Arcade boss: The real news is regional expansion



The boss of Arcade has said that the exit of four creative directors not much more than a year after the agency hired them was the result of a “mutual decision”.

The departure of James Keng Lim, Lizi Hamer, Ross Fowler, Greg Rawson and, to follow in March, Andrew Reznik was not, as sources have suggested, a result of the agency being unable to afford their salaries, but because the creatives “felt there were better options,” group CEO Nick Marrett told Mumbrella.

“At some point, they felt there were better options. It wasn’t about a disagreement. It was a mutual decision to move on,” he said about the departures.

“Arcade has a very flat structure, across the board. When people come in they roll their leaves up, get challenging briefs, work on multiple briefs. There’s a lot of pressure on these guys. We’re a very honest agency. You have to put in a hard day’s work,” Marrett said.

James Keng Lim, Andrew Reznik, Lizi Hamer, Ross Fowler and Greg Rawson

James Keng Lim, Andrew Reznik, Lizi Hamer, Ross Fowler and Greg Rawson

Arcade announced the hires in October 2014, soon after the agency sold a stake to Publicis Worldwide, but most of them had left by the following June.

“Over a period of time, it didn’t seem like an exodus. It’s the nature of the business,” he said.

“Everyday there’s a new challenge, a new brief, and there are high expectations, you can’t hide. We respect that in everyone who works with us. That’s the way it is.”

“People at Arcade realise that it’s a very different place. We have a strong work ethic. No matter how senior you are, you work hard as any executive. The culture selects the people.”

Arcade has a culture “where you do the work yourself” and very few people are needed in the process, Marrett added. “That allows us to move quickly and decisively. We don’t have big teams.”

On whether like many agencies Arcade is feeling the pinch of an uncertain economic climate in many parts of Asia, Marrett said that as the agency is still relatively small, it is able to stay nimble and “keep moving”.

“If I was sitting in an agency network of 6-7000 people I’d be a bit nervous, but we try to stay small,” he said, adding that the agency’s approach – creative entrepreneurship – is built on staying lean and collaborating with other parties.

The agency employs around 150 staff in all offices, up from around 80 this time last year. The aim is for the Shanghai office to be a 60-70 person operation by the third quarter of this year, Marrett said.

“As we’re still relatively small. We’re 150 people across the whole region, still relatively small number. We try to stay small, stay nimble and keep moving.

“We’re quietly optimistic for the year ahead,” he said, pointing to what he described as continued growth in China and Indonesia, and potential in Africa.

The small-team structure has been replicated in Arcade’s overseas offices, said Marrett, who noted that the “real news” about Arcade was regional expansion.

“There’s an old saying in advertising. From a client’s point of view, there are only two to three people who add value to the relationship. That’s the nub of it. We try to replicate that. We try to cut down on anyone who doesn’t fit or contribute. Clients say that it’s good that you don’t come into meetings with ten people.”

Arcade launched in Singapore in 2010, three years ago in Tokyo, in Indonesia in July 2014, in Shanghai in July 2015, and in Cape Town, South Africa in October.

As Mumbrella reported earlier this week, former Ogilvy regional ECD Dirk Eschenbacher is leading the China office as chairman, although he will continue to also work on the online travel agency he founded in 2011, Zanadu.

Arcade Shanghai’s ECD is Daniel Lim, who is the first copywriter Marrett ever worked with during their time at Batey Ads in Singapore years ago.

Though part-owned by Publicis Worldwide, Arcade – like BBH – sits outside of Publicis Communications, a new unit formed by Publicis Groupe to move creative agencies Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Worldwide closer together.


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