Meet the CEOs: MEC’s Stephen Li

MEC’s APAC CEO Stephen Li talks about his love for Tony Bennett and jazz and playing golf badly.

The first time I meet Stephen Li, CEO, Asia Pacific MEC, he told me of his plans to catch the band Suede in action. He is also an avid fan of jazz music and Tony Bennett.

Much like his taste in music, this man is also a man of many interests and talents. He first started his career in a creative ad agency, spending 14 years of his life there. In 2006, he finally made the ultimate switch to join MEC as CEO, South & Southeast Asia and Australasia.

His only regret? Not making the jump sooner.

When you’re not working, what are you up to?

I will be playing golf, badly. When it comes to golf, I’m not the most brand loyal…I’m always clutching at straws, trying out different equipment, in the eventual hope that something will lead to improvement.

brandloyalty golf

However at the end of the day, Li still enjoys spending time with his family.

Withwife motorbike

Who’s the mentor who most influenced you and why:

Ron Harris aka The Chopper – One of the greatest defenders ever to pull on a Chelsea shirt. He was a lot more skillful than he is sometimes remembered for; but was always very clear in his mission – it doesn’t matter if you win rough, and win ugly – so long as you win.




Harshest thing said to you in your career:

“You wouldn’t know a good ad if it slapped you in the face!”

It doesn’t seem overly harsh, but it was said to me when I was quite new in the industry by an experienced creative director who wanted to show off. Idiot.

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?

I always knew that one day I would run an agency. Having spent the first 13 years of my career in ad agencies though, I never imagined that when I did become CEO, it would be of a media agency.

What’s the biggest blunder in your career?

Not coming over to the media side of the business sooner.

How about the proudest moment in your career?

Every time someone at MEC says that they couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. (Happens more than you may think!)

Craziest thing your staff has told you:

While I was engaged in a very deep and serious conversation with a client, I was passed a note from a junior member of the team saying “Boss – your fly is undone.”

What do you dislike most about advertising/your job?

People who take themselves too seriously. We are in one of the few industries in which we should genuinely always be having a good time.

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

“You will never, ever, be bored.”

Your first job:

Flipping burgers at McDonald’s when I was 16.

(Can you spot Li? Hint: He is really tall.)


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