Applying a ‘diversity lens’ to ad campaigns: 24 hours with… Google Asia-Pacific CMO Simon Kahn

From diversity discussions and commissioning films to welcoming new recruits and jumping on a plane for a business trip to Sydney, it’s all in a day’s work for Google Asia-Pacific chief marketing officer Simon Kahn

6:30am: Time to get up. I have three young kids and their alarms create a rhythm of “ring-snooze-ring-snooze”, which has become the soundtrack to my mornings.

We eventually get them out of bed, but by then, it is a mad dash to get them fed, clothed and out the door in time for the bus to school.

8:00am: They make it on the bus (phew) and I hop in a cab to work. I spend the 20-minute ride catching up on news from the United States and reading emails that hit my inbox overnight.

As soon as I arrive, I make a beeline for the barista to get my morning cappuccino and catch up with a friend visiting from the Mountain View office.


9:00am: I dial into the diversity bi-monthly Meeting. We are an internal committee of marketing leads from around the world who are passionate about safeguarding Google’s values of diversity and inclusion (D&I).

We chat about rolling out more workshops to help our marketers and creative partners apply a D&I lens when building new campaigns and wrap up the call by reviewing the plans for an internal hub for D&I resources. Lots to do.

10:00am: I have an hour to myself before the day really kicks off and, like clockwork, the weekly Think with Google APAC newsletter lands in my inbox. I enjoy the quiet time to read through the latest insights and inspiration from across the region.

This week’s standout piece is about YouTube’s rapid growth in Pakistan, which we published alongside the first-ever YouTube ‘pulse’ event for over 350 advertisers and agency partners in Pakistan.

Some of the figures from the piece are astonishing: 73% of online Pakistanis watch YouTube at least once a month, YouTube reaches 80% of online millennials living in Pakistani metro cities and the number of Pakistan-based YouTube channels with over 100,000 subscribers shot up from eight channels in 2016 to more than 650 today.

There is huge growth potential in Pakistan and I schedule some time to connect with the team to learn about their plans to build on this momentum.

11:30am: The APAC marketing creative review (AMCR for short) comes. Every marketing campaign in Asia goes through AMCR to ensure that all our work is on-brand, built on human insights and meets our creative standards. It is a forum for immediate feedback and gives the leads an overview of the incredible work happening across the region.

Today, we are looking at stories for an upcoming event. We want to highlight how people from the community have used the internet to learn new skills, share their passions, and fulfil their ambitions.

The story that the team has shortlisted is about a woman who fuelled her interest in creating decorative crafts with recycled plastic bottles through DIY tutorials on YouTube. With the tips she picked up, she turned her hobby into a small business. Who knew there was such a thriving market for recycled crafts?

We give the team the green light to produce a film. It’s about how the internet is a powerful equaliser, enabling small businesses and new ideas to flourish.

1:00pm: My next appointment takes me out of the office and to one of my favourite Italian restaurants. This is a quarterly lunch series where I meet executives from other companies to explore key topics in the marketing space.

I am there to meet a seasoned agency director, a noted brand marketer and one of Google’s creative leads to discuss the changing relationship between data and creativity in an increasingly digital world.

Between bites, we examine why data and creativity work better together – strong creative cuts through the noise while data optimises the message so that it lands with impact. We agree that the onus is on leadership to align data and creative owners to a single KPI rather than function-specific goals.

It has been a productive lunch and I appreciate all of the insight that my lunch guests have shared. Food for thought indeed.

2:30pm: I am back at the office and join a panel of cross-functional leads to judge an internal pitch competition where we will reward folks for working closely with advertisers to run successful experiments with Google Ads.

I am constantly on the lookout for new techniques to encourage and celebrate out-of-the-box thinking, and this pitch competition is one of the best ways to do it. Each participant has put together a 3-minute presentation that outlines the advertiser challenge, the methodology (how they set up the experiment and which KPIs they tracked) and the results.

Once the pitches are over, the judges and I deliberate. After much discussion, we finally select three:

  1. Testing audience segments and messaging with short-format videos (bumper ads) for P&G Downy in Korea, in order to drive maximum purchase intent for promotional campaigns
  2. Testing universal app campaigns to reach high-value games players at scale with China-based game developer I Got Games – or IGG.
  3. Testing a custom-built machine-learning-powered tool to create high quality search ads with AB-Road in Japan.

There is so much we can learn from these experiments and I make a mental note to follow up on how we can use these ideas in our own marketing strategies.

4:00pm: I am at my desk (for the first time today), but barely get a chance to sit down before the housewarming festivities begin. Our team has grown so quickly in the past few months that we have had to expand to another section of the office.

The whole team gathers around a multi-cultural spread of Nonya Kueh, hot dogs and samosas. I enjoy these informal moments to chat and get to know the team outside of meeting room walls.

5:00pm: Before I know it, the day is over and I am headed back home. I need to pack and I want to spend some time with the kids before flying to Sydney for the ‘hardware offsite’ tomorrow.

We are making our hardware devices such as Google Pixel and Google Home Hub more accessible across Asia and I am looking forward to a productive week of brainstorming new ways to roll out locally relevant experiences with the product team.

8:40pm: On the plane now. I fly often for work and while it can be difficult to spend so much time apart from the family, I appreciate the time to catch up on the latest copy of New Yorker, on the emails that I missed this morning.

And, hopefully, catch some shut eye. I only have eight hours before I land. I better get started.


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