BEIJING—To be present at the dawn of a new industry takes foresight, hard work, and a bit of luck. But to leave an indelible stamp on that industry—especially as a foreigner—requires exceptional dedication and the ability to see what others have missed.
That’s why Serge Dumont, currently chairman of Asia-Pacific for Omnicom, is a deserving recipient of The Holmes Report’s Asia-Pacific SABRE Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
Known as “the father of public relations in China,” Dumont is probably the only foreigner to have been present when the industry started in China more than 25 years ago, and to have played an active role in shaping it for the past quarter century.
In the 1980s, Dumont was an entrepreneur who initially planned to offer market access services to companies seeking to enter China. Sensing the long-term potential of PR, he changed course and in 1985 founded Interasia, China’s first joint-venture PR consultancy, building the firm into a market leader that helped major multinationals launch their brands in China.
After acquiring a roster of Fortune 500 clients, Dumont sold Interasia to Edelman in 1993, continuing to serve until 1997 as group executive vice president and as a member of the company’s global board.
Dumont began dividing his energies between commercial and philanthropic pursuits. He served as a strategic communications advisor to corporations, governments, and multi-lateral organizations. He was chief advisor to the Beijing Municipal Government and the World Health Organization on crisis communications during the SARS epidemic in 2003.
At the same time, he has been a pioneer in driving awareness of social and public health issues in China. In 2003, he conceived and organized China’s first celebrity charity function to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, a groundbreaking event that received a SABRE Award through the agency that managed it. He has also served as special representative (goodwill ambassador) for UNAIDS, and is a member of the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum for HIV/AIDS and Development.
He has been honored by the governments of France, Italy, Belgium and Morocco and by the United Nations for his contributions to business, commerce, philanthropy and the arts. He continues to sit on several corporate and non-profit advisory boards, and is an active participant in the World Economic Forum activities and a member of its Global Risk Response Network.
He is also committed to supporting education and fostering talent. In 2004, he established The Serge Dumont Fund, the industry’s first university scholarship fund aimed at developing professionals in the Chinese communications industry. He also sits on the advisory boards of several educational institutions including the prestigious Tsinghua University’s school of journalism and communications, and the China European International Business School, which runs one of Asia’s top MBA programs.
As vice chairman of Omnicom, his main responsibility is managing the fast-growing Greater China business unit, reporting directly to CEO John Wren.