SHANGHAI — Edelman has lined up advertising industry veteran Jesse Lin as its next CEO of Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, the Holmes Report can reveal, concluding a lengthy search triggered by the exit of David Brain earlier this year.

Lin, who recently stepped down as McCann Worldgroup China CEO for 'family reasons', takes on leadership from January 2018 onwards of a region that reported fee income of around $130m in 2016 — accounting for around 15% of Edelman's global revenues. Based in Shanghai, he joins Edelman's global executive committee, reporting to global COO Matthew Harrington.

Harrington told the Holmes Report that Lin will lead the firm's continued transformation on the brand marketing and creative front, working with regional COO Bob Grove, who oversees corporate and public affairs and has led the region since Brain's departure in April. Rupen Desai, another recent advertising industry transplant, remains in place as APACMEA executive vice chairman.

Lin is the latest in a series of senior advertising executives that have decamped to Edelman in recent years. In addition to Desai, the firm also counts former BBDO executive Carol Potter as Europe CEO, while ex-Leo Burnett veteran Mark Renshaw leads global creative strategy. 

"The common element is we have found like-minded spirits who really understand and value the earned opportunity," said Harrington. Lin, who also worked at DDB, Leo Burnett and Wieden & Kennedy before joining McCann in 2011, added that the public relations approach brings increasing advantages in today's content-rich landscape.

"If you talk to marketers today, they don’t really look for a particular type of agency," said Lin. "They are looking for a partner that can help them come up with integration solutions. PR — particularly in today’s 'content is king' world — actually has the edge against hard advertising. The story you tell through the PR angle is actually more credible."

In addition to the senior advertising appointments, Edelman has hired upwards of 600 creatives and planners across the world as it attempts to build a broader offering that can credible compete for bigger marketing budgets.

"Sometimes perception in the marketplace doesn’t match the reality of who we are today," said Grove of the investments. "It gives us more permission to have broader conversations with clients, faster. I don’t have to convince them that we are not a PR company — we have the credibility to have those conversations."

In Asia-Pacific, that has resulted in Edelman developing creative work for the likes of Mirinda and Samsung, while also overseeing Pond's global influencer program. However, the firm has also recently seen the departures of senior regional creative and digital talent, including South Asia, Middle East and Africa ECD Sachin Talwalkar and regional digital lead Gavin Coombes.

"We’re at the end of beginning and onto phase two of our transformation," said Grove. "Jesse did a terrific job in transforming McCann’s China business into an integrated advertising agency. We’ve got a bedfellow in terms of what we offer and how we transform our own teams and our capabilities."

Lin, for his part, pointed out that Edelman's independence and family culture provided a compelling alternative to the publicly-held agencies. "This is about who wants to invest and make changes," he said. "A lot of agency groups are very worried about stock price in this quarter.  For all agencies today, it’s not about which category you are in -—the real challenge is how do you transform and make changes to provide the integrated, digitised solutions for today’s marketer needs."