Omnicom Media Group (OMG) has promoted Eileen Ooi to CEO of Malaysia. She will be responsible for steering the business operations, driving efficiencies, and strengthening capabilities among its agencies in Malaysia namely, OMD, PHD, and the Group's data and analytics division, Annalect. She continues to report into Tony Harradine and will officially assume her role immediately. Ooi (pictured) was most recently COO of Malaysia and was elevated to that role last February.
"It's a sense of achievement," Ooi told A+M during an interview. "I have always been really passionate about building and transforming the business, so being recognised after one year is a nice feeling," she added. Ooi was MD of PHD Malaysia prior to taking on a group-level role in 2021. She was with the agency for close to five years and played a crucial role in charting its growth trajectory.
She described her journey with OMG to be really exciting, interesting and challenging. When she first joined, Ooi said she was tasked to oversee an agency that required major transformation. It has since grown from strength to strength, bagging clients including Dutch Lady Milk Industries, IKEA Southeast Asia, and Subway.
"Personally, I have transformed as a leader. I've learnt to juggle between the importance of being empathetic but at the same time keeping a close eye on what our Northstar is. That has taught me the balancing skills that I need as a leader and how to empower individuals as well as push them in the right direction," she explained.
Ooi added that OMG also gives her a sense of empowerment to make decisions and drive the necessary strategic directions to achieve the network's ambitions. "This is an environment that I really enjoy and thrive in because I like shaping things and coming up with ideas.
Under her leadership as COO, OMG Malaysia's business has grown 40% year-on-year, retained major accounts such as Beiersdorf Malaysia and even expanded client's portfolio across global, regional, and local businesses. Having played a pivotal role in propelling commercial growth and harnessing digital capabilities for the agency network in Malaysia, Ooi's promotion serves as a recognition of her stellar performance and aligns with OMG's commitment to nurturing talent from within.
Her data-driven vision for the network has led the team to establish a three-year partnership with Google. The partnership has elevated the network’s capabilities in performance marketing, data analytics and talent development to support and accelerate clients’ digital growth and transformation. Aside from making waves within the network, Ooi is also currently the VP of the Malaysia Digital Association, playing a key role in shaping Malaysia's advertising landscape.
When asked about her first order of business as CEO, Ooi said culture remains a huge focus for her this year because she wants to build an organisation that is not only dynamic and close-knit but also one that is recognised for its culture. "I want to become an organisation that is enviable for our culture," she said. Ooi believes that having a strong culture is even more critical as markets start to open up. The talent crunch remains an issue for companies and Ooi sees the need to build a long-term plan for talent retention, including having a Happiness Index.
Aside from talent, Ooi has also proactively launched and integrated several mental wellness programmes during her tenure, which provides employees with access to mental health resources. In fact, she told A+M that the past two years has certainly placed the spotlight on mental health. "The reality is that mental health should have been spoken at a much larger scale even before the pandemic. We all know that the ad industry is fast-paced and we work in high-stress levels so mental health does take a toll," she explained.
According to her, mental health goes beyond the topic of stress but also coping mechanisms and understanding emotional resilience, all of which are critical in the ad industry. Ooi saw the need to double down on mental health in mid-2020 as she was already witnessing the impact it had on staff.
"I had conversations with the younger generation who didn't know how to mentally and emotionally manage this sudden change. It's not necessarily that the work has gotten to them, but the change in the world. So that was really a light bulb moment for me," she said.
Some of the training OMG had covered ways to manage stress and setting boundaries with clients. The first series ended in the fourth quarter of last year and Ooi is looking to kickstart phase two soon, with plans to rope in clients and the wider industry.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently said the country is looking to reopen its borders early in the second quarter of 2022, media outlets including The Straits Times reported. As markets worldwide mull reopening, Ooi said this move will ease the challenge of recruiting foreign talent. "It opens our territory a little bit more without having to restrict ourselves just to Malaysia," she said.
Read the rest of the interview here:
A+M: NFTs and metaverse are the talk of the town nowadays. Is this an area that the team is looking into?
Ooi: NFTs are interesting for now but from a planning perspective, I think it's just more of an innovative idea. The next big focus in Malaysia would be driving eCommerce within the country, specifically social commerce, which is very huge here.
Influencer-based commerce is very big and live commerce is interesting too. There isn't really a playbook around it so we are in a space where we can build a playbook for brands to give them a sense of direction.
In addition to that, one of the most immediate focus areas would be the cookieless world. We are actively setting up workshops and webinars to prepare our clients in this area.
A+M: What's the next step brands should take after they have built up their first-party data? How can they prepare for a cookieless world?
Ooi: There are different layers of first-party data as well so it's important to define what those layers are. It's easy for companies in the banking or automotive industry to build up their first-party data. However, it is hard for FMCG brands to build that up as they sell products on the shelves so how are they going to get their first-party data?
For FMCG brands, defining first-party data is also important because it involves clients changing the way they approach marketing, product packaging, and their promotions. Some clients also have better assets such as their app or website, as well as better martech. Hence, CRM is going to become really important too, along with CDP.
A lot of times, local clients tend to deprioritise tech, which is actually very important. You need to define your strategy then have the resolution for it, such as what your assets and tech are. Thereafter, think about how you can manage and ensure all these data sets are agile data and not just information that you collected three months ago, for example.
We need to test and learn this year to understand and address the impact and effectiveness and be ready by the time the cookieless world comes around.
A+M: How are you bringing the industry together to drive this forward as VP of MDA?
Ooi: One of our big focus areas for this year is setting standards and benchmarks. We have come to notice that the world of digital is extremely accessible to anyone but this also means that standards can be loose.
For example, we have about 1,000 influencer companies in Malaysia and anybody today can claim that they are an influencer. However, there is no standard to gauge if someone is truly an influencer or not. How do you differentiate what is the right rate you should be paying someone with a million followers, for example?
There is plenty of murkiness around the standards in digital and digital has accelerated so quickly that there isn't any sort of standard. Hence, the MDA wants to start assessing different things and set benchmarks to push the industry forward.
A+M: What can we expect from OMG Malaysia this year?
Ooi: For 2022, the key area is really driving our growth and pushing the boundaries of some of the work that we are doing. There will also be more noise coming from Annalect as well. From an overall organisational perspective, I will continue to drive a focus on mental health and there's a personal initiative that I'm taking on.
I want to take it to the wider industry as well and not just speak up about it but also be the instigators of conversations around mental health.