Getting your message across in any medium is a challenge for any media planner but add linguistic, cultural and social diversity to the mix and you get a bona fide test for any media agency staffer.
Campaign has identified the following ten men and women as the names to look out for on the Asian media agency scene. Innovation and versatility are pre-requisites, of course. But they've also weathered Sars, and can cope with Asia's characteristic blink-and-you'll-miss-it rate of change in business.
Who knows? In today's global talent pool, they could be coming to an agency near you.
The business director of MindShare's newly formed unit Maximize Beijing, has sparked praise for his ability to combine local insight into the Chinese market with global know-how. "Michael has been one of the key people who has helped the growth of MindShare in the past two years," MindShare Sydney's chief executive, Chris Walton, says. He has also been credited with MindShare's recent wins including GlaxoSmithKline, Beijing Jeep, Yanjing drinks, Beijing China Mobile and Mars. Zhang heads a team of 12 planners servicing clients such as Kimberly-Clark, Shell and Kodak Digital in China.
2003 was not without its challenges for the worldwide director of the the Cathay Pacific team at Universal McCann Worldwide. She had to steer the Hong Kong carrier through some of its most turbulent times and as a result, Campaign's sister publication Media Magazine named the New Zealander its "media planner/buyer of the year" for 2003. Henderson, who moved to Hong Kong in 1999, has worked for McCann World Group since 1994, and was McCann-Erickson New Zealand's national media director. She has participated in client and industry media awards as both judge and winner. She has also served on industry councils and is a regular commentator on industry issues.
Hardwick is the managing partner of Ikon Communications, one of the new wave of "communications-neutral" agencies. The five-year-old agency looks after client billings of approximately A$160 million and has a staff of 43. Its clients include Vodafone and Volkswagen. Hardwick started his career with Y&R London in 1984, relocating in 1988 to the group's Sydney office. Hardwick held a number of senior positions before joining Ikon, including the post of strategic communications director for Carat Australia. When not running Ikon, he can be found tearing down the slopes in Japan or Canada or playing for his Sydney soccer team, Barnstoneworth United.
With several years in the media business, the Starcom China chief executive is familiar with the unique demands of mainland China's media. In fact, the Hong Kong native is considered one of the original media pioneers in the Middle Kingdom and is an advisor to the advertising department of China's state-owned CCTV. The former independent film-maker was also the first chairman of the 4As China Media Committee. The Shanghai-based Chan also worked with a host of other agencies including TBWA, Zenith, McCann-Erickson and MediaCom.
With a portfolio that includes Coca-Cola, Warner Bros, DaimlerChrysler, Sony and LVMH, it is a wonder that Mediaedge:cia Singapore's group account director still finds time to scuba dive. She has been credited for many media firsts in Singapore for clients such as Evian and Coke. The Mathematics graduate from the National University of Singapore previously worked at CIA Singapore, before WPP acquired it.
MindShare Japan's planning director represents a new breed of media professionals stirring Japan's moribund market which has traditionally lacked the dynamism of its regional counterparts Hong Kong and Singapore. Lee proved her ample abilities at the start of the year when the Citigroup unit, Citifinancial, handed over its entire centralised planning assignment to MindShare Japan under her leadership. Other key international clients handled by the Hong Kong-native include Gillette and Lufthansa. A fluent Japanese speaker, Lee has 13 years of experience in the media industry, having previously worked for McCann and Starcom in Hong Kong.
New ways of working are Starcom China's executive director's speciality. Hui restructured Starcom China's buying system, resulting in the centralisation of the group's scheduling team in one office to service the country's three Starcom offices. He also came up with buying models combining the advantages of foreign advertisers' and local advertisers' buying models. He also established a negotiation model segmenting China into different markets with various negotiation strategies. Based in China for the past nine years, Hui has spoken at various industry seminars in the country.
Whether it's Quaker's oats or Hasbro board games, the OMD Malaysia media planner prides herself on coming up with novel and effective ways of communicating. "I welcome the challenge to deliver a refreshing and workable solution ... with a twist!" she enthuses. A four-week TV campaign for Quaker's, focusing on the health benefits of the cereal-maker's products, resulted in a 36 per cent increase in sales. The 12-year media veteran has been named "Media Planner of the Year" and her portfolio includes brands such as Intel, Compaq and GlaxoSmithKline. She has also worked for Euro RSCG and Grey.
This media planner has quickly established himself in the local media agency scene since joining OMD Thailand last February. Kittayabarn is responsible for brands such as Pernod Ricard, Chivas Regal and Seagram's Gin. Soon after graduating with an MBA in Marketing and International Business from the University of La Verne California, Kittayabarn worked for the Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group and was involved in marketing the group's Super Brand Mall in Shanghai.
The courier giant DHL, a client of Mediaedge:cia Singapore's international division client service director, was so pleased with her work for it, that it refused to let her off the business. Indeed, Chan has won accolades for helping to shape and grow the company's international unit. Chan, who has nearly ten years' experience with clients, is also part of the team handling the global Singapore Airlines account. Their first campaign for the carrier took the "Best Integrated Campaign" award from Revolution magazine.