BBDO folds Malaysia office with 21 staff, downsizes HK ops

BBDO is closing its office in Malaysia and A+M understands it has laid off 21 individuals and will exit the market over the next three months. BBDO is also reducing its Hong Kong presence to a small regional team, and will concentrate its creative resources and work from that market into Beijing and Shanghai. It is understood that 16 employees in Hong Kong have been laid off.

In an exclusive statement to A+M, chairman and CEO of BBDO Asia, Jean-Paul Burge, said it is not going back to how things were but moving forward instead. As such, it has decided to realign its capabilities and resources with the expectations and demands it anticipates from clients in the future, and thus the potential for BBDO's business in the region.

"It is clear to us that China is growing in importance both as a market and as a regional hub, whilst Hong Kong and Malaysia are not. We have therefore decided to close our Malaysia office and reduce our Hong Kong presence to a small regional team, and concentrate our creative resources and work from that market into Beijing and Shanghai," Burge said.

He added that the agency has also implemented cost savings across its 12 other offices in the region. These have ranged from temporary salary cuts for its senior individuals to a small number of redundancies. A+M understands that BBDO Singapore has not made any redundancies to date and continues to service its clients with its full team. Meanwhile, it is understood that ECD Mateusz Mroszczak will be leaving the Singapore team but his departure is unrelated to the current pandemic.

Last October, BBDO Malaysia brought on board Ben Chew as MD, replacing GM Farrah Harith-McPherson who joined m/SIX as GM. Chew was previously with Isobar Malaysia for four and a half years. Before that, Chew spent a decade at McCann Malaysia, where he served as GM for three years. The Hong Kong office is currently led by CEO Tony Harris.

On a broader level, Omnicom Group CEO John Wren said during a recent earnings call that many agency leaders and their employees, as well as the network senior leadership are taking voluntary pay cuts. 

"We stopped new hires, frozen salary increases and eliminated or reduced the number of freelancers we use. We've taken advantage of government wage subsidy programs wherever available and appropriate in countries such as the UK, France and Germany, among others, to reduce the number of permanent staff reductions we had to take," he added.

Wren also said he was "a bit shocked and put off" when DDB Worldwide's global president and CEO Wendy Clark decided she was going to move on in the middle of a crisis. Clark will be joining Dentsu Aegis Network this September as global CEO.

"But we were able to recover with no interruption at all because Chuck Brymer, who previously had been the CEO and the Chairman of the company, was with us and ready to step back in, and has done a magnificent job, irrespective of whatever the behavior of his predecessor was," Wren explained.

Related articles:
BBDO Malaysia appoints iris' Frederick Aloysius to head up account management
BBDO Malaysia parts ways with ECD VJ Anand
BBDO Malaysia names Lim Wee Ling creative director
Ogilvy Malaysia deputy ECD Donevan Chew heads to BBDO