Born: United Kingdom
The need for innovative vision: Phil’s single-minded vision of true integration — one that has changed the normal agency business model and has set an example for the TBWA\Network — is his greatest business attribute. It is important to note that Asia (Singapore) presents many opportunities to redefine the rules, given its place in the world. It’s easy to be seen as a maverick in Asia.
However, it is still conventional behavior for older established agencies to mimic the operating structure of their European or US based counterparts. Phil did it the other way around. With a background in what is traditionally known as below-the-line, Phil disrupted and changed the CONVENTIONAL AGENCY MODEL by ensuring that TBWA\ TEQUILA Singapore boasts — a single Management Team across Cross Functional servicing and creative teams. All of these in one P&L. This means getting rid of departments and silos that offer a variety of skill sets, with clients cherry picking the service offerings under the “360 degree” mantra.
This new business model has proved to be critical in the success of integration, growth and reputation of the Singapore agency — consistently in the last 5 years. It also allowed Phil to transform an agency of 4 people to a dynamic organization of 200.
The Guts/Risk Factor: For the last 15 years, Phil has been seen as a true innovator. As someone who is not afraid to re-create the rules of the game. But he could not do it alone. Phil realized that he needed a team that will share his vision for true integration. Not an easy task. He needed a team that is diverse, multi-cultural, hungry, passionate, and understands the long-term growth strategy of the agency. As a result, his
approach to hiring people has been key. This approach means identifying talent who are generalists but have a very specific skill to offer. Attitude wise, these people must be natural ‘disruptors’. Young or mature — these people must be inquisitive, curious, dynamic and daring. TBWA\TEQUILA does not have departments with specialists. They are 200-person strong team of people who share a common love for ideas that change the world.
The Constant Challenge: The biggest challenge in applying innovative thinking to international projects is the application of the “old” full service agency model in implementing an international campaign to a multi-market situation. The needs of the markets tend to be very diverse and are comfortable with the old agency solution. Phil continues to share the spirit of integrated solutions to client campaigns by showcasing its benefits or effectiveness of the campaigns.
Other International Facts: Phil started his international career as a talent scout for comediennes — one of whom included David Chapelle. (He also graduated in law and trained as a Barrister.)
Phil once worked in Vietnam with a rather “hostile” client. The latter did not want to accept any advice from the “novice,” that was Phil, on a particular communications campaign. After a particular heated meeting, Phil was told “I would rather drive you all around Vietnam so you can experience the country before you can give me any more advice”. What seemed the start of a rocky client/ agency relationship became a truly wonderful experience for Phil and perhaps one of his best holidays!