BY THE HAMMER
I have always wanted to do a story about Eileen Ooi, the CEO of Omnicom Media Group Malaysia. So when International Women’s Day rolled around a few days ago, I had run out of excuses for further delay.
But first, let me talk to you about the very personable Ranga, Eileen’s ex-boss and ex-CEO of OMG Malaysia and Singapore. Ranga Somanathan tickled me to write this story a few years over some Roti Canai in Taman Tun, near my office. After about half an hour of witnessing his highly globular eye balls dance in excitement (like a mentor would about a protegé), I told him I will hound her.
Ranga rang more than a few bells about her, but I was already convinced. These days, Ranga is trusted to play with other people’s money as a supersonic mentor.
He shares a little about Eileen here…
“I first met Eileen in 2005, when she was out of college and joined the dedicated P&G team at Starcom. After she cut her teeth on a client like P&G, she took on challenges in Mindshare Malaysia, where she steadily ascended to Associate Director of Strategic Planning and after a brief stint at Carat as Director of Strategic Planning, went back to Group M as General Manager of Strategy & Platforms at Maxus Global.
I had been closely watching Eileen’s progress from the sidelines and looking for a suitable opportunity to work again with her. The opportunity arose, when I took on the role of CEO at Omnicom Media Group for Malaysia and Singapore in 2016. My first port of call was to reach out to Eileen, persuading her to join me in the quest to transform OMG and make PHD one of the top agencies in Malaysia.
Under her leadership, PHD’s business doubled in size and gained a reputation as an agency with an unbeatable culture and game changing talent. Eileen was named COO of OMG Malaysia in February 2021 and within a short span of twelve months was promoted to CEO. This year, on her birthday (Feb 24), she completed one year in her role as CEO, continuing to successfully steer the Omnicom Media Group ship towards its true north.”
Insider comment: “It was one of those regular work days in the industry, few of us from the Media, Creative and PR agency had gathered together to hack a response to a New Business Pitch brief. The brief unfortunately was very uninspiring and so was the energy of those gathered, grinding away over coffee and sugary snacks to get across the line. Walking in an hour or so into the meeting, as she was running over from a critical client recovery conversation, was Eileen, with her booming voice and assertive presence. She just transformed the energy the room…”
Eileen is responsible for steering OMG’s agencies in Malaysia, OMD and PHD and the Group’s data and analytics division, Annalect. Her data-driven vision for the network has led the team to drive a three-year transformative 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….
“Just because illusions aren’t real doesn’t mean they can’t be powerful motivators”
Eileen Ooi, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Malaysia
Here’s the real juice…
Where were you born?
I was born in Klang but I’ve never lived there. Instead I’m a fully raised Kuala Lumpurian.Whilst I may carry myself differently today, I grew up from a household that was below Malaysia’s average income. In my younger days, I lived in a low-cost flat until I was almost 10 years old before my family moved into a small decent terrace home.
From a young age, I had to be independent, self-sufficient and responsible as I stayed home alone from the age of 6. To entertain myself, as enjoy my love of music and karaoke, I spent many afternoons belting my lungs out in our low-cost 2 bedroom flat. I was raised with high expectations placed on me, and I’ve always aimed for excellence so I can be in control of my own destiny.
When I tell my childhood story, many are often surprised. But for me, I’m glad I experienced my childhood they way I did. Many may see it as a tough childhood but I see it as the platform that groomed me into who I am today – a determined, independent and highly passionate person who isn’t afraid to keep herself entertained when she’s alone!
What would you do if you were not running a media solutions agency?
I would definitely still be involved in the marketing industry, either on the agency, marketer, technology or data side. I love the rush of this industry, its ever-evolving landscape, the luxury of constantly learning as well as being at the forefront of consumer behavioural shifts and technological development.
But if I happen to chance upon a world where money and necessities are taken care of, I’ll definitely love to live by the sea in my little villa, with a book and a boat, and just live life as a hippie.
What are the challenges when dealing with clients?
Whether clients, our own team, our partners – the underlying fact is that we are all people in business, and it is in how we carry ourselves, communicate, our decision-making and collaborative nature that denotes how the working relationship would be.
We are humans first and foremost, but often times, especially with technology enabling conversations virtually, we forget that we are dealing with another human being.
I believe we should always:
Remember, we are all human. Empathy in mindset when we speak goes a long way.
Show care. In a fast pace world today, we forget to pause and just ask each other ‘How are you?’
Have honest conversations and strive to arrive at a win-win situation for all parties.
Focus on getting to a solution avoid the blame-game. Believe it or not, all parties actually want the same things.
Have courage to seek clarity as this will save everyone plenty of time, avoiding assumptions-based solutions.
Who inspired you to get into this business?
Funnily, I wanted to get into advertising out of spite because my parents felt I was not creative and that I should be an accountant. So I made a commitment that I would prove them wrong.
Hence I chose to major in advertising and marketing, earned a scholarship for my degree in Malaysia and Australia, and graduated with double honours. Right from the day I started my first job as a media planner, I’ve never looked back.
What lessons will help marketers do their job better?
Regardless of whether one is a marketer, or in an agency, or in any other business, for us to do our job better, we should all focus on 4 main areas:
Define a clear and focused problem, goal and task.
Align on the success measure.
Have clarity on the parameters (eg. budgets, brand restrictions, core audiences, etc)
Balance the short and the long-term goals for the business.
Allow room for innovation. This applies to marketers and agencies. As long as we are clear and mutually aligned, great work will follow.
On female leadership….
Delete the glass ceiling. It is important for female leaders to find a support system, be it family or their industry peers. We also have Omniwomen, a global Omnicom-wide initiative that champions the role of women in the workplace and aims to empower them to take on leadership roles.
Are frocks your favourite dress?
I know what makes me look good, and I work it!
EXCELLENCE COUTURE: Campaign Asia Most Innovative campaign – social campaign launched with Friendster for P&G; Best Business Planning award in Asia for Mondelez work in Mindshare; Twisties Hijacking MTV Music Festival; Oreo 1 million Dads Pledge more Time with Kids; 2020 recognition for Women Leading Change – Best Business Leader; Two years in a row – Google Search Agency of the Year award; President of the Malaysian Digital Association….
This article was first published on MARKETING Weekender
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