Havas Media's Jeremy Heng to succeed Leon Lai as GOVT CEO

Independent creative agency GOVT has hired former chief integration officer of Havas Group, Asia Pacific, Jeremy Heng (pictured), as chief executive officer. His remit will be to solidify and grow the GOVT brand name to achieve the agency’s objective of being the leading creative agency in Asia.

This role will see Heng reporting to Leon Lai, co-founder and group CEO of ALT Worldwide, the parent company of GOVT. Lai stepped down from his position as CEO of GOVT since January 2018, having led the agency from a three-man start up to that of a 60-man strong agency, as one of Singapore’s and Southeast Asia’s well-known independent agencies. The agency counts the likes of OCBC Bank, Unilever, Chang Beer, Virgin Active and Netflix amongst its roster of clients. Co-founders and ECDs of GOVT, Aaron Koh and Timothy Chan, will continue in their existing roles.

In a conversation with Marketing, Lai said: "We [co-founders Aaron Koh, Timothy Chan and Leon Lai] have never believed in being precious simply because of our status as owners of the company and know that in order for our agency to achieve new heights, we need to hire people who are better, sharper and smarter than ourselves. The search for GOVT’s CEO began more than 12 months ago, and we knew what we were looking for - a candidate who not only boasts the experience and know-how, but someone who also understands what the founders are trying to build and achieve, and who buys into the culture of the agency. We’re glad to have found Heng."

Armed with a career that spanned over 16 years on both client and agency sides, Heng is widely known in the marketing industry as a leader who is able to balance creativity and commercial sensibilities. Heng joined Havas Media in June 2013 as director of strategy and content, and in 2016, was promoted to hold the dual appointment of chief strategy officer and managing director.

In February 2017, Heng was promoted to a regional remit in that of chief integration officer, Havas APAC. During his tenure in the Havas Group, Heng was instrumental in elevating the Havas brand name and securing several blue-chip clients including Changi Airport, CapitaLand, Singtel, NETs, NTUC Fairprice, Warner Bros., Health Promotion Board, Wildlife Reserves and POSB to name a few. Havas Media Singapore was also awarded “Media Agency of the Year 2018” at the recent Marketing Magazine’s agency of the year awards.

Prior to Havas, Heng was deputy director at Singtel, where he led the segment marketing and communications team in the consumer group. Before that, he was in Asia Pacific Breweries, working on Tiger Beer, Heineken, Baron’s Strong Brew and Anchor Beer across Southeast Asia and Oceania.

"Truth be told, it feels very much like a homecoming. Having witnessed the inception of GOVT from its beginnings to the force it is today, I’m truly humbled by the opportunity to add to the success that already flourishes at GOVT," Heng said.

"It’s impossible not to gravitate towards the culture at GOVT. I was quickly taken with the agency’s distinctive character in balancing its curiosity to ideate with its courage to act. The co-founders share a strong thread of passion, entrepreneurial tenacity and relentless commitment to excellence. This has translated into attracting a reservoir of diverse talents with enthusiasm and deep expertise across various disciplines. I very much look forward to harnessing the potential of our collective experience to chart the next chapter forward for our agency," he added.

On his journey with Havas, he added that he is deeply grateful for his five year journey with Havas which provided him with a platform to work alongside brilliant clients, incredible mentors and a winning team.

“The experience combined with my time spent as a client marketer has allowed me to gain more insight into the increasing demands on brands to solve complex business problems with precise and powerful ideas. I will certainly carry these experiences through in continuing to elevate the strategic caliber, creative excellence and commercial effectiveness of the work delivered by our agency for our clients,” he said.

“In this rapidly evolving landscape where substance triumphs scale, we will leverage our agility and expertise to help brands deliver with greater precision and purpose across the full spectrum of marketing communications. Our aim is no less than being the leading creative agency in Asia.”

In a statement to Marketing, Jacqui Lim, CEO Havas Media Singapore said: “We wish Jeremy all the very best and success in his new role and would like to thank him for the amazing journey with Havas Media over the last five years.”

She added Havas Group is in the midst of shaping our talent team for the future, so it will be accelerating its gear in integrating multiple disciplines and capablities across the Havas Village to provide synergised solutions for clients.

“This unification effort will mean that the best-in-class talent both internally and externally will be given the opportunity to be part of this exciting journey as we present a new shape and form for our Group for the future,” she added.