Why Lou Dela Pena joined Publicis

Lou Dela PenaCelebrating her 40th birthday in June, Lou Dela Pena is Singapore’s youngest CEO of a network ad agency. She is one of the country’s few female agency bosses, and is the only Filipino to run a major corporate in Singapore.

The feisty Filipina left TBWA\Singapore after a nine-year stint in December last year to take the top job at Publicis Singapore as CEO. Over a coffee with Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks, she explained why she left the agency where in 2008 she helped win arguably Asia’s most prestigious client – Singapore Airlines – to join one of Singapore’s quietest agencies, which has 75 staff.

So, Lou, why did you leave an agency that has been such a big part of your life for so long?

There were many reasons why I joined Publicis. The first is that I’ve been looking for something to really own and sink my teeth into. If you own and shape something yourself, you inevitably will grow as professional and as a person.

I believe there is such a thing is psychic income. This is why you get out of bed every morning. You have to know what your sense of purpose is. You have to know you love what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Though I was approached by a number of agencies, what Publicis could offer was better than anyone else could – a real opportunity to lead change. Not just for clients and to create great work, but for the office – building a culture, and attracting and grooming the right talent, which is my first priority.

Even before I joined, I saw evidence that Publicis wanted to change. I got the sense that they empower their people and give them enough space to create change, because of an entrepreneurial ethos that runs through the company – there are no hard and fast rules. And there’s none of the snobbery that people mistakenly expect from a French company.

Ajay Vikram

Ajay Vikram

Another reason I joined is the regional management team now in place. Led by Loris Nold as regional head (Nold is CEO, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa and also covers Israel and Turkey at Publicis Worldwide), Ajay Vikram has been promoted [from chief creative officer of Publicis Singapore to  CCO for Southeast Asia), and we have Teguh Pranoto Chen as Regional CFO, who’s a 17-year veteran of Procter & Gamble.

And then there is Arthur Sadoun, who was promoted from CEO of Publicis Groupe’s namesake agency in Europe, to global CEO of Publicis Worldwide late last year. He personally explained to me what his vision is for the agency – twice. The values he talked about were entrepreneurship, opportunity and growth – it was a no-brainer, really, for me to join. There was instant chemistry with Arthur and his team.

The last thing was the ambition for the Singapore office to be a centre of excellence for the network. Raising the bar for this office is something that really excites me.

I believe these sort of opportunities always find you. I followed my instincts and my heart.


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