Julia Wei has left her role as managing partner of AKA Asia. She joined the team in 2020 from Lazada Group where she was previously VP, integrated communications (regional). Wei said on LinkedIn that as someone who considers herself an agency person for the long haul, AKA has proven to be a unicorn through and through. Before AKA and Lazada, Wei was with The Secret Little Agency as GM and Edelman as director, head of consumer practice.

"I'm happy to know that such a model of an agency can exist as a solid business but also a safe space for creative, diverse, hungry and values-based individuals to thrive in a comms agency career. A lot of this is very deliberate, and takes a lot of care - in what the founders and management prioritise. I can only hope to try to apply some of the best learnings from it in my career ahead," she explained.

She also thanked founders Kate O'Shea and Amy Wright for their trust and for being great mentors. Wei also thanked her colleagues, adding that she has had the privilege of working with them. "I leave AKA energised from my time here, not burnt out, and I think that's testament to the experience. I'll always be a fan," she added.

Meanwhile, she told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that despite the pandemic and its challenges, the AKA team continued to grow to a team size of 55, the largest the team has ever been. This includes an expanded design and production team of eight creatives. "At the height of the pandemic we stayed true to the agency's culture of putting people first, promoting and growing our talent and not making redundancies," she said.

According to Wei, the agency also continued to "deliver fearlessly creative work for brave clients", successfully gaining many industry accolades as a result. It also focused on strengthening its capability through a number of external hires, which enabled the team to better balance its client portfolio resulting in a good mix of integrated, consumer and corporate wins. Wei said this made up for lost ground thanks to COVID-19.

During the first half of 2021 , AKA won a slew of new accounts including Viu and Tourism New Zealand. Meanwhile, William Grant & Sons expanded the agency's remit to a regional one. It also beefed up its portfolio with accounts such as World Wide Fund for Nature, GIC and Sequoia Capital India's Surge. According to AKA's LinkedIn, it is also currently working with Spotify. On the education front, it brought on board the National University of Singapore last year. Wei previously said that although AKA has a reputation of working with consumer clients, 40% of its work is corporate. 

One of her learning lessons from her time at AKA is that the collective power of a united senior team alongside a clear purpose and set of established values, empowered the agency to do its best work and make the best decisions for its people, clients and the agency at large. She also learnt that when the foundations of the agency are built on trust, talent will support and champion one's decisions as a leader, knowing the leader has thought through the best option.

"I say this in relation to hearing how other places of work have struggled with team buy-in for new post-pandemic policies such as return to office," she said. Wei added that middle management is crucial to a company’s culture and work ethic. "We always involved senior managers and above, in a lot of decision making and shared the responsibility of mentorship of the wider agency across the team," she explained.

More than ever, clients also want agency partners who care enough to take the lead sometimes in shaping success. According to her, that takes curiosity, proactivity and communicativeness in the team at every level to speak up. "That’s what makes AKA’s client retention high and why most new clients come through referrals," she added.

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