Mediaworks 2017, mentoring the next generation of advertising leaders

This week I was asked to be a mentor at an industry program called MediaWorks hosted in Hanoi.

Mediaworks now in it’s 12th year is designed to test the newest batch of rising stars in the media and communications industry. The bootcamp-style workshop is an intense and uniquely rewarding learning experience featuring a 4-day course designed to challenge young talent to think quickly and creatively execute their ideas as a team.

MediaWorks replicates real-life scenarios, tasking syndicate teams to pitch to a real client on a real brief. As part of the workshop, MediaWorks incorporates a one-day conference that gathers industry leaders and professional trainers to examine practical applications such as obstacles facing the next generation, strategies for winning pitches and how to encourage creativity while delivering the client’s objectives.

As a mentor our role is to imbue young talent with skills and practical experience to thrive in media roles. It’s best described as part vocational bootcamp, networking hub, and conference, with the added flavour of a tense reality-TV challenge.

This year’s MediaWorks drew nearly 80 delegates, representing 25 organisations from across the Asia Pacific region. Separated on arrival from colleagues and placed in one of eight colour-coded teams, they were assigned their mission; to research, craft, and pitch an enticing and—more importantly—viable media strategy for a client in less than sixty hours.

One notable feature of MediaWorks is that each edition invites a different client to present a unique brief. This year that duty was taken on by Seraphina Wong, APAC executive director for brand management and advertising at UBS. Defying expectations, the brief wasn’t for an established brand, but instead a startup company in an extremely niche market.

It was an extremely rewarding experience bringing a group of people together from around the region who don’t know each other to quickly form a team and transform into a high performance team. It opens your eyes up to the talent we have in our industry and gives me reassurance for it’s future. It is not for the faint hearted or for people that love their sleep.

Applying digital makeup with Shiseido TeleBeauty Augmented Reality App

As technology has made it possible to have facetime with co-workers even from miles away, companies around the globe are finding ways to accommodate mobile employees. Some 80% to 90% of the US workforce for example say they’d like to work from home at least part time, according to the latest research from the firm Global Workplace Analytics.

Shiseido, in collaboration with Microsoft Japan has developed “TeleBeauty”, an app that automatically calibrates skin tone and applies digital makeup to the face during video-conferencing.

The aim is to support women who actively pursue their careers remotely, be it from home or otherwise, and consider cosmetics part of their image management.

With the technical assistance of Microsoft Japan, Shiseido has developed a trial model of this app for “Skype for Business”.

With today’s progressive diversity of work styles, “teleworking”, a flexible way of performing duties regardless of the time and place, is spreading fast.

Many people take advantage of this style in order to achieve greater business efficiency or to circumvent locational restrictions when, for example, providing child and/or elderly care.

Noticing this trend, Shiseido conducted a survey among telecommuting women. The results revealed a feeling of annoyance with having to apply makeup for one or few online meetings while working from home. They also expressed that they don’t like their personal and private space being seen through the monitor and that sometimes, due to camera quality or room lighting, they feel uncomfortable with the appearance of their skin on the screen.

“TeleBeauty” has been developed based on insights Shiseido has gained through its long experience and work in the industry. Experience gained through makeup techniques owned by Shiseido artists, makeup simulation technology developed by Shiseido R&D (proved at the stores since 1999), and trend information.

In addition to its main feature of applying makeup, the app can also correct the skin tone and blur the background. As the makeup smoothly follows the user’s facial movements, it is hard to guess that it is a simulation and not real makeup. This easy-to-use app saves the telecommuters both time and effort.

Canon Photo Face-Off – Sharp and Colorful Branded Content

Canon Logo

Photo Face-Off is a competitive photography reality TV show pinning amateur photographers across Southeast Asia against each other and resident professional photographer Justin Mott. Presented by Canon Photomarathon Asia on the History channel.

