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Agency Life

A Force for Good

A Force for Good

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

February 4, 2020

“The days of merely selling a product or a service are numbered,” says Group Managing Director of Havas Malaysia Andrew Lee.

"It is no secret that talent is the single most important driver of industry growth, and as such, they need to be nurtured and empowered to grow in a way that can set them up for success"

Our planet isn’t in its best shape, and as we move forward, brands will no longer be able to ignore the expectations of socially-aware consumers, says Andrew Lee, Group Managing Director of Havas Malaysia. Fresh in his new role, Lee’s focus is to guide the Village into a future where advertising is used as a force for good. Here, he chats about his career, his leadership style, and where he ventures for the best comfort food in Selangor.

 

What influenced your career in advertising?

My passion for building brands got me into advertising but what has kept me going is the opportunity to make a difference; a meaningful difference in the society we live in. Working with brands and tapping into their purpose to create messages that have an impact on society is an incredibly powerful proposition. Nike, Dove and The Body Shop are examples of brands that live their purpose. This has allowed them to occupy a meaningful place in their customers’ minds and catapult their growth. So, knowing that advertising can be a force for good and that every message we create has the potential for positive change, inspired me to be a part of the change.

Can you tell us about the challenges you face in your new role and your goals moving forward?

The Havas Village is a truly unique proposition. It is a multi-disciplinary offering, all united under one leadership. The biggest challenge since I moved to the Group leadership role has been changing the habit of thinking from the point-of-view of Havas Creative, to thinking from the perspective of a Havas Village. We have two immediate goals, winning new business and winning awards as a Village.

In the past, you have described your management style as “an invisible leash”. What did you mean by this?

It is no secret that talent is the single most important driver of industry growth, and as such, they need to be nurtured and empowered to grow in a way that can set them up for success. It is important to trust the talent we have in the agency and to give them the freedom to do their job. But if the freedom is abused and when trust starts to diminish, “the leash” will steer them back onto the right path – the path to growth and success.

What makes the Malaysian market unique?

Malaysia is a multi-racial country, ruled by political parties based on race, and brands have been targeting Malaysians based on race. In recent years, the people, especially the younger generations, are against racial profiling and they just want to be called Malaysians. Havas Malaysia is leading the industry by not targeting based on ethnicity but targeting based on consumer mindset, values and culture. 

What is your proudest achievement?

Winning the election to be the President of 4As Malaysia for two consecutive terms was a sound acknowledgement from the advertising community especially when running against the giants. For the first term, I ran against the CEO of Dentsu, who was a past President and the second term, I ran against another veteran – the CEO of Publicis One.

"An entire generation of socially aware consumers want brands that are unafraid to take a stand"

How do you think advertising will change throughout the next ten years?

The days of merely selling a product or a service are numbered and an entire generation of socially aware consumers want brands that are unafraid to take a stand. I hope to see more brands progressing to brand activism and championing social and environmental causes. I hope to see more responsible content creators celebrating humanity in a world run by robots – with artificial intelligence, data science, chatbots and VR, where we have begun to lose that human touch. 

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Stories behind food culture are my newly found interest. The origin story on why the Chinese tap the table using three fingers, a way of paying silent thanks to the person who poured their tea is interesting. But the story on why the Chinese kept the teapot lid halfway open as a signal to the waiters to refill the teapot with hot water is even more interesting.

Where is your favourite place on earth?

A quiet beach with gentle waves and a cool breeze.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the Usage Terms & Conditions of WeTransfer as recommended by Brian Veau (Chief Technology Officer, of Havas SEA and India). I’m just kidding. I am currently reading the biography of Robert Kuok, a Malaysian business magnate and investor.

What was the last show you binged?

“Vagabond”, a Korean series on Netflix.

What is your favourite restaurant in Selangor and what’s so great about it?

It is probably the Oriental Restaurant as they have most of my comfort food.

"It is no secret that talent is the single most important driver of industry growth, and as such, they need to be nurtured and empowered to grow in a way that can set them up for success"

Our planet isn’t in its best shape, and as we move forward, brands will no longer be able to ignore the expectations of socially-aware consumers, says Andrew Lee, Group Managing Director of Havas Malaysia. Fresh in his new role, Lee’s focus is to guide the Village into a future where advertising is used as a force for good. Here, he chats about his career, his leadership style, and where he ventures for the best comfort food in Selangor.

 

What influenced your career in advertising?

My passion for building brands got me into advertising but what has kept me going is the opportunity to make a difference; a meaningful difference in the society we live in. Working with brands and tapping into their purpose to create messages that have an impact on society is an incredibly powerful proposition. Nike, Dove and The Body Shop are examples of brands that live their purpose. This has allowed them to occupy a meaningful place in their customers’ minds and catapult their growth. So, knowing that advertising can be a force for good and that every message we create has the potential for positive change, inspired me to be a part of the change.

Can you tell us about the challenges you face in your new role and your goals moving forward?

The Havas Village is a truly unique proposition. It is a multi-disciplinary offering, all united under one leadership. The biggest challenge since I moved to the Group leadership role has been changing the habit of thinking from the point-of-view of Havas Creative, to thinking from the perspective of a Havas Village. We have two immediate goals, winning new business and winning awards as a Village.

In the past, you have described your management style as “an invisible leash”. What did you mean by this?

It is no secret that talent is the single most important driver of industry growth, and as such, they need to be nurtured and empowered to grow in a way that can set them up for success. It is important to trust the talent we have in the agency and to give them the freedom to do their job. But if the freedom is abused and when trust starts to diminish, “the leash” will steer them back onto the right path – the path to growth and success.

What makes the Malaysian market unique?

Malaysia is a multi-racial country, ruled by political parties based on race, and brands have been targeting Malaysians based on race. In recent years, the people, especially the younger generations, are against racial profiling and they just want to be called Malaysians. Havas Malaysia is leading the industry by not targeting based on ethnicity but targeting based on consumer mindset, values and culture. 

What is your proudest achievement?

Winning the election to be the President of 4As Malaysia for two consecutive terms was a sound acknowledgement from the advertising community especially when running against the giants. For the first term, I ran against the CEO of Dentsu, who was a past President and the second term, I ran against another veteran – the CEO of Publicis One.

"An entire generation of socially aware consumers want brands that are unafraid to take a stand"

How do you think advertising will change throughout the next ten years?

The days of merely selling a product or a service are numbered and an entire generation of socially aware consumers want brands that are unafraid to take a stand. I hope to see more brands progressing to brand activism and championing social and environmental causes. I hope to see more responsible content creators celebrating humanity in a world run by robots – with artificial intelligence, data science, chatbots and VR, where we have begun to lose that human touch. 

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Stories behind food culture are my newly found interest. The origin story on why the Chinese tap the table using three fingers, a way of paying silent thanks to the person who poured their tea is interesting. But the story on why the Chinese kept the teapot lid halfway open as a signal to the waiters to refill the teapot with hot water is even more interesting.

Where is your favourite place on earth?

A quiet beach with gentle waves and a cool breeze.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the Usage Terms & Conditions of WeTransfer as recommended by Brian Veau (Chief Technology Officer, of Havas SEA and India). I’m just kidding. I am currently reading the biography of Robert Kuok, a Malaysian business magnate and investor.

What was the last show you binged?

“Vagabond”, a Korean series on Netflix.

What is your favourite restaurant in Selangor and what’s so great about it?

It is probably the Oriental Restaurant as they have most of my comfort food.

Patricia Murphy is a content creator with a background in digital health and lifestyle journalism. She loves to chat and tell stories.

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