Young Professionals Spark the Conversation with Executives

We are thrilled to launch this new monthly column featuring our AD Club Young Professionals interviewing seasoned professionals. Furthering the Club’s footprint in the advertising, marketing and media community and providing our YP’s Access to top professionals and in return sharing with the community at large inspiration, and guidance!

In the AD Club’s first Ask the Experts Interview, YP member Anita Sheares, Digital Marketing Manager, Swell will uncover the world of advertising and innovation from the eyes of industry leader Jeff Tan. This article will explore what goes into successful client relationships, navigating career transitions and Jeff’s go-to’s for inspiration. 

You’ve worked with some of the world’s most iconic brands including General Motors, Coca Cola, Budweiser, Tourism Australia and LVMH. What has contributed to the success of your agency/client relationships? 

The best client-agency relationships are rooted in trust. Trust from the client to know that we have their best interests at heart. And as an agency, we trust our clients to have integrity. 

The work that we do always needs to drive growth and business outcomes for our clients. If we focus on vanity metrics, i.e. metrics that may make us all feel good or win awards but do not drive business outcomes and growth for the client, we are wasting efforts. Particularly as we move into a more competitive landscape, we need to continually focus on driving business results. 

In Japan, there’s a business philosophy called kaizen which translates as “continuous incremental improvement.” Toyota made this philosophy famous with its concept “The Toyota Way”; there’s always a way to improve by 5 percent. 

You established the Dentsu Innovation Center of Excellence. Can you share how you turned this idea into a reality and how it has benefitted your company? 

At Dentsu in the U.S., we have over 11,000 employees across 26 companies in three main business lines; media, creative and CRM. Our Global CEO, Tim Andree, designed this network from the ground up so that our businesses would be complementary to offer our clients a holistic integrated solution. Collaborative innovation has and always will be critical to Dentsu Aegis Network. However It’s often difficult to achieve synergy in such a large network; In this market, teams may not necessarily know which experts to call to help with their business challenges. To help address this, we launched the Innovation Center of Excellence. 

In 2017, we launched a Mobile Innovation Council specific to all aspects related to mobile including data, , creative, advertising and measurement. We integrated a team of 20 mobile innovation specialists across a variety of our business lines with a focus on two areas:

  1. Thinking: Driving thought leadership – white papers, point of views and landscape audits.
  2. Doing: Active collaboration – workshops, client ideation sessions and new business pitches. 

Since then, we’ve rolled out eight additional innovation councils focusing on different aspects of innovation and technology including Media, Blockchain, Video, Futures, Luxury, Emerging Tech and Ideation. We don’t want to be a group that talks a lot, we want to get things done. We’re constantly piloting new technologies and sharing the learnings. I’d like to think that we’re starting to make a decent impact three years’ later. 

What advice do you have for young professionals looking to transition into a new role? You transitioned from Digital to Innovation. How did you navigate that change?  

I’ve been in the ad agency business for over 16 years and worked in speciality areas including web development,  search engine optimization (SEO), digital strategy, out of home (OOH), mobile, digital innovation and now I lead innovation across the group.

There’s three things I recommend.

First, you have to be proactive. No one is in charge of your career or has your best interests except for you. If you sit around waiting for things to happen, or for someone to help you, you’re going to be waiting forever. You need to spot new opportunities to get involved. When I first moved to the U.S. from Australia, I volunteered to work on every new business pitch that came in. No one asked me to, I just went above and beyond. I volunteered to develop and then drive thought-leadership for the agency.

Second, you need to be T-shaped. Learn everything you can about your specialty area, read 15-30 minutes every single day on your area of subject matter expertise, but don’t stop there. Think horizontally as well. If you are a search marketing expert you need to know how search fits within not just a broader digital strategy, but within the overall communications and marketing approach, and helps address business challenges. You need to understand your client’s day to day world, challenges they’re facing and what’s keeping them up at night. 

Third, you need to increase your network. Building your network is not about what you can gain from someone in the immediate short term. You need to genuinely have a love for people. We work in the communications industry yet so many of us are afraid to proactively reach out to someone and build a relationship. Expand your network beyond your immediate team, business unit and geography.

When you were under 30 what was one of the biggest hurdles that you encountered in your job? What did you do to overcome that hurdle? 

I started the first years of my career in London, Germany and Australia. These are much smaller markets than the U.S. When you’re under 30 you’re really trying to understand what your self worth, value and strengths are. The risk in smaller markets is that you may surround yourself with a homogenous-thinking peerset. I wanted cognitive diversity from my network, I wanted to learn from other people. So, I went to business school and completed my M.B.A. at Australian Graduate School of Management. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I read a lot. I encourage you to read every single day. Even if you read just 15 minutes of ad trades daily, within a year you will learn more about our industry than most people in the industry.

I’m a huge Economist junkie. In terms of T-shaped thinking, you understand politics, business, how the global economy works and how humans respond to incentives – this is very important in our line of work. I also read Harvard Business Review religiously – this provides generalist knowledge on everything from leadership, management, marketing to personal development. I read The New York Times, but also I spend almost as much time reading conservative publications like Fox News because I want to gain a better understanding of how both sides of our country think. 

I listen to a ton of podcasts. Freakonomics is my go-to. I also listen to How I Built This, TED Radio Hour, This American LIfe, How Stuff Works and The Moth. I’m always looking for diverse viewpoints for inspiration.

What is your superpower? 

My superpower is facilitating and connecting people from cognitively diverse backgrounds to inspire, engage and work on different projects, to bring out the best in each other.


About Jeff Tan: 

Jeff Tan is the Innovation Solutions Officer at Dentsu Aegis Network USA – one of the largest and most successful global marketing agencies with 11,000 employees in the USA alone. Recognized by his industry via several awards including Internationalist – Global Agency Innovator, he has also been a judge at global industry awards such as The Effie Awards and Cristal Festival. Jeff holds an M.B.A. from Australian Graduate School of Management, specializing in business innovation, and is on the advisory board at Rutgers University, Center for Innovation Education. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn.

About Anita Sheares: Anita Sheares is the digital marketing lead at S’well, the company behind the iconic S’well bottle — the world’s first reusable hydration accessory. She has executed noteworthy brand collaborations, winning an eTail award for best influencer strategy, and is responsible for S’well’s digital marketing initiatives. Anita holds a B.A. from Spelman College and serves as the Vice President of the New York National Alumnae Association of Spelman College. She has been a member of the YP Committee since October 2019. Follow Anita on LinkedIn.