Hosted by Asia’s own Kelly Latimer, Photo Face-Off now in Season three is presented by Canon Photo Marathon also features a welcome return to the screen for the pro photographer that everyone loves to beat Justin Mott.

Photo Face Off Promo


Across 5 one-hour episodes’ viewers are treated to a whirlwind tour around some of the region’s most exotic locales as the show pits three local amateurs from each country against each other, and of course Justin, in a bid to grab the single spot available in the season’s Grand Finale in Vietnam.


Traveling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok to Yogyakarta each episode features three decidedly difficult photo challenges – Speed, Theme and Face-Off – all designed to push the contestant’s skill, knowledge and creativity to the limit.

The Grand Finale, in the stunning city of Da Nang will see four ‘Champion of Champions’ and a very special Vietnamese ‘wild-card’ snapping and scrapping it out in one final ‘Face-Off’ for a chance to win exclusive Canon prizes and the crown of Photo Face Off Champion.

Putting the snap back into photography, Asia’s leading photo-competition is both sharp and colorful and a wonderful piece of branded content.

Dentsu Aegis – South East Asia Campaign Creative & Media Agency of the Year 2016

Since 1994, the Campaign Agency of the Year Awards is the Asia Pacific region’s most prestigious advertising industry awards, recognizing inspired leadership, management excellence, outstanding business performance and overall achievements in advertising and communications industry.

With results tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) it is the only awards program that honors agency performance at both a local and regional level. This year’s Agency of the Year Awards judging panel included 93 client marketers from key business categories across Asia-Pacific, all of whom gave generously of their time and expertise to review and pick out the best amongst a record-high 955 contending creative and media agencies.

Dentsu Aegis Asia Pacific had it’s been showing last night since Dentsu Inc. acquired Aegis Group business in 2013.

Dentsu Aegis - South East Asia Campaign Agency of the Year 2016

Dentsu Aegis – South East Asia Campaign Agency of the Year 2016

Dentsu Brand Agencies new brand proposition of delivering Innovative Business Solutions created in 2016 certainly produced the goods. Brands in Southeast Asia did fabulously with Dentsu media Thailand scoring two Golds for both Creative and Media Agency of the Year and Dentsu Jayme Syfu winning a Gold for Philippines Creative Agency of the Year.

Stemmed from a spectrum of Dentsu’s numerous capabilities, the work produced across the region spans many different forms – from the creation of music to movies and the management of sports to events.

Driven by ideas, technology and a strong sense of entrepreneurship, Dentsu Brand Agencies has positioned itself this year as more than a creative agency – it is a creative leader providing a full suite of innovative business solutions beyond advertising.

Aligned to Dentsu Aegis Network’s overarching vision of ‘Innovating the way brands are built’, Dentsu Brand Agencies’ new brand proposition is set to move people to move businesses as we head into  2017.

Nick Waters, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network APAC said; ‘This is a tremendous collection of awards, recognizing the strength and quality of our agencies and teams throughout Asia Pacific over the course of this year – many congratulations to all of the winners’.

Isobar Interactive Agency Network of the Year
The biggest win belongs to Isobar, who was awarded Digital Network of the Year for Asia Pacific, the brand’s fifth win within a span of six years. Awarded Gold in the Greater China region, Carat Hong Kong won Hong Kong Media Agency of the Year while Media Palette Taiwan was awarded the title Taiwan Digital Agency of the Year. Dentsu Aegis Network also emerged as Winner in the Greater China Digital Agency of the Year category.

Vizeum Malaysia took home the title of Malaysia Media Agency of the Year, and Dentsu Aegis Network Southeast Asia rounded the awards up by securing the title of Southeast Asia Creative Agency of the Year.

Our Dentsu Aegis leaders did tremendously well too: Ruth Stubbs, Global President of iProspect, and Ashish Bhasin, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia, celebrated their second consecutive win as Digital Asia Pacific Agency Head of the Year and South Asia Agency Head of the Year respectively.

