Meet the CEOs: Havas Media’s Vishnu Mohan

A familiar face in the Havas network, Asia Pacific CEO Vishnu Mohan has been in his current role for 9 years, and has held various other senior level roles in the network.

Mohan tells Marketing about some of the craziest experiences he’s had in the industry and one that almost brought him to tears.

When you’re not working, what will you be doing?

Reflecting on the day – As someone once said: “A day is not done if a memory has not been made”. I always wonder what the one thing from the day to remember is.

Who was the mentor who most influenced you and why?

Ajit Balakrishnan got the engineer out of me to appreciate the world of advertising that was not just glamour. I wouldn’t be in this industry if I wasn’t mesmerised by the 45 minutes of his pre-placement talk on a Saturday afternoon after I was dragged into it by a friend.

Harshest thing said to you in your career ?

One month after being appointed, a client said: “I wish I could turn the clock back and change the decision”.

When you were a newbie in the industry, did you dream you would be CEO one day? What kind of CEO did you want to be and how closely have you stuck to it?

Absolutely – What is life without ambition and aspiration? A democratic CEO with an own mind would best define (my leadership style) and I have been able to practice that. Listen, but do what you believe will work, make mistakes if you have to be but never make the same one again.

Your biggest blunder in your career?

Making an entire presentation that said “Mastercard” instead of “MasterCard”. The client asked the agency to spot the mistake and we still could not. It got even more embarrassing when he actually pointed out the error.

Proudest moment in your career?

Today. Having built a network in the region from scratch – being the employee #1, it’s great when you are told you have the employee # 1000. There was another incident early in my Singapore stint that took me by surprise and filled me with overwhelming pride. A year into joining the agency in 1996, I was called out of blue to come to Penang for just two hours to be part of a regional CEOs meeting. I had no idea what it was but when the country presentation was to start, I was introduced by the regional CEO as a pillar of the agency. That public recognition almost got me into tears and I must admit, acted as a very heavy steroid dose for the future. (pictured, Mohan in 2006)

Craziest thing your staff has told you?

I have had some crazy staff under my watch and there have been some great moments to remember but this one takes the cake. It wasn’t said to me but happened in my presence at a client meeting. A mid-level client had been making some absurdly foolish business comments and suggestions one after another at a meeting when a staff of mine just got up and said: “I am wondering how you got hired, you know nothing about marketing.” A dead silence filled the room, concurrent with a noise of me as well as the client’s boss, who was presiding over the meeting, kicking my staff under the table.

What do you dislike most about advertising/your job?

The word “supplier”.

One thing you would say to a newbie in the industry?

Be simple, be honest, be yourself.

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