How active are agency bosses on Twitter? Does it matter if they are not?

Robin HicksWhy aren’t more agency bosses on Twitter? Mumbrella has ranked the region’s most powerful ad and media agency leaders by how active they are on the microblogging service. Robin Hicks wonders if it matters that they don’t seem too keen.

Agency bosses spend a lot of their time preaching the virtues of social media at conferences, to their staff and to their clients. But do they practice what they preach?

Most are on LinkedIn and Facebook, but what about the most open, public and in-the-moment social network that is Twitter, where all the fashionable marketing seems to take place these days?

Only just over half of Asia’s top advertising and media agency bosses have a Twitter account. The CEOs of Asia’s most powerful ad agency, Paul Heath of Ogilvy, and the region’s heftiest media agency, GroupM’s Mark Patterson, do not.

Does that matter?

Yes, the risk of a slip of the tongue on Twitter is off-putting. Not everyone likes the alarming immediacy of Twitter and, in the business context, agency leaders probably prefer the buttoned-down sanctity of the LinkedIn news feed to express themselves and interact.

But doesn’t it make sense that the boss of a communications company, who advises clients on where to spend their ever-bigger digital budgets, is personally familiar with one of the most popular?

Not tweeting does not make a bad boss. But some think a bigger Twitter presence among the people who lead the industry would good for it.

We took a look at the Twitter accounts of the guys who run Asia’s biggest agencies to see how active they are.

On average, Asia’s top creative agency bosses have been on the platform since July 2010 – four years after Twitter came into being. Eight out of 15 regional creative heads are on Twitter, and tweet three times a week on average.

The most prolific is the Rupen Desai, the APAC president of Lowe, who tweets eight times a week. The most Twitter-shy is the regional boss of Grey Nirvik Singh, who has tweeted once since he opened an account in February 2009.

The region’s media agency bigwigs have been on the medium slightly longer than their ad agency peers – nine months longer, on average. But exactly the same proportion have an account (eight of the 15 featured), who tweet with exactly the same frequency as their ad agency peers – thrice a week.

Adland's top-tweeting boss

Adland’s top-tweeting boss

No one uses the medium as often as PHD APAC CEO Susuna Tsui, who by the way is the only executive among all 16 of our bosses on Twitter who has a digital background, and also the only woman. She tweets on average 15 times a week, although the content is not usually work related.

We’ve ranked Asia’s agency bosses by how many tweets they’ve sent (see below). Not a perfect analysis, since many Twitter users (this writer is one of them) like to read rather than tweet. Nor does it show how active these people are in other social media. But, at least on the surface, it does suggest that the industry’s leaders do not seem too bothered by a platform that a lot of people are using to communicate in real-time.

Pete Mitchell, formerly of the media agency world and now client-side as director of global media innovations at Mondelēz International, sympathises with time-poor agency heads who might not like be comfortable with the edginess of Twitter. Personally, he only uses it to post stuff from other platforms, mostly Four Square and Facebook, and has tweeted a few thousands times.

“It’s difficult to be on multiple platforms, particularly for people with time-consuming jobs. It’s also difficult for a business leader to post their life on a very open, in-the-moment platform,” he says.

But at the very least they should be “dabbling”, says Mitchell, who was formerly regional MD of digital media agency Neo@Ogilvy.

So who is and who isn’t?


Asia’s top-tweeting regional ad agency bosses


Rupen Desai, Lowe

Rupen DesaiJoined Twitter: April 2009

Profile description: I think Don Quixote got it right…

Followers: 299

Following: 344

Tweets: 2,234

Favorites: 4

Tweets/month: 33


Matthew Godfrey, Y&R

Matthew GodfreyJoined Twitter: September 2010

Profile description: Innovation in Asia and the occasional amazing car. President of Y&R in Asia

Followers: 787

Following: 636

Tweets: 1,478

Favorites: 71

Tweets/month: 26


David Mayo, Bates CHI & Partners

David MayoJoined Twitter: September 2009

Profile description: Grave-digger, traveller, runner, cycler, ad man, francophile, writer, photographer, recorder, father, husband, son.

Followers: 742

Following: 1,194

Tweets: 802

Favorites: 12

Tweets/month: 12


Chris Jacques, M&C Saatchi

Chris JacquesJoined Twitter: January 2012

Profile description: What’s coming next and why. From the Regional CEO of M&C Saatchi across Asia. chrisjaques.wordpress.com

Followers: 1,231

Following: 42

Tweets: 690

Favorites: 9

Tweets/month: 20


Tom Doctoroff, JWT

Tom DoctoroffJoined Twitter: September 2011

Profile description: CEO APAC @. China Pioneer, Corporate Leader, Brand Marketer and Bestselling Author.

Followers: 251

Following: 47

Tweets: 147

Favorites: 74

Tweets/month: 4


John Zeigler, DDB

John ZeiglerJoined Twitter: May 2012

Profile description: Born in Oz. Lived in NYC, Dallas, Singapore and Melbourne. Passion for Porsches. Early integrator. Client passionator. Inventive marketer. Ad impersonator.

Followers: 148

Following: 156

Tweets: 66

Favorites: 1

Tweets/month: 0.5


Dick van Motman, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network

Dick van MotmanJoined Twitter: April 2009

Profile description: dickvanmotman@dentsuaegis.com

Followers: 111

Following: 14

Tweets: 64

Favorites: 12

Tweets/month: 1


Nirvik Singh, Grey

Nirvik SinghJoined Twitter: February 2009

Profile description: Runs Grey Group in Asia Pacific. Avid Chelsea FC fan and sports fanatic. Loves reading.

