MediaCom’s Willie Pang: Tumultuous change ahead, but ever positive

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 23 October 2018
Willie Pang

It’s been eight months since Willie Pang took over from Sean Seamer as CEO of MediaCom and he didn’t waste any time making his mark on the business, executing the largest scale restructure the business has seen in its 50+ years in Australia.

The restructure was part of Pang’s plan to get in front of the ever-changing landscape and ready the agency for the next decade.

It comes as media agencies battle against the growing force of consultancies, professional service firms and technology integrators. There’s also the trend of clients growing their in-house capabilities as they recognise the power in activating their own customer data, Pang explained.

These changes led to Pang reevulating the way in which MediaCom worked. As a result, the agency created efficiencies in its back and middle office operations, freeing up cash to invest in both technology platforms and a more diverse skillset of people.

“This new operating model and operating system provides our clients with more capability in data, content and technology to help them grow their businesses. Perhaps most importantly, it frees up our teams to do more creative thinking to come up with new and unique solutions to solve real business problems,” Pang said.

Pang inherited a good agency when he took over from Seamer, which was moving on from past client issues.

MediaCom has managed to move the conversation on and globally, enjoyed a successful year in 2018 named Media Agency Network of the Year at Cannes Lions. Locally, there has been wins, including Mars, Shell and Adidas, but also some losses, with Revlon shifting to Initiative.

Pang is speaking at our Lessons in Leadership event tomorrow. Get your tickets here.

The prevalence of global pitches is just one of the factors that has shaped MediaCom locally with the arrival of consultancies also on Pang’s agenda.

Some agencies are envious of consultancies and their relationship with the boardroom, but Pang said they have two shortcomings; they don’t operationalise ideas or have the same volume of behavioural and transactional data.

“It’s an exciting trend because it has challenged us to rethink the way we do things, such as the services we offer and to lean into data and technology as a way to create more value for clients,” Pang said.

“It will be a tumultuous period of change in our industry but I think we’re well positioned.”

He added the industry is experiencing “a renaissance of the media agency”, but more work has to be done for CEOs to see the true value of the marketing department.

The craft of media agencies is often “understood and massively under-valued” in the eyes of the CEO and marketing is perceived as “cost-centre” of which to slash funding, Pang said.

“We need to broaden the set of challenges that we’re allowed to speak on and provide solutions to. In order to do so, we’ll need new skills and expanded capability.”

The role of leadership

Great transformation is driven by great leaders and Pang said he takes the responsibility of stewardship seriously.

“We’ve spent a lot of time reviewing and revising our vision from where we are going, the reasons why and how to get there. In order for our people to transform, the leaders need to lead the way,” he said.

He’s seen bad leadership behaviour harm businesses with former execs unwilling to listen, lacking curiosity and paralysed by analysis.

“Leadership can be lonely and it requires both resilience and resourcefulness. I was taught by a wonderful mentor, early in my career, that the difference between leadership and management is that a leader is able to influence an outcome with people or situations where they have no direct control.”

The philosophy of #lovejoypeace is Pang’s one guiding principle as a leader and he hopes way down his legacy is recognised as a disrupter – but not for the reasons you may think.

“For me, I hope to be remembered as a wonderful father, husband and friend. I hope I can inspire my colleagues to live a life of significance over success,” he said, admitting he still has a long way to go on this front.

You can hear more from Pang, as well as other top CEOs, at our Lessons in Leadership event tomorrow. There's a few tickets left - get yours now here.

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