s also something I will be looking at actively in my role. 
 
LBB> You’re now one of Ogilvy’s APAC A-Team / Avengers – what do you bring to the fight?

SD>I feel privileged to be working alongside Ajab and Reed as part of the 'APAC A-Team/ Avengers' as you call it. They are both great talents and much awarded creative leaders. What do I bring to the fight? First, the superb creative team of Ogilvy India. Second, my experience of not only knowing India inside out but also the experience and understanding I gained while working in the region and last, the passion, tears and blood to make it happen for our brands and our clients. I met Ajab and Reed recently at the Asian Creative Council meeting with Eugene leading the meet. Ogilvy Asia has always been a shining star of the Ogilvy Network. Looking around the meeting room at the Asian Creative Council told me that with all the talent in our fold, it will continue to reach even greater heights and we have to be the ones leading that drive for the region.
 
 
Doug Schiff – Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy Japan

LBB> How are you feeling about returning to Asia after some time in the States?
 
DS> Having spent nearly half my adult life in these parts and having married a Chinese woman, it feels natural to be back. I'll miss the ease of being surrounded by English, but wouldn't trade the stimulation of being in Asia for anything.
 
LBB> Japan’s market is really unique in so many ways – what are you looking forward to getting stuck into?
 
DS> It's such a special place. The art direction here has a refined aesthetic like nowhere else. Combined with the prowess in tech, I'm looking forward to getting stuck in a place where it all meets.
 
LBB> …as a north American you’ve got a year and a half to get your head round rugby for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. How are you going to cope with that?
 
DS> That should be enough time. Currently, I haven't the foggiest!
 
LBB> What are your ambitions for the new role?
 
DS> Ajab took this place to heights it had never seen before. So, the first thing is to keep the momentum going. From there, look for opportunities for growth, with the right kind of forward-thinking clients, and strive for global influence along with local impact.
 
LBB> You’re now one of Ogilvy’s APAC A-Team / Avengers – what do you bring to the fight?
 
DS> Experience working in the States, Japan, Singapore and China, in a variety of sectors, from traditional to cutting-edge tech, with a thirst for great ideas that's never wavered!