Followers: 29

Following: 8

Tweets: 1

Tweets/month: 0.01


These agency bosses don’t have a Twitter account:

  • Charles Cadell, Asia president, McCann
  • Keith Smith, international president, TBWA
  • Chris Thomas, chairman and CEO of BBDO Asia, Middle East & Africa and chairman, Proximity Worldwide
  • Paul Heath, Asia Pacific CEO, Ogilvy
  • Loris Nold, Asia Pacific CEO, Publicis Worldwide
  • Jarek Ziebinski, Asia Pacific chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett
  • Charles Wigley, Asia chairman, BBH


How do media agency bosses compare?


Asia’s top-tweeting media agency bosses


Susana Tsui, PHD

Susana TsuiJoined Twitter: May 2009

Profile description: Dive Diva, CCR, save the sharks, marine conservation, girl-power in advertising, digital at the core, champagne yes pls! . Opinions are my own.

Followers: 473

Following: 1,076

Tweets: 4,045

Favorites: 6

Tweets/month: 61


Ashutosh Srivastava, Mindshare Asia

Ashutosh SrivastavaJoined Twitter: April 2009

Profile description: Follower and commentator on Media and Marketing, technology and consumer behaviour

Followers: 741

Following: 414

Tweets: 766

Favorites: 25

Tweets/month: 11


Prashant Kumar, IPG Mediabrands

Prashant KumarJoined Twitter: March 2009

Profile description: pilot, father, ceo, strategist, daydreamer

Followers: 180

Following: 42

Tweets: 234

Favorites: 55

Tweets/month: 3.4


Vishnu Mohan, Havas Media

Vishnu MohanJoined Twitter: November 2008

Profile description: Leads in Asia Pacific, Social Storyteller, Meaningful Disruptor. Passion for educating the underprivileged.

Followers: 308

Following: 118

Tweets: 185

Favorites: 12

Tweets/month: 2.6


Steve Blakeman, OMD

Steve BlakemanJoined Twitter: May 2012

Profile description: [Blank]

Followers: 52

Following: 49

Tweets: 131

Favorites: 1

Tweets/month:  4.4


Ajit Varghese, Maxus

Ajit VargheseJoined Twitter: July 2009

Profile description: [Blank]

Followers: 575

Following: 93

Tweets: 88

Favorites: 9

Tweets/month: 1.4


Cheuk Chiang, Omnicom Media Group

Cheuk ChiangJoined Twitter: July 2009

Profile description: Cheuk is CEO, Asia Pacific for Omnicom Media Group a global communications company with innovative media brands like OMD, PHD and M2M

Followers: 116

Following: 13

Tweets: 19

Favourites: 2

Tweets/month: 0.3


Jeff Seah, Starcom Southeast Asia

Jeff SeahJoined Twitter: Not provided

Profile description: Think, or be extinct.

Followers: 58

Following: 39

Tweets: 8


Media agency CEOs not on Twitter:

  • Nick Waters, Asia Pacific CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network
  • Sean O’Brien, Asia Pacific CEO, Carat
  • Kristian Barnes, Asia Pacific CEO, Vizeum
  • Stephen Li, Asia Pacific CEO, MEC
  • Bertilla Teo, Greater China CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group
  • Gerry Boyle, Asia Pacific CEO, ZenithOptimedia
  • Mark Heap, Asia Pacific CEO, MediaCom


But so what if they’re not on Twitter? Are they really missing out?

The regional head of social agency We Are Social, Simon Kemp, who has 40,000 tweets to his name and not far off 100,000 followers, thinks that they are. It was Kemp who gave us the idea for this piece with the tweet: “Doing some research into APAC’s top marketers and agency people. Stunned how few of them have any kind of social/digital presence.”

Kemp proposes four reasons why Twitter matters for agency bosses.

First “for themselves,” reckons Kemp, who has worked at ad agency BBH and media agencies Starcom and UM in his career. “They’ll understand what these channels are all about, and how people use them. They’ll be in a better place to talk about them with clients, their own teams, and – perhaps most importantly – be able to learn new things and derive new kinds of value of their own.”

Second: “For clients, they see that the agency leads take digital and social seriously. They’re not just paying lip service or jumping on a bandwagon. They’re actually in there, exploring how things work, and because of that, they’ll be best placed to provide the optimal advice on those clients’ brands.

Third: “For internal teams, seeing their leaders actively involved in these channels ensures these channels are taken seriously. It’s also encouraging to know that the agency’s leaders are in touch with the way their junior teams communicate.”

And forth: “For the industry, it helps to ensure that we don’t get stuck in a repetitive, out-of-date paradigm (à la “this is the way we’ve always done things” mentality).

But it’s not like the leaders of Asia’s most influential agencies are showed up by their clients on Twitter, reckons Kemp.

“It baffles me that senior clients are willing to spend thousands of dollars attending conferences on digital, or pay management consultants astronomical sums to tell them what’s going on, when all they really need to do is allocate three to five minutes a day of their own time to get involved themselves,” which they can grab anywhere, anytime on their smartphones, Kemp says.

If clients and agencies are not putting in the time to understand what matters to very big audiences – whether that’s understanding the channels they’re using, or at least checking in on the kinds of content they’re consuming – then the industry can’t hope to be relevant to them, he argues.

It’s not too late to start, but probably better to get involved sooner rather than later, Kemp suggests. No one likes the feeling that they’re being left behind.

Robin Hicks is the editor of Mumbrella Asia


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