Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2019 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations
Our third Innovator 25 class in Asia-Pacific provides a valuable glimpse of our industry’s future, shining a spotlight on those individuals who are reshaping influence and engagement in an era of dramatic marketing and communications disruption.

The people recognised here come from various corners of the industry — creative strategy, digital execution, influencer mapping, media storytelling — but together they represent a compelling picture of what marketing and communications looks like today, and where it is heading tomorrow.

You can read all of the Innovator 25 Profiles, and explore their inspiration, advice and career learnings, using the navigation menu on this page.

The highest proportion of our class are based in Singapore (44%), followed by India (Bengaluru and Mumbai) (16%). Other markets featured include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Each of the Innovator 25 profiles explores their views towards the state of industry innovation, while also providing unique insight into the habits and learnings that drive our class of innovators. Many, for example, prefer the morning when it comes to looking for inspiration, some to a remarkable degree.

"My favorite time of day is 3 o' clock in the morning— precisely because it's that one time of day where you completely lose track of time, the world slows down, and I can think without having to think of what's up next on my day's itinerary," says Max's Mark de Joya. "I believe the ultimate enemy of creativity is deadlines, and in the wee hours of the morning, I finally feel safe from them."

"Early in the morning, 4.30am," adds author Koral Dasgupta. "That is when I write my books."

"5am," said the Zest Group's Jess Tang. "The world is quiet, peaceful and free from distractions (ie social media/whatsapp messages). I get time to organize my thoughts for the rest of the day ahead."

"I’ve always been a morning person," noted Vishwas Anand from Infosys. "5am is when I’m extremely fresh and can think of a dozen things to do during my day."

But just as many, among them Weber Shandwick's Vanessa Ho, chose the late night for similar reasons — a sense of space and time. "I'm the consummate night owl. All my ideas and epiphanies emerge during the hours of starry-skied tranquility." 

Ruder Finn's Elan Shou also prefers the late night, for more pragmatic reasons. "Midnight after my babies get asleep — that's the only time belong to myself."

Several others, meanwhile, prefer to split the difference. "I am most creative and get the most work done in the mornings but I absolutely love evenings," said Uber's Maheen Jatoi. "I feel relaxed and calm at the end of the day and enjoy time outdoors close to sunset."

Added Hoh Kim: "Tea times alone, late at nights or in early mornings to think big picture in my life and to ask important questions to myself."

Elsewhere, our Innovators offered some sterling advice for those seeking to extricate themselves from a creativity rut. "Go for a long swim," said Bolt Global's Christel Quek. "I normally swim at least 30 laps a day in the morning. On the days I don't, I can feel the rut in my bones!"

Like Quek, most favour an approach that takes you away from work. "I stop thinking," said TBWA's Matt Stoddart. "I do something that puts my mind into autopilot, like bouncing a ball, or going for a walk. Then I can think clearly again."

"Walk to work and use a different route than normal, or read books/watch a favorite TV show," offers Era Myanmar's Anthony Larmon. "Very weirdly the best ