Katryna Mojica, CEO of Ogilvy Hong Kong, describes herself as an adaptable leader and has held country leadership positions for Ogilvy since 2006, driving its expansion in fast-growing markets Vietnam and Indonesia through digital acceleration and the development of specialist capabilities.
Originally from the Philippines, she started as an account director at Leo Burnett, managing its P&G division in the Philippines. With an open-minded nature, she believes that everyone has their own strengths and appreciates that there is always something to learn from everyone she has had to report to. Currently, she leads the network office in Hong Kong and Ogilvy Advertising in Asia.
Passionate about creativity and its ability to impact on brands and businesses, she has led the Ogilvy into one of the most internationally awarded creative companies in Hong Kong. Find out more about Mojica's journey in advertising thus far and who inspires her.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first job?
I graduated from university early at 19, so I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The economy was crashing at the time, and I felt I should do something sensible and stable, so my first job was working as a credit analyst at a commercial bank. That lasted about a month. We worked in such a beautiful building, but were confined to one big hall where all our desks were set up in neat rows - a little bit like a Wes Anderson movie without the great colour palette. You worked in silence, alone, and at the end of the week, you turned in a report. The following week, the cycle would repeat all over again. I reaised then that this was not for me, but to be fair, not many entry level jobs were that exciting.
The head of our unit had a reputation for being scary, so everyone would stiffen up when she visited our area. She was also a little bit eccentric where she’d fine you something like a dollar if you weren’t wearing tights or socks. But in the end, she turned out to be sweet. When I told her I was leaving to move to advertising, she was genuinely concerned about whether I’d be safe in an industry with strange and crazy people.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first role in advertising?
My cousin worked at Leo Burnett and said they were looking for people so I applied for a job. I took a test and was accepted as a trainee and assigned to the creative department. That lasted three days. I knew they had made a mistake and that I’d never be that good - so I requested a shift to account management and I’ve done that ever since.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first impression of advertising?
I had no intention of making a career in advertising. I thought I would do it for a few months while figuring out what I really wanted to do.
At the start, I just loved that you’d get to see something you worked on, on TV. But I think more and more, I found that I loved working in a creative industry where people laughed a lot, and were pretty weird and wonderful. One of the art directors was famous for putting on red sky-high heels when he really needed to think. He was much more senior than me so I never got to work with him. But it was just great that every time the red high heels would come out, everyone would automatically know that he was thinking and not to bother him.
You get a great diversity of experiences in advertising. You work across a wide range of industries or geographies and learn a lot in the process. And it’s a relatively flat structure. Your clients, the leaders you report to, your partners, they are all stakeholders and are all influential. You get a lot of freedom to be able to select what you want to do.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?
I’m from the Philippines and we have a reputation for being adaptable, and I have learned something from most everyone that I have reported to. Everyone has something that they do really well, and when you’re in close proximity, you get to absorb a little bit of that.
But I guess the people that you meet early on tend to influence you the most. My first mentor continues to be such a force of energy and influence. Even now, he never gets tired. He’s eternally youthful, always curious, always current, always tuned in to culture. It’s infectious and engaging, so when he speaks, people listen. It helps that he’s very witty. His Facebook posts are a joy to read. He’s inspired me to always be interested, and one day I hope to be as interesting as he is.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What's the harshest criticism you've received and how did you cope with it?
Against my better judgment, I’m often my harshest critic. I am still trying to work on that.
But having lived outside my home country for many years, being a foreigner, being a woman, being Asian, being in a senior position, being someone who voices opinions, or maybe a combination of part or all of that, it definitely gets criticism flung your way – overtly or covertly. It’s a reality of life and you can’t avoid it, but if people cross the line, you also need to make it clear that that is not okay.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Describe your own management style now as a leader.
I’ve led different offices for Ogilvy; and I’ve found that, in this role, the most important thing is to nurture an environment that enables people to do their best work. You need to give people opportunities to own and lead, or you’re unable to keep strong people. It’s not perfect, sometimes it creates conflict, but some level of conflict can be good and if you have the right people it also means that they care deeply about what they do.
Sometimes you also need to flex slightly to the left or right depending on what the agency needs at the time. I tend to like a flat and very democratic culture where anyone is comfortable knocking on your door, and telling you (with equal parts love and truth) that they don’t agree with your opinion. But sometimes, people are looking for a strong leader and a more reassuring presence.
In the end, you are who you are and can’t veer off too much from your own style, but you also need to be able to make it work for your team.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What's one thing you wished employees understood about being a leader?
That their opinions matter a lot. Oftentimes, I get the most insightful feedback when people are leaving us. It comes in a form of a thank you message or a chat over coffee and they tell you what they loved, or didn’t love so much, and both are really useful.At Ogilvy, we have ran a listening survey globally for over a decade, and the most important thing is the participation level.
Some years, your scores are better than others, but the most important thing is that people participate and can let the leadership of the agency – locally, regionally, globally - know what they think.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What do you do during your free time?
I’m really missing travel, that was my favourite thing to do whenever I was able to get away. Going on a road trip, and just experiencing regular life, but somewhere different. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and they make for the best moments. A few years ago my husband and I foolishly decided to go on a road trip in Iceland during the height of one of their worst winters.
We were snowed in, in a little inn, in a town called Budir. Nothing but this little inn, miles of snow, and a storm raging outside. Chaos outside, calm inside – the contrast was surreal. Warm fire, glass of wine, perfect internet connection. Lots of people were aching to leave, and things didn’t go according to plan, but we really loved that day.
When I have a whole morning, I like doing walks all around Hong Kong. And I’ve been eating out a lot (too much), there are too many good restaurants in this city.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Where do you find your inspiration?
It takes a lot to get me to the gym, but when I have a problem, I tend to solve it while I’m on the treadmill.
Somehow I start thinking, and things that were complicated become simpler, or an idea pops up that makes a lot of sense.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: If not in advertising, where would you be?
This week, I really wish I was in a beach in Phuket.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in the industry?
Make sure you love creativity, or find something else to do. You have to love what you do to be good at it, and make it worth your time.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2022?
I wish we could pitch less and work with more clients longer.
Frequent pitching is not sustainable, it doesn’t create the conditions for the best work, and it doesn’t build strong partnerships. We’ve all had to manage through disruption and turbulence, but all that energy would be better utilised on developing better work.
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