Omnicom Media Group has promoted Eileen Ooi, MD of PHD Malaysia, to the role of chief operating officer of OMG Malaysia, effective immediately. Ooi (pictured above) reports to Tony Harradine, CEO, Omnicom Media Group, Asia Pacific in her new role and leads a 104-man team in Malaysia. 

Ooi has been tasked with overseeing the business operations of OMG and its brands in Malaysia. She is supported by Anisha Iyer (pictured below left), MD of OMD Malaysia, as well as Kiron Kesav (pictured below right), who will be taking on an expanded remit while continuing in his role as GM of PHD Malaysia. Together, the leadership trio will be responsible for driving continued growth and stability for the network in Malaysia.

anisha iyer and kiron kesav

Ooi has been with PHD Malaysia  for the last four years and has been instrumental in charting its growth trajectory, OMG said. She is also currently VP of the Malaysian Digital Association. Under her leadership, OMG said Ooi doubled the size of PHD Malaysia's business and built a balanced and diversified client portfolio across global, regional and local businesses. Among the list of clients PHD is currently working with in Malaysia include  Warner Bros Pictures Group Wipro Unza HSBC , LG , Volkswagen, and SCJ. The agency added that her passion and tenacity in accelerating PHD Malaysia’s digital expertise and agenda has also "cemented its reputation as a formidable challenger in the industry".

According to Harradine, Ooi has proven to be an effective leader and has played a pivotal role in driving momentum and innovative solutions for its clients. “I have the utmost confidence in Ooi’s ability to continue accelerating our growth agenda and steer OMG’s business to even greater heights in an important market such as Malaysia,” he added. Ooi joins OMG's list of female leaders in Asia Pacific which includes Singapore COO Chloe Neo , Thailand CEO Rochelle Chhaya , China CEO  Claudine Kwek , and Taiwan CEO Kelly Huang .

Ooi told A+M that she plans to double the business in the next three years and focus on expanding OMG into a holistic marketing solution partner, leveraging on its data and analytics hub Annalect, content agency Drum, and  eCommerce hub Transact . "These capabilities transform us into a more holistic marketing solutions partner beyond just media. It's about how we can truly help our clients navigate a more blurred and changing landscape," she said. Drum, for example, played a key role in helping PHD Malaysia bag the BonusLink account last year.

"We have been very blessed. OMG Malaysia has seen a phenomenal transformation in the last three years and the fruits of our labour are starting to show, such as the consolidation of social and digital duties with McDonald's and managing the media business for Danone. It's been a good three years for the business and trustworthiness and authenticity are the two keywords that best represent us as a network in the market," she said. 

Ooi believes in hiring for attitude and training for skills. According to her, skills is an aspect that everyone can master while attitude makes a huge difference because it defines the agency's culture. "From a talent perspective, we look for individuals with a challenger mentality, people who are very curious and passionate," she said. 

While attitude is prioritised over aptitude, Ooi also seeks individuals with experience in adtech and martech, as well as those who are comfortable with digital analytics. "We are also looking for talent beyond our typical media pool, such as individuals from local startups and the eCommerce space," she said. 

Read the rest of the interview here:

A+M: What strategies do you have have in mind when it comes to creating a culture in the workforce, especially when many people are working from home?

Ooi: I take the cue from when I led PHD and how we've put culture at the front and centre of everything we do. One of our key beliefs is happy people and a great culture makes for great results and happy clients. Hence, I intend to put culture back at the front and centre at OMG.

Communication is of utmost importance to me. Previously at PHD, I broke down the barriers of communications by rolling out a monthly "Ask Eileen" forum and this is something I'd like to reinstate as I move into this position. We are still working virtually and hence it is important to establish and break down barriers so I feel more human to employees. The Ask Eileen forum is anonymous and at PHD, I was asked questions such as increments and job security when the pandemic first hit. I feel this initiative really positions the leader as a human and allows us to be honest and genuine with employees. 

Another part of culture, beyond openness and communication, is really being personal. This is important as I move into this role. I'm well-versed with PHD and will now have to build up a connection with the individuals at OMD and OMG as a whole. We've grown a fair bit over 2020 with new employees joining us virtually. However, it is hard for them to experience the culture so this needs to start from the top. 

A+M: Is working in a physical or collaborative space still important? What does it bring that working from home cannot?

Ooi: The physical space is still important for better collaboration as well as for workshops and brainstorming. We live in a very creative world and media is not just about crunching numbers anymore. It's about coming together to brainstorm on strategies and ideas. We've done that virtually but I'd say the connection and energy would be better when we are all physically and being able to scribble on the boards. 

We launched a flexi working policy end of 2019 and this came as a blessing in disguise because people began working remotely and by March last year, we were able to enforce it quickly when the Movement Control Order (MCO) went into effect. The future working model will be a mix of both remote and physical, I don't think we will ever go back to how we have operated. People have become more productive working remotely but they still crave for that connection and community mentality.

A+M: How has the pandemic impacted OMG in Malaysia? How has the agency adapted to remain agile during this period?

Ooi: Agility is a mentality. Both Iyer and I as well as other senior stakeholders hold agility as a key primary driver in everything that we do. While it starts with the mindset, because we drive that as leaders, we also saw the passion and dedication from the team last year. The teams are now all connected in group chats. Previously, the group chats were mainly for individual teams but they have now evolved to agency-level chats. For me, this starts from the leaders but it also goes back to the whole conversation about talent and hiring people with the right attitude.

A+M: What does 2021 hold for the ad industry?

Ooi: Going into 2021, people are more prepared and the entire industry has adjusted when it comes to dealing with the recession. From a consumer sentiment perspective, surprisingly when we went into the second MCO, consumers were a lot more positive and employees were not as jittery. We also don't see advertisers panicking as much compared with the first lockdown last year, when there was massive panic all around. Everyone is ready and we know what we need to do.

Businesses are pivoting to eCommerce and have accelerated their digital strategies. Publishers are also pivoting their business, moving towards virtual awards and events. While 2021 is still quite uncertain since it's dependent on how the pandemic can be managed, everyone is a lot more resilient and focused on what we need to drive the business. 

A+M: What are some trends agencies and brands should take note of?

Ooi: Transparency and privacy, these two aspects are all the rage in the digital world today, especially with the iOS update and the phasing out of third-party cookies. These will be another pivotal tipping point for the digital industry bubble. As for the marketing scene overall, it is becoming even more related as marketers are figuring out how to be more responsible in the way they advertise and communicate with their customers, and how they prepare their data architecture. 

A+M: What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders?

Ooi: Remove the glass ceiling mentality. We tend to celebrate female leaders more because as a society, we expect males to take the lead and inadvertently, every female is exposed to the glass ceiling. At the same time, it is important for female leaders to find a support system, be it family or their industry peers. While females are great empathetic leaders, this also means we need our own system of support to understand and to be able to work and encourage each other. 

We will be launching Omniwomen in Malaysia soon, a global Omnicom-wide initiative that champions the role of women in the workplace and aims to empower them to take on leadership roles. In Malaysia, Omniwomen will be led by TBWA's MD Hui Tsin, Naga DDB's planning director Joanna Dorai, Iyer, and myself.

Related articles:
Malaysian Digital Association names Nicholas Sagau and Eileen Ooi to leadership roles
Meet PHD Malaysia's Eileen Ooi
PHD names Eileen Ooi to head Malaysia market

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