Meet Andrew Lee, the managing director at Havas Kuala Lumpur. Known to be savvy and an industry veteran, Lee has more than 25 years of experience in the tough advertising and communication world. He joined Havas (previously known as Euro RSCG) in May 2008 as its client service director, and has been managing brands in various industries including the telcos, tobaccos, and beverages.
In April this year, Lee was appointed as the president of Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) after serving the organisation for two years as its vice president. In a conversation with A+M, Lee, who says the love of brand building is in his DNA, shares his proudest and toughest moments in the world of advertising.
How do you describe your management style?
I use an invisible leash. The team has a lot of freedom in what they do because they are all adults, but when someone starts behaving like a spoiled brat, the leash magically pulls him back onto the right path.
Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?
It was Matthew (Jesus’ disciples) who kept reminding me of “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
I was part of a team once that got fired for being 15 minutes late for a meeting. The same team eventually pitched for the same business, won it back and six months later, we were rewarded with a performance bonus. That was one proud moment in my career.
What inspires you the most?
I know the question asked is “what” inspires me most but I would like to state “who” inspires me most. The biggest influence in my advertising life is Tan Sri Vincent Lee. He was the reason I chose advertising as a career and he is the inspiration for me to continue in it.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
I find it hard to stop my friends from stealing talents from my agency. Maybe I should stop calling them friends.
What has been the harshest thing said to you?
It was my first brief to Ted Lim (pictured below)who is now regional chief creative officer of Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific. I was standing in front of him while he was going through it. He looked up, stared at me, opened his window and then threw the brief out.
I walked down from the second floor, ran out of the office to pick it up and then wrote it again. It was the harshest thing said to me without a word spoken but at the same time, my most valuable lesson too.
What do you do in your free time?
Catching up on my movies, TV series and sleep.
How do you ensure a proper work life balance?
Work life balance is important but it’s not something I practice on a daily basis. It would be naive of me to think that is possible in our fast-paced marketing world.
To me, work life balance is a long-term concept, the balance will come after the work.
What is your favourite vacation spot?
A quiet beach with clear water and sun.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Listen. And listen well.
Listen to your clients because they know the brand better than you. Listen to the people because they know what they want. Listen to the market because it tells you what will work.
Plus, one extra piece of advice – if you want work life balance, then work.
What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2017?
We are undergoing a big shift in the role and structure of advertising agencies. There is a constant evolution that is going on in the way people are consuming content, interacting with media and switching their purchase preferences. It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict how, when and why of a purchase. Hence the most effective solution to a marketing problem can no longer be developed and driven by a single communication discipline. We need to integrate the best thinking from all the disciplines – creative, media, digital and PR. In order to keep evolving and to stay on top of their game, agencies will need to adopt a fully integrated model.