Malaysian creative and marketing agency FOREFRONT Group has promoted co-founder and COO Jeff Chang (pictured) to CEO of its creative arm, succeeding Darien Mah. As CEO, he will take charge of the overall vision and growth strategy of FOREFRONT’s creative arm. Meanwhile, Mah takes on the chairman role to explore new ventures, while still overseeing the F&B and real estate solution subsidiaries.
In a statement to A+M, FOREFRONT’s spokesperson said details of the new ventures will be revealed when there are more concrete plans. She added that as of now, there is no COO but Chang will work together with group chief business officer Parames Dorai (pictured left), chief strategy officer Gerome Gan (pictured second from right), and ECD Jack Tan (pictured right).
Meanwhile, Chang told A+M that his focus for 2020 would be on emerging markets, especially Vietnam. “We have established clientele in Malaysia, and our Indonesian operation is gaining momentum as well. We target to gain a better foothold in the Vietnamese market by replicating our success thus far and introducing worthwhile alternative solutions to our potential clientele,” he explained.
Having completed projects in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, Chang said the consumer aspirations in these three countries are similar. The main difference would be how the messages manifest themselves. “Storytelling can mean different things in these respective markets, and definition for such keyword as ‘elegance’, could be expressed in very different ways,” he explained.
However, one thing for sure is that all clients, regardless of nationality, want compelling concepts that can effectively convey the key messages well. Chang added that clients will always come with a goal in mind, whether it is to enhance brand awareness or drive product sales, and it is the agency’s responsibility to deliver results.
Challenges in working across SEA
When asked about the challenges of working in a fragmented market such as Southeast Asia, Chang said besides language, the biggest challenge would be the cultural differences. For example, when forming a team in a new market, Chang said it is important to find a middle ground, especially when it comes to expectations.
Nonetheless, Chang said there are advantages when different cultures come together. “Working with our clients in the region has helped us hone in on the various market trends and consumer tastes of the respective countries. These are valuable partnerships that we can learn from and develop together,” he added.
According to Chang, in order to succeed in this day and age, it is important to be adaptable.
A forward-looking company anticipates industry challenges and is ready to respond to new trends.
“On top of that, it is the understanding of certain processes that we cannot rush, even in this fast-paced environment, we have to make sure we are progressing forward without taking any shortcuts,” he added.
Chang has held the COO position for 15 years, playing an instrumental role in supporting the company’s growth by maximising the efficiency of business strategies, overseeing client relationship management, and helming day-to-day operations. In addition to expanding the company’s reach into overseas markets, Chang also aims to strengthen the firms capacity and boost employees’ morale by having regular check-ins with team members. This is to ensure that values and standards are well understood throughout the group. Chang said to adapt to new challenges moving forward, it is prepared to navigate through the competitive landscape of Southeast Asia.
“Chang has been co-leader of the company since day one, and his deep understanding of the business and clients’ needs brings great value to FOREFRONT. I am confident that he will energise the workplace and further explore the company’s untapped potential,” Mah said.