Nikki Mendonca's elegant appearance doesn't really prepare you for the energy that lies beneath. She might be upset about the state of her hair (she's in transition between a short style and growing it long), but, otherwise, she looks immaculate in a smart business outfit, Chanel earrings and a selection of sparkly but tasteful rings.
As we sit over coffee in a central London hotel, it's not long before the surface smoothness is ruffled by Mendonca's expression of excitement and thirst for the new challenge she has been handed. Mendonca has just been appointed to the role of president, OMD EMEA, effectively replacing Simon Francis, who left his post as managing director of the region to join Saatchi & Saatchi.
The move marks a significant promotion for Mendonca, who moves from her previous role heading business development for Omnicom Media Group in Europe (in addition to new business and other development areas, she played a key role in the launch of PHD as a network).
Mendonca has now been at Omnicom for five-and-a-half years, having moved from Capital Radio, where she was the head of business strategy. On resigning to the chief executive, David Mansfield, she explained that she wanted to gain an international perspective on media, something she now doesn't regret. Her time at Capital had followed a stint working on Procter & Gamble and Kellogg in the Leo Burnett media department.
Her background is one of a comfortable upbringing in Surrey. The surname is reflective of her Indian/Portuguese heritage, though she has lived in the south-east of England all her life. Her parents are both doctors (her father a surgeon) who had emigrated to England from India before she was born.
Mendonca's elevation to the OMD job hasn't raised too many eyebrows internally. She's very close to Colin Gottlieb, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group EMEA, and after several weeks of conversations with him, she was happy that the role would come with sufficient backing from Omnicom to enable her to take it. Like Francis before her, Mendonca won't immediately be handed P&L responsibility for OMD's European operations, although this may come with time. For now, Gottlieb says he wants her to focus on "the people, structure and product" of the network.
OMD remains in good shape across the region, and Mendonca will take charge of 38 markets, responsible for more than £7 billion in billings. However, critics suggest she won't have it all her own way. They argue that there has been insufficient investment in OMD in the past couple of years and that the roll-out of PHD as a network took a lot of resource out of OMD, both at the centre and in local markets. Digital is another area where, the critics argue, there has not been investment.
However, Mendonca has been reassured that there will be strong financial backing going forward. Gottlieb plans to hire a senior figure to work alongside her in a head of planning/strategy role, which should go some way to replacing the strategic firepower possessed by Francis. OMD will also hire a heavyweight to take on the load of dealing with its top international clients in the region.
Gottlieb argues that Mendonca's was a natural appointment: "Nikki is someone who is passionate, almost in love with challenging herself and pushing things forward. She knows she has to grow into the role - to cool her jets slightly at times - but she's very intelligent and has this almost nuclear reactor of energy, so she really was the obvious choice."
Mendonca says that her good relationship with Gottlieb, who some find an intimidating force, was central to her taking the job. "He works as hard as I work - we're both like Duracell bunnies, but then we do complement each other," she says. "I'd say I'm more charming and, without getting too textbook, have the typical female emotional intelligence and am able to anticipate things happening in the network, especially when people are unhappy or have other issues."
She accepts there might be times when she'll need to tone down her whirlwind approach, especially when winning around leaders in local markets. She admits: "I've got my annoying, relentless energy. Some find this irritating, but I'd rather be like this than super cool."
Mendonca argues that she is, at heart, very open with people and will not dictate from the centre, and sees her role as leveraging the talent that exists locally to improve standards across the board at OMD. "I'm very collaborative with colleagues and am a great believer that work is better with six brains rather than one," she says.
One of her first tasks is to work on the roll-out of OMD's new planning product, Influence, across the region. This is an approach that has been developed in the UK, but will be taken to the local markets next month, a move Mendonca hopes will enhance OMD's "insights, ideas, results" positioning.
However, having helped build the network over the past five years, Mendonca is now conscious that its rivals have raised their games in terms of marketing, new business and product development. Consequently, she knows she has a challenge on her hands: "I'm not sitting here thinking OMD is happy and complacent; we still have the challenger brand mentality and always will have."
Family: Young, free and single
Most treasured possession: My Power Plate!
Interests outside work: Travelling, socialising, property development
Favourite travel destination: None, I always go to a different place
Motto: Go for it. What's the worst that can happen?