Raahil Chopra
Apr 18, 2017

‘A digital agency has to combine technology, creative and media’: Jane Lin-Baden, Isobar

The CEO of Isobar Apac was in India last week. We caught up with her to learn more about Isobar’s growth in Apac, her views on diversity and more…

‘A digital agency has to combine technology, creative and media’: Jane Lin-Baden, Isobar
Jane Lin-Baden, CEO of Isobar Apac, is fascinated by the growth the agency is seeing in India and expects the agency to be number two within the markets under her mandate soon. 
She had stayed in India 20 years ago for two years when her husband had moved here. And after a short visit in 2010, this was her first ‘real’ visit post the two-year stint. 
We caught up with her during her visit to India last week. Edited excerpts: 
What brings you to India? Is this your first visit to India since you took over as Apac CEO?
I’m here to visit the team. I go to every market and work with the teams to understand how we can grow in that market. I look at investment plans and want to meet the people. 
I had heard so much about this team, and how fast it’s growing. So, I wanted to be here to meet them. Now, I know why they do grow fast.
Why are they growing so fast?
It’s simple. You look at the people. People in agencies need to have three things.
The leader needs to be ambitious. In all the countries we see growth, the leader is extremely ambitious. 
The leader also has to have a core team that’s seasoned and has the same goal. The team also needs to be close-knit. 
Thirdly, you need to have a diverse team. And this team has diversity and that’s a big reason for the growth.
This team in India has all of the above.
What kind of diversity does this team have?  
Everyone talks about gender, but it’s also about age and backgrounds. In a single country like India, people from the North are very different from the South. They come from different social backgrounds too. 
I see Shams (Shamsuddin Jasani, MD, Isobar India) driving the diversity in this country.
What were the goals you set for yourself when you were appointed CEO of Asia Pacific in June 2016? What have you achieved so far?
I want the Isobar network to be the top one for clients. We have grown through acquisitions. I want this agency to be considered as the number one agency network in all the countries we go to. We have very big teams in India and China. But in some countries the size isn’t that big, I want to grow them and make them lead in their own country too.
Within the Apac market where would India rank in terms of size and revenue?
In terms of business size, within Apac, India will be at number three. China and Australia would be number one and two currently.  
India has the fastest speed of growth though and could be up to number two soon! 
At Goafest last year your global CEO (Jean Lin) called the present period of advertising as the renaissance because of the availability of technology, but also urged agencies to look towards creativity? For a digital agency what's the balance required between the two?
I never believe that technology and creative should be separate. Whoever looks to have this separately is trying to simplify a problem they cannot solve. But this simplification will go nowhere. A digital agency has to combine technology, creative and media. These three things need to go hand-in-hand.
This is also a reason why the Indian market has grown so fast. The people know how to merge technology, creative and media very well. In the countries where we don’t play this well, I see growth rate lower.
Gender diversity is a hot topic. You’re the Apac CEO and there’s a lady leading the agency globally too? What has Isobar done right to get women in these leadership roles?
In our group we don’t really think that we should have quotas for women. Everyone should be given an opportunity based on merit. This is across the Dentsu Aegis Network. It has a very driven culture about diversity and that’s why Isobar has a high ratio of women leadership.
In India, we had the first Women's Council and I use that as an example wherever I go. DAN has set this up as an operation system. 
I think we need to have a system to make things transparent and a women council is one of the best examples.
Across Asia, men would comprise a little over half of the office strength at around 55 to 58 per cent. It varies, and in countries like China we have a huge woman population. 
In India the office comprises 45 per cent women.
What’s your advice to women in the advertising industry?
It’s a renaissance for women in advertising right now! Women should never limit themselves because they think they are women. I’m not even talking about men limiting us, I think women should not limit themselves thinking they can’t achieve stuff. We should go after opportunities, be brave and speak out! It’s our responsibility to get the opportunities.
It’s the award season now, and Dentsu Aegis Network has made a great start to it. What’s your take on awards?
I see awards are good for industries, but agencies should not work for fame alone. We are paid by clients and are responsible for their money. We are not paid by fame, and should not work for fame. So, the way we look at is, we need to submit real work. Never submit fake work, it’s cheating. 
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