Mike Fromowitz
Sep 26, 2013

Regional executive creative directors: Do agencies really need them?

Agencies looking to cut the fat and doing away with their RECDs might be making a big mistake, says the author

Regional executive creative directors: Do agencies really need them?

I’m very pleased to see that some agency groups in Asia are looking towards the future. Isabar APAC hired Graham Kelly in their newly created role of Regional Executive Creative Director to help drive creative excellence across the company’s 21 offices and 13 markets in the region.

Josiah Tay Guan Hin is now Regional Executive Creative Director, South East Asia for JWT. He was the first Southeast Asian creative inducted into JWT’s Worldwide Creative Council.

Back in February, SapientNitro announced that Andy Greenaway had joined the company as executive creative director for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to strengthen the company’s creative portfolio. Greenaway was regional creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi’s Asia Pacific region for nine years and has extensive experience in the Asian market.

These terrific Asia-based creative people will serve their agencies well and clients will surely reap the benefits of their experience. It’s all good stuff!

Focusing on the bottom line

Nevertheless, some regional ad agencies think they do not need a Regional Executive Creative Director (RECD). At a time when agencies are focused on their bottom lines and seeking ways to cut out the fat, I am one who thinks this will be a big mistake—the future will tell.

With agency margins tight, some bean-counters think that employing an agency RECD does not make good commercial sense. Having been a Regional Creative Director on two counts - the first for Bates, the second as TBWA's first ever RECD in Asia Pacific, I continue to believe the role is important and of great benefit to both clients and agencies. The role is a crucial one, but a very difficult one to fill, which is probably the reason some agencies don't have one.

Not an easy job—trust me

The actual role of the RECD carries with it many hats that go well beyond just the creative output of the agency. Their work includes endless amounts of travel around the region dealing with major client brands. The RECD must be a leader in setting high standards of creativity across all local offices in the region, and be a key player in helping to drive clients' business performance.

The RECD must also be a sounding board for the agency’s local creative directors; work on regional or global briefs, and new business pitches;  talk strategy and planning with clients; raise awareness amongst their regional offices of the work being done by the group in several markets; co-ordinate efforts to win at the awards shows; help local offices in the hiring of the best people; inform the press about creative leaps and breakthroughs; make speeches; bringing on young talent, and instill a creative culture throughout all offices.

By developing and maintaining a consistently high quality of output across the region, the RECD helps to garner the recognition of both agency peers and the press, and in turn, the agency is more able to attract the best talent. Isn't that what clients are after? The best talent creates the best work. That's a fact. A no brainer.

I think the best RECDs also have a bent for making smart business decisions beyond just the creative function. This may entail working hand in hand with the Regional Director, taking on opportunities to grow the business, found new agency offices and make inroads into new emerging markets.

A commitment to clients

There are several pan-Asian accounts and the clients expect their agency to produce work that bridges a number of unique cultures. It's the RECD’s job to make sure none of this work is commoditized or reduced to the lowest-common-denominator in order to bridge all these cultures.

I believe the RECD’s role is a hugely important one. When there is a strong partnership between the RECD and the agency's Regional Director and/or Regional CEO, the agency stands a far better chance to be successful, grow its existing regional business, win more awards and PR recognition, and improve its bottom line.

It's indeed a very complex role—the best RECDs are actively involved with client issues and problems on a regional and global scale. They must have leadership ability and a bent for forming relationships in different countries and cultures.This is a role for an individual with determination and passion, and of course a desire to make his agency the best in the region.

Mike Fromowitz is President and Chief Brand Officer of Mantra Partners, a full-service advertising and branding agency. The company works for clients in Asia, South America, USA and Canada.

The article first appeared on Campaign Asia


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