You were at this year Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and Dentsu has once again won Regional Network of the Year, in APAC, for the second year in a row. What were your favourite moments and key takeaways?
Cheuk: Winning Regional Network of the Year for the second consecutive time was both humbling as well as thrilling. All of us were ecstatic when we received the announcement, and there is something about being on La Croissette that makes you feel intense pride and happiness when one of your teams brings home an award. Winning really shines a light on dentsu’s relentless focus on improving the quality of our work and the immense effort everyone in our APAC markets have put in this year to bring this award home once again.
Cannes Lions benchmarks us against the best in the world, and I’m proud of the fact that Dentsu Creative is once again up there. This year’s competition was fierce and our teams in China (KFC, Re:Store), Taiwan (Blizzard, Taiwanese World of Warcraft), and India (Vedanti, The Everything Book, and Mortein, Suraksha Ka Teeka) have done us proud, bringing home Lions in their respective categories.
We’ve still got a lot of work to do, however I’m confident we’ll continue this upward trajectory as we delve into the key themes that were continually seen at Cannes – including emerging technology like AI, embracing sustainability, and driving growth for good.
Dentsu Creative has just turned one. Following on from last year’s launch and its sweeping success, also at Cannes Lions, what have you come to understand more deeply in the past year?
Cheuk: There’s a new era of creativity. Following the Cannes Lions, I spent the weekend geeking out over every Grand Prix and gold winner to understand what made them great. I found there were some common themes around the best and most awarded work.
The best work either creates culture, changes society, or uses technology to connect brands with consumers. We are seeing a new era where big data is being used to connect brands with popular culture. A new era where creativity has more of a conscience and a new era technology is being used to amplify brand experiences.
At Dentsu Creative, we call this Modern Creativity and it’s the very thing that guides the work that we produce for our clients. This gives me great confidence that we are on the right track as a business. Modern Creativity is an important to steer for us towards better work and a better (more conscious) industry.
What’s next for Dentsu Creative?
Cheuk: Whilst continuing to deliver our proposition of Modern Creativity, we have a relentless focus on improving the quality of our work, driving growth, and delivering innovative capabilities to clients around the areas of earned, entertainment, and experience.
The coming together of 62 companies now makes us one of the largest creative businesses in the region. With this consolidation comes the removal of complex structures making it much easier for our clients to connect and work with us. We’re also working to ensure they have easier access to the best talent and best capabilities.
Better talent and better capabilities mean better work; and all this leads to better business growth.
Consolidation also means we can invest in develop a strong, better product and capabilities offering. For us, that’s about launching new and competitive offerings in such longform content entertainment, Generative AI, and business transformation consulting. All capabilities that today’s modern marketer uses to give them a competitive advantage.
Whilst doing all this, we also continue to build the very best culture of creativity in the industry. One that nurtures great creative talent and inspires the very best creativity through radical collaboration. One that promotes ethical leadership and an inclusive culture.
From Cummins & Partners, Sapient, Omnicom, and PHD Media, you’ve built an incredible career with successful leadership roles. What are your key learnings and inspirations when it comes to demonstrating leadership?
As a leader, it’s important to not only set a clear vision but also inspire people to dream big. This is important if you want to be the best and build companies that last. For me, I’ve always set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), brought in the best talent to achieve these goals, and then support them to achieve success.
I’ve also learnt that our business is a hugely dynamic, so you have to always keep learning, keep upskilling and constantly being a student of the business. Age and experience aren’t everything. I often learn the most from some of our freshest talent who bring in new perspectives and diverse thinking.
We also live and work in an era where leading with empathy and compassion are critical. I spent three years working closely with Jennifer Tang, dentsu Taiwan CEO. Dentsu Taiwan is one of most innovative and most successful operations in the world. Jennifer taught me that managing with care and empathy leads to superior results. In our high stress business, it’s quite easy to confuse aggression with passion, especially when work ramps up and emotions run high. We as leaders now need to reframe passion with compassion and be more empathetic. I’ve found that you get better results that way.
We’ve all come off the back of an unprecedented global event that’s created a lot of vulnerability and fragility, so now we need to be especially mindful of people’s wellbeing and mental health. At Dentsu Creative, changing society is a big part of proposition. It’s not just something that we say but also something that we put into action with our DEI and talent wellbeing programs. We are constantly walking the talk.
After 30 years in the industry, what continues to drive you in your role as CEO for Dentsu Creative?
What drives me now is the opportunity to help build the industry for the future. An oh what an exciting future it is with advancements in digital transformation, technology, and AI!
The ability for us to use big data to inform insight and provocations, strategies and ideas will not only help improve the quality of our work but also allow us to be far more effective due to the opportunity of leveraging predictive marketing to improve outcomes.
We are setting ourselves for a new era where we’ll see predictive customer experience optimisation through integrated marketing systems and AI - personalised experiences based on predicted individual behaviours in real-time at scale and creative work that is more relevant, more engaging, and more effective.
You’ve mentioned that client connection is a priority for Dentsu Creative. What are the attributes that you think contributes to a successful client relationship?
At dentsu, client centricity has always been at the heart and soul of what we do.
This isn’t just about how we structure ourselves to provide better service or providing the strongest capabilities that help them transform their businesses. It’s about thinking ahead and anticipating for clients need. This is what ultimately takes client connection to the next level.
At Dentsu Creative, we demonstrate this by solving for key client challenges through Modern Creativity and paving the way with innovative solutions, be it through personalisation for better customer experiences, online to offline to DTC, leveraging new platforms and technology or building greater insight into cultural trends and new technology.
By having a relentless focus on solving for big client challenges, we drive growth and in doing so build client love and trust.