#AOTYAwards 2021 spills: TBWA\Group SG on being an employees-first agency

#AOTYAwards 2021 spills: TBWA\Group SG on being an employees-first agency

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Founded in 1993, TBWA\Group Singapore is a communications services and creative company with integrated agency offerings.  Among the list of brands the agency has worked with include Airbnb, IKEA, Manulife, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Tourism Board, Spotify, and Standard Chartered. It also recently won gold for Analytics Agency of the Year, Brand and Design Consultancy of the Year, Creative Agency of the Year, Digital Agency of the Year, and Integrated Marketing Agency of the Year; and silver for Agency Leader of the Year and Agency Team of the Year at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Agency of the Year Awards 2021. TBWA\Group Singapore was also awarded Overall Agency of the Year for the fourth year in a row.

Ara Hampartsoumian (pictured), CEO of TBWA\Group Singapore, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that its successes are owing to his employees, which is why their well-being takes importance above all else. He also explained that he ensures that he is involved in all aspects of the business as opposed to leading with authority - which is the key to becoming a part of the agency.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners' and finalists’ interview series for AOTY Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

Tell us what these achievements mean for you?

Hampartsoumian: It’s an incredible feeling to be honest. Winning it once is a feat in and of itself in a highly competitive market, let alone doing it consecutively four times. It won’t be a surprise when I say it’s difficult being an agency leader, especially in recent times, but this accolade makes me feel like I’m doing something right, and knowing this acknowledgment is given by clients makes it all the more meaningful.

What makes you proudest about being part of your agency?

Hampartsoumian: The trick is in the question "What makes you proudest about being part of your agency”. Some leaders feel they need to separate themselves from the day to day and sit above their people to lead with authority. For me, I believe that I am very much part of the agency, involved in every day across all aspects of the business. I’m lucky and proud to have an amazing team that supports me and my approach to leadership which truly believes in the proverb "none of us is as good as all of us".

At TBWA\ we call ourselves "a collective" with Disruption at the core of our DNA makeup, and we try to make everyone feel like that they are one united group and all have a part to play in our success, all aligned toward the same vision.

What are some of the initiatives you have in place to ensure your staff feel proud to be associated with your agency?

Hampartsoumian: We are big on our own culture and safeguarding it. Our people come first and with that everything we do has to ensure it is with their best interest at heart. It’s been difficult for all of us over the last 18 months working remotely, so maintaining our culture has never been more important. Given most agencies are at parody in many ways, it’s critical we find other avenues to value-add to make the difference.

Some of the simple things we practice are; regular daily or weekly catch ups, not just to discuss work but how individuals are coping in trying times. We launched a Mindfulness programme last year which helped some with managing their stress levels. We’ve put a serious focus on HR and Talent Development which we believe is key to peoples’ happiness and growth. We have a strong creative culture which constantly asks us all to engage and think collaboratively with a creative mindset no matter what discipline you’re in or level you’re at – with the hopes that everyone feels part of the agencies success.

How are you attracting talent to your agency?

Hampartsoumian: Tough question, as I believe it’s a much broader issue for our whole industry. For us right now, it’s about ensuring we have a strong cultural draw for new talent. As mentioned above, most agencies are fundamentally the same, I believe it’s truly culture that separates us so building and maintaining a cultural edge could make the difference substantial. We also are and have been very involved in the community. We work closely with all the tertiary schools here in Singapore and conduct a very robust internship program as well as being active in their curriculum development regarding marcomms.

What are your hopes for the Singapore advertising scene in 2021?

Hampartsoumian: To re-instil our profession. I believe that we have somewhat lost our value over the years and somehow become more of a commodity (with so many players in a very small, saturated environment). We all need to work better for the greater success of our industry. Focus on truly inspiring our people, helping them grow while learning from the next generation. To not allow for complacency or just the average. To add value to our clients’ business and not just serve them. To re-establish ourselves on a global stage.

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