Sean O’Brien, CEO of Carat Asia Pacific, won Media Asia Pacific Agency Head of the Year for the second time (his first win was in 2012) while Chris Chen, CEO and Executive Creative Director of Trio Isobar China, won Greater China Agency Head of the Year.

Australia Media Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Carat Australia

New Zealand Media Agency of the Year:
Silver: Vizeum New Zealand

Australia Digital Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Isobar Australia

Indonesia Creative Agency of the Year:
Silver: Dentsu Indonesia

Philippines Creative Agency of the Year:
Gold: Dentsu Jayme Syfu

Thailand Creative Agency of the Year:
Gold: Dentsu Media Thailand

Vietnam Creative Agency of the Year:
Silver: Dentsu One Vietnam

Southeast Asia Creative Agency of the Year Winner:
Dentsu Aegis Network

Malaysia Media Agency of the Year:
Gold: Vizeum Media Malaysia

Thailand Media Agency of the Year:
Gold: Dentsu Media Thailand

Vietnam Media Agency of the Year:
Silver: Dentsu Media Vietnam

Indonesia Digital Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Dentsu Digital Indonesia

Malaysia Digital Agency of the Year:
Gold: Isobar Malaysia

Philippines Digital Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Dentsu Jayme Syfu

Singapore Digital Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Isobar Singapore

Southeast Asia Integrated Agency of the Year:
Bronze: Dentsu Media Thailand

Digital Network of the Year:
Winner: Isobar Asia Pacific

Asia-Pacific Programmatic Agency of the Year (Sponsored by The Trade Desk):
Silver: Amnet Asia Pacific

Asia-Pacific Agency Head of the Year (Media):
Winner: Sean O’Brien | Carat Asia Pacific

Asia-Pacific Agency Head of the Year (Digital):
Winner: Ruth Stubbs | iProspect Asia Pacific

Asia-Pacific Corporate Communications Team of the Year:
Runner-up: Marketing and Communications Team
Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific

Dentsu Aegis Woman in Asia Mean Business

Dentsu Aegis Network and DentsuVentures is launching an initiative to mentor, develop and help fund female entrepreneurs in South and Southeast Asia.

The idea follows a report from the agency network earlier this year, titled ‘The New Voice of the Female Consumer in Southeast Asia’, in which it found that 36 per cent of women in Southeast Asia were self employed.

As part of One@DentsuAegis, a programme developed to support diversity and innovation across the business, Dentsu Aegis Network has formalised an initiative to mentor, develop and help fund female start-ups in South and Southeast Asia.

Partnering with other female led diversity initiatives such as Female Founders, Women Unlimited and She Means Business, Dentsu Aegis Network will run a three-part program.

Ruth Stubbs, CEO of iProspect Asia Pacific, will be running the initiative with an extended leadership team from across Dentsu Aegis Network and strategic business partners which include clients and other third parties. A blueprint has been developed to recruit, mentor and fund female founded start-ups that display `innovation, diversity, social sustainability and tech leadership’ at their core.

In a recent whitepaper, The New Voice of the Female Consumer in Southeast Asia, the agency identified an increasing trend towards people choosing self-employment over a traditional working lifestyle. This trend was particularly true among women, with 36 percent of women across Southeast Asia, self-employed.

In addition, the study found that 47 percent of all online women in SEA are sellers. This equates to 33 million women who opted in as a seller across Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in 2015. In Indonesia, 55 percent of online women are trading as merchants from their homes today. “We can conclude that selling and not just buying through digital channels to supplement income has created a new socioeconomic profile due in part to the sheer scale of the activity,” the paper stated. “The implications of which will shift the paradigm for digital marketers as it pertains to ecommerce for this part of the world, which still supports a very traditional marketing landscape,” it added. The study consisted of a 10-minute survey across the fieldwork period of August 18-28, 2015. Covering both buyers and sellers, 1,019 people across Indonesia (319), Thailand (350) and the Philippines (350) were interviewed.

Dentsu Aegis clients and third party partners will be recruited for involvement but the initiative will be led by Ruth Stubbs, CEO of iProspect Asia Pacific, alongside other Dentsu Aegis leadership across the region.

Stubbs commented; “We believe this initiative will allow Dentsu Aegis Network to lead the industry towards a more socially conscious approach to the onset of the digital economy, especially highlighting the role women and emerging markets are set to play. Digital convergence and an emerging generation of female entrepreneurs are changing the shape of traditional business as we know it. Understanding these women, their motivations and how we can help them is critical to the success of us all.”

The startups recruited onto the programme will be focused on ones that show ‘innovation, diversity, social sustainability and tech leadership’, according to the network. The three parts of the scheme; mentorship, development and funding, will start in August. Dentsu Ventures will supply the secondary funding for the startups as the final stage.

With a strong focus on solidifying key foundational elements of a business strategy, the programme will take place over the course of two months with a unique curriculum created to deep dive into key areas that are essential to scale businesses.

The accelerator programme will partner selected candidates with senior industry mentors. A panel of strong and inspiring female business leaders from across Dentsu Aegis Network and its strategic business partners will also give guidance throughout the programme, sharing extensive experience on digital, marketing, finance and operations.

Going beyond educating and training candidates, the programme will culminate with a demo day in early December with possible second round funding from venture capitalists Dentsu Ventures, Monk’s Hill Ventures and others.

Dentsu Jayme Syfu continues UNIQLO customer experience focus by launching a digital travel planner


UNIQLO is a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer. The company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. since November 2005 and has come a long way from its early days of operating as a suburban chain in Japan.

Over a span of two decades, the company has achieved monumental growth, sealing its status as a global fashion behemoth.

With over 1,400 stores in 16 markets across the world, Uniqlo has navigated its way through challenges such as Japan’s wavering economy and shrinking population, as well as unsuccessful forays into global markets.

As the fourth-largest fashion retailer in the world, the company currently ranks alongside other global retail giants such as Gap, H&M and Zara.


Uniqlo takes customer experience both in the real world and digital channels very seriously.

In planning and designing all aspects related to its in-store experiences, the company adopts the Japanese concept of kaizen, which translates to mean a continuous search for perfection and is now beefing up e-commerce operations by carefully repositioning itself to appeal to a wider, more multicultural set of consumers but without losing its ‘Japanese-ness’ – a quality that can be glimpsed as much in the technologically hip way it communicates with shoppers, as in the discipline of its clothing designs.

Uniqlo’s creative vision in the digital sphere first grabbed the world’s attention in 2007 when the company’s ‘Uniqlock‘ campaign took the advertising sector by storm.

The marketing project, designed to build brand awareness internationally, featured a clock with spliced clips of well- choreographed dancing and catchy lounge music all timed to match the ticking. It ran all year round, 24/7. In summer the girls dancing wore polo shirts; in winter, cashmere; and at midnight they slept. Click here to see Uniqlock in action.

‘Uniqlock’ swept the board at a raft of major advertising awards in the following year, even scooping a Grand Prix at Cannes. And the innovative but simple execution of the campaign played no small part in helping to propel a local clothing retailer that even in Japan was not considered fashionable to the status of a hip marque in a few short years.

Dentsu Aegis Isobar | UNIQLO – UMOOD from R3 on Vimeo.

UNIQLO and Dentsu Aegis Isobar agency in Australia launched Mood in 2015, a retail activation that helps consumers select from over 600 T-shirts by identifying their mood with neural technology at UNIQLO’s Pitt Street store in Sydney.

Customers take a seat in the UMood machine and watch a series of ten short videos and images, whilst the sensor tracks the customer’s brainwave reaction to that stimulus via a Neuro headset.

The brainwave responses are analysed and an algorithm recommends T-shirts that fit their mood. The unit was developed by Isobar and Dentsu Science Jam a Dentsu Aegis Network company.

Uniqlo Travel Planner Logo

This month, Dentsu Jayme Syfu in the Philippines launched the UNIQLO Travel Planner.

Traveling is incredibly fun but it involves a lot of preparation. Aside from plane tickets, accommodations, transportation etc., one major dilemma of many people is the wardrobe.

What does one wear for a particular trip? We want to be comfortable for all the walking and sightseeing but we also want to look great in our photos without bringing our entire wardrobe.

The UNIQLO Travel Planner recommends what to wear based on where you are going and when your trip will be. Just indicate whether you want to browse through their men, women, boys and girls collection; your travel destination and your trip dates.

The app will then start “building your wardrobe” and will show you the weather forecast during your vacation. Just scroll down and voila! The digital experience shows you the recommended wardrobe for the trip.

Uniqlo Travel Planner
The great thing about Uniqlo pieces is that they’re well made, functional, simple and basic. This means that you can just add a scarf, a hat or an accessory to make it stand out. This also makes mixing and matching easy. With the Uniqlo Travel Planner, choosing what to wear is made simpler because it is your online travel wardrobe assistant.

Click here to start planning your wardrobe.

Augmented Reality and the meaning of play

The promise of virtual and augmented reality has always been enormous.

Augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world.

With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two. Go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. What a wonderful proposition to work from.

Virtual and Augmented Reality was very much a central conversation at Cannes last month so this blog post will take a closer look at it’s history and the most recent development, especially with the success of Pokemon Go launching this month that promise to be a worldwide hit.

Firstly to Cannes and the VR entries. The New York Times was a surprise big winner of the week, earning double Grand Prix for its virtual reality initiatives. The Times VR platform itself claimed the top prize in Mobile.

And in the Entertainment Lions, the New York Times took the Grand Prix for its VR experience “The Displaced,” which took viewers into the lives of refugee children pushed from their native countries.

Entertainment Lions Jury President Jae Goodman, CCO at CAA Marketing, said the idea “catapulted the Gray Lady 100 years forward.”

Two VR experiences, Lockheed Martin’s “Bus Ride to Mars,” out of McCann New York and Goodby Silverstein’s “Dreams of Dali,” for the Dali Museum also were early contenders for the Grand Prix in Cyber, but ultimately, neither took the top prize.

Virtual Reality as a concept has been around for almost 100 years. In the 1930s a story by science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum (Pygmalion’s Spectacles) contains the idea of a pair of goggles that let the wearer experience a fictional world through holographics, smell, taste and touch.

Virtual Reality

In hindsight the experience Weinbaum describes for those wearing the goggles are uncannily like the modern and emerging experience of virtual reality, making him a true visionary of the field.

Virtual Reality had become significantly popular during the 1990s. It became one of the best topics for movies and even for virtual reality games.

During the 1950s, an attempt by a cinematographer named Morton Heilig to stimulate the different senses became the idea of what we know today as Virtual Reality. This is the same person who made use of the machine called Sensorama.


Sensorama included moving chairs and odor meters while providing a visual treat to the audience.

At Dentsu there have been a number of virtual and augmented reality programs of work over the years but the most successful to date has been iButterfly a free mobile application available on both iOS and Android platforms produced in October 2010.

It combines Augmented Reality, Motion Sensors and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies to allow consumers to “see”, find and catch customized butterflies at specific locations through their smartphones.

Marketers can tap on the iButterfly application’s potential to customize promotional mechanics based on their campaign needs.

iButterfly coupons can be time-limited, location-based, or number-limited. Marketers can design tactics such as having consumers collect a series of different butterflies in order to collect prizes, or have butterflies available only in specific geographical areas.

ibutterfly_screenshot1The augmented-reality (AR) game attracted 21 million users and became one of the most successful mobile apps ever. It has been praised for promoting exercise, facilitating social interactions, sparking new interest in local landmarks, and more.

Dentsu took iButterfly to Hong Kong  in May 2011. It became an overnight hit with over 10 million butterflies caught and 350,000 users.

In Thailand, iButterfly captured 100,000 downloads in the first week. In the Philippines, the largest shopping enterprise, SM Malls, embraced iButterfly as its promotion vehicle. In Indonesia, Unilever and top music bands are major partners. This unprecedented marketing platform has won over 10 local and international awards for its commercial success and creativity since 2011, capturing the imagination of advertisers in the region.

In 2012 Dentsu Singapore’s launched iButterfly on 17 November 2012. Consumers could redeem products and vouchers from Cheers, Gatsby and Yoshinoya by catching virtual butterflies. Each customized virtual butterfly was designed with product offers ranging from iPhone covers to meal vouchers and potato chips as well as facial packs. Three iPad Minis were won by consumers who caught limited edition golden butterflies during the event.

Now this month Pokémon Go launches and I get the feeling this app will be even bigger although likely to be short lived as the game play is very repetitive.


Pokesmon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices.

In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items.

So the learning here is imagine 10 years ago trying to envision the way we use cellphones today. It’s impossible. That’s the promise VR and AR has today. At its best it shouldn’t replace real life, just modify it, giving us access to so much just out of reach physically, economically.

If you can dream it, VR and AR can make it. It’s a medium for progress, not the progress itself. Enjoying thinking up the ideas.

Cannes 2016 – Festival of Advertising and now Technology

Cannes Advertising Awards 2016It’s been ten years since I have attended the International Festival of Creativity, the Cannes Lions Festival.

Somethings are exactly the the same. The abundance of awards, drinking, dinners, parties and the networking events held on large yachts.

Dentsu Group companies (Dentsu Inc., Carat (London), 360i (New York), Dentsu Young & Rubicam (Tokyo) and Drill (Tokyo)) were awarded a total of thirty-one Lions (one Grand Prix, one Gold, twelve Silver, sixteen Bronze and one Product Design) at the 63rd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (June 18-25), Lions Health Festival (June 18-19), Lions Innovation Festival (June 21-22) and the inaugural Lions Entertainment Festival (June 23-24) held in Cannes, France.

The Dentsu Group Grand Prix Lion winner was “Life is electric” for Panasonic Corporation.

The insight for this work is very powerful. What if we could see electricity? It managed to use the power of design to change the perception of a product that has become a commodity, by bringing storytelling in—in every space. It creates a bridge between the digital tools and the analog world. A great piece of work.

Dentsu team with the Grand Prix Design Lion

Dentsu Inc: – Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
Cyber:    Two Silver, one Bronze
Design:    One Grand Prix, one Gold, six Silver, one Bronze
Direct:    One Bronze
Film:    One Silver
Film Craft:    One Bronze
Media:    One Silver, one Bronze
Mobile:    One Silver, one Bronze
Outdoor:    Three Bronze
PR:    Two Bronze
Product Design:    One Product Design

Lions Health Festival
Pharma:    Three Bronze

Lions Innovation Festival
Creative Data:    One Silver, two Bronze

The three minute award entry show reel continues to drive what entities are awarded and what isn’t.

If you can’t tell a three minute video led story on why your work should be awarded, you have no chance of finding a jury judge interested, no matter how effective your results were for your client.

What is very different for me is how much Cannes has turned into a tech show. A Consumer Electronics Show crossed with a watered down SXSW festival.

I remember ten years ago Microsoft just starting to make a presence on the ad scene. Now it’s all about the big showy setup from Google, Facebook and Twitter and a thousand other tech venders attending all shouting for attention. Advertising has certainly transformed from a festival celebrating print, radio and film to an event all about digital advertising tech led solutions.

So many talks seem to be about promoting tech and the benefits of big data, virtual reality and audience demand generation platforms rather than a celebration on how a big strategic and creative idea can deliver brand impact and business growth.

What has also changed is how separated the creative and media agencies are in operation, focus and collaboration with each other. Creative agencies are now creating ideas with a no canvas approach but it often does not support the media agencies approach to an endless amount of platforms both online and offline to push the message. Too often the creative idea is not made for the media channel to amplify.

This is very apparent at the Cannes event itself.

Advertising messages are planted everywhere. Sure it’s a ad event but the ads themselves are not for client brands but rather have been purchased by tech ad vender solutions.

This means all the outdoor advertising is very average creative work. It is a very polluted ad environment as no brand is making an impact on the audience. It would seem every iconic building in Cannes has some type of tech vender ad message screaming out for attention.


This to me is a miss opportunity. Cannes should be a celebration of beautiful brand client advertising rather than a place to showcase bad ad executions from partners and venders.
Sure I get the event is a money making exercise, but I find the work so bad and disturbing and such a  missed opportunity to program the event as showcase for the power of great advertising to our clients.

While the event is held over seven days I think that is too long to hold people’s attention.  You can feel very contraphopic within 24 hours of arriving as their are so many limited ad themes to speak about. There is so much overlapping talk on Big data, virtual reality, experience design being talked about without any real authority or case examples.

The event attempts to bring in other industries to pad out the ad talk. All the agencies tend to invite big name guests from the film, music and business industries to flesh out their points of view.

Over the last ten years I have elected to attend SXSW for my creative inspiration over Cannes, and I think based on this years experience it continues to be a wiser choice. There is much more diversity and authority in Austin over Cannes in how to grow brands and business using innovation.

As I was only six weeks into my new job as CDO in the Dentsu Aegis Network I found the timing of Cannes very convenient to meet up with colleagues from around the globe and receive a debrief on our network strategy and capabilities and our journey to 100% digital.

When not in meetings I attended the conference hall seeking out inspirational talks. One highlight was a conversation with Brian Eno and Dentsu Lab Tokyo on their project to explore whether machine intelligence (MI) can acquire the creativity that is innate to human beings. Brian hired Dentsu to work on his latest project called The Ship.

Brian Eno-talks-about-using-artificial-intelligence

I have always had a man crush on Eno the musician, producer, visual artist, creative thinker. I remember when I first heard U2’s The Unforgettable Fire when I was about 15. I was so amazed with the abstract sound on that album. It was so different to U2’s previous albums like War. I remember reading the album credits and seeing for the first time the names Brian Eno, Producer and Daniel Lanois, Sound Engineer. 

Eno changed how music was recorded. He mastered the multi track technique. His work with Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Ultravox were the soundtracks of my life. I studied in sound engineering and manipulation because of this man so it was great to meet him after the talk.


Joining Dentsu Aegis Network as Chief Digital Officer, Dentsu Brand Agency Asia Pacific

Dentsu Aegis Network

News broke today that I have joined the Dentsu Aegis Network in the role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Dentsu Brand agencies Asia Pacific.

I couldn’t be happier with the opportunity and challenge ahead. I will be based in Singapore from today May 16th 2016.

Dentsu is the world’s largest and most awarded agency brand. Headquartered in Tokyo and employs over 7,500 people in Japan. 

In March 2013, Dentsu acquired Aegis Group and formed the subsidiary Dentsu Aegis Network which administers the Group’s business operations outside of Japan. 

Dentsu Toyko

Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with over 30,000 dedicated specialists

Part of Dentsu Inc., Dentsu Aegis Network is made up of nine global network brands of Dentsu Branded Agencies (DBA), Dentsu media, Carat, iProspect, Isobar, mcgarrybowen, MKTG, Posterscope and Vizeum. The network is growing fast and has a broad capability in MarTech and today’s media mix to bring to life the right communication strategy for clients.

My role will be to lead the Dentsu Brand agencies digitalisation efforts in the Asia Pacific region and strengthen each agencies presence and credentials in the industry and among clients and prospects. There are Dentsu branded agencies in Singapore,  Australia, China, Hong Kong Taiwan, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and New Zealand.


The conversations with Takaki Hibino the CEO Dentsu Brand Agency and Dentsu Media Asia Pacific and his team over the last couple of months have been very positive, enjoyable and I feel very privileged to be joining a company with such a rich communication history that began in 1901.

I was attracted to the role and the corporate philosophy which is “Good Innovation” and  by “innovation” they mean: ideas that reach beyond the imaginable, technology that crosses the bounds of possibilities, and entrepreneurship that surpasses the expected.

So no doubt there will be more to write on this blog about my Dentsu adventure, but for now I am adjusting to my new surrounding in the Singapore office and beginning my agency induction.  Interestingly I have just read that new hires climb Japan’s 12,388 foot-high mountain, Mount Fuji part of it’s employee inductionNow that’s living the philosophy!

So what does a Chief Digital Officer actually do?



A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) discussion comes up with me from time to time.

Everyone has an opinion on what the role is, and what functions and reports it would operate in. My April’s 2016 blog post is my opinion on the subject and how the role stands with me today.

The CDO role and it’s associated KPI’s depend greatly on what business vertical and industry the CDO is being invited to operate in.

A CDO can been appointed to an industry with a ‘short fuse, big bang disruption’ like the finance, retail trade, arts and recreation, professional services and media and telecommunications where my experience of CDO work has focussed.

Or sometimes a CDO find themselves operating in a vertical grouped in where a ‘longer fuse, big bang’ digital disruption is occurring and cost efficiency tend to be the transformation drivers. Industries such as education, health, transport, post, agriculture and utilities sectors.

While all industries are being disrupted because of the Internet, the CDO must have the experience in how to drive the amount of velocity to apply to the transformation assignment so revenues grow rather than become restricted because the disruption has taken a front seat . This velocity decision impacts how assignments are led in many cases.

The powerful breakthroughs in computing and telecommunications has seen the introduction of always on broadband, mobile and e-commerce systems, resulting in a real-time buy and sell channels that are seeking customer experiences. The understanding of how this works results in many new and exciting ways to engage with customers on a global scale to grow business and/or organisations.

Digital transformation goal at an organisation board level will always look for programs that increase automation and gather and analyse unprecedented amounts of data so they can stay relevant in a competitive global market.

While cost efficiencies are important strategies the board also must seek a CDO leader that can also deliver customer market growth programs.

This combination means there are a vast array of capabilities and skills required to stitch together a large scale audience led digital transformation.

The CDO candidate therefore must be from clear customer centric up bringing.

Ideally spent their entry career creating compelling stories across many different types of media channels, and were brought up on a number of design thinking approaches that were then fused to screen customer first thinking tracked to agreed business models, defined audiences and financial plans.

They must be an individual who has passion for the arts blended with a scientific method mindset to use the tools of the day, but also be innovative to always be looking ahead to find an edge.

The CDO role is to visualise and communicate well crafted ‘real time’ innovation programs, that sometimes start a life launched from innovation labs.

They also need their developed programs need to bring innovation concepts that combine business model and execution plans ready for board review and sign off.

For a CDO to exist and thrive, their concepts while needing to be story told, must always be mindful, and have an understanding their stories impact others. Their clients staff, their friends and their customers.

The CDO appointee will most likely come from an understanding on what drives culture as well as opportunity.

Culture always trumps strategy so the CDO has to be collaborative at all times seeking out digital artisans and change agents from both the client, the agency/service provider and the customer.

To bring to market a digital transformation program the CDO must foster a partner ecosystem for co-innovation and co-creation.

The team that is created for the assignment must also give the project leads and middle managers latitude to fail fast so they can learn even more quickly.

So that in more than summary form outlines what Chief Digitial Office does.

Finally my experience also tends to have the strong opinion the CDO alway seek council from the CEO when on assignment.

Ideally if a CDO and CEO can jointly develop and embrace the digital transformation vision, and work together to communicate that digital vision, the more success can be had.