“It takes a village to build an agency” SPOTLIGHT Nizwani Shahar, CEO, Havas Malaysia

By The Malketeer

In the brutally competitive world of advertising, very few leaders inspire with the same degree of intense passion, relentless drive, unflinching conviction and clarity of purpose as Nizwani Shahar, the visionary CEO of Havas Malaysia.

Indeed, she is one of a kind.

An advertising luminary, she commands attention with her astounding talent and humble charisma.

After a remarkable 12-year tenure at Ogilvy Malaysia, including 4 years at the helm as CEO, Nizwani embarked on a new journey with Havas Malaysia in September, 2023.

Reporting to Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas India, South East & North Asia (Japan & South Korea), Nizwani spearheads an accelerated growth strategy in the region that’s reaping commendable results.

Diversity as the Heart Beat

With an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity etched into the agency’s DNA, Nizwani has orchestrated a profound transformation, crafting impactful campaigns that resonate with audiences on a soul-stirring level.

At the core of Havas Malaysia’s resounding success beats the philosophy of diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) – a life force that meanders through every vein of the agency’s culture.

“DEI isn’t merely a principle; it’s the bedrock upon which our agency thrives,” Nizwani declares with palpable conviction.

This ethos permeates every aspect, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives intertwine, unlocking a kaleidoscope of ideas and ensuring that campaigns authentically mirror the rich tapestry of the communities they serve.

The “Meaningful Brands” Beacon

Nizwani’s trail blazing leadership in championing DEI has reverberated throughout the agency, creating a ripple effect that infuses the work they deliver for clients with purpose and meaning.

The “Meaningful Brands Tool,” a proprietary research framework, quantifies the unbreakable bonds between brands and consumers across functional, personal, and collective benefits.

This data-driven approach ensures that campaigns strike a chord deep within, igniting brand loyalty and propelling business growth.

The Synergy of Collaboration

The “Village” concept and “One Havas” approach stand as potent competitive advantages, setting Havas Malaysia apart as a beacon of collaborative brilliance.

By dismantling silos and fostering a harmonious synergy across disciplines, the agency delivers holistic solutions that intricately weave insights from media, creative, digital, and PR experts.

“This symbiotic exchange not only amplifies creativity but also ensures a seamless consistency and unparalleled effectiveness, as evidenced by the agency’s recent string of coveted new business wins,” reiterates Nizwani.

The “Village” concept has being instrumental in recent new business wins such as Costa Coffee, Domino’s Pizza and F&N Magnolia.

Creativity with Impact: The “Dirty Display” Masterpiece

One campaign that vividly encapsulates Havas Malaysia’s creative philosophy is the “Dirty Display” initiative for Armor All – a masterpiece born from a desire to capture attention and demonstrate the product’s efficacy in a manner that defies convention.

With a frugal budget, the team transformed an everyday inconvenience – dirty car displays – into a compelling and relatable message that resonated deeply.

“We got creative and decided to create our own media channels – the 11.4 million abandoned cars across the nation,” Nizwani exclaims, her eyes sparkling with pride.

This unconventional approach not only captured attention but also reflected the agency’s commitment to blending award-winning creativity with relevance and impact.

Embracing Innovation, Preserving the Human Touch

In a rapidly-evolving digital landscape, Havas Malaysia stays ahead of the curve through a relentless pursuit of continuous learning, forging strategic partnerships, and nurturing a forward-thinking mindset.

The agency invests heavily in training programmes and collaborations with leading digital platforms, ensuring teams are always at the cutting edge of technology and consumer trends.

Yet, Nizwani cautions on the importance of balancing new technologies with a human-centric approach, using innovation to enhance, not replace, the human element of marketing.

Nurturing Talent, Inspiring Growth

Attracting and retaining top talent is the lifeblood of Havas Malaysia’s success, and the agency cultivates an environment that nurtures creativity and inspires growth.

“We enable our team to thrive creatively and professionally, driving both personal and organisational success,” Nizwani says with a warm smile.

The agency fosters an inclusive culture where diverse ideas are celebrated, providing professional development opportunities and dynamic work experiences that ignite passion and kindle the flames of ambition.

The decision to invest in top talent has paid off handsomely for Havas. They’ve won new clients and were awarded Top New Biz League in Malaysia by global independent marketing consultancy R3 Worldwide.

“In a recent global talent engagement survey by Havas, the Malaysia team scored the highest marks in South-East Asia, making it the most engaged team in the region – a wonderful turnaround story of staff engagement since Chief Creative Officer Donevan Chew and I came onboard,” continued Nizwani.

Purpose-Driven Marketing: Shaping a Better Future

Sustainability and purpose-driven marketing are woven into the very fabric of Havas Malaysia’s approach, with campaigns designed to contribute positively to society and the planet.

“By championing causes that matter to our audience and promoting sustainable practices, we build stronger, more meaningful connections with consumers and help shape a better future,” Nizwani explains, her voice brimming with conviction.

A Vision of Continuous Evolution

Looking ahead, Nizwan’s vision for Havas Malaysia’s growth and evolution is a tapestry of boundless creativity and cutting-edge innovation, intricately woven with a deepening expertise in digital and data-driven marketing.

“We will focus on expanding our capabilities and fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration,” she affirms, her eyes alight with determination.

Navigating through 2024 and beyond, brands have the opportunity to stand out by embracing authenticity, leveraging data-driven insights, and prioritising over profit.

Consumers are increasingly discerning and value brands that are transparent, socially responsible, and genuinely committed to making a positive impact.

Leading with Empathy and Integrity

Nizwani’s personal qualities – empathy, integrity, and a commitment to continuous learning – have been the guiding beacons in her journey, instrumental in her success and in inspiring her teams.

By nurturing talent with a gentle hand, encouraging creative freedom to soar, and championing a purpose-driven approach, she ignites a fire-in-the-belly within her teams, motivating them to achieve par excellence and propel the agency’s growth to new heights.

In an industry where brands vie for attention, Nizwani Shahar and Havas Malaysia stand as beacons of meaningful connection, crafting campaigns that not only captivate audiences but also leave an indelible, positive impact on society – a legacy woven with threads of purpose, creativity, and unwavering passion.

The advertising maverick weaving magic with diversity and purpose.

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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

This is the only event where Live Presentations meets Live Judging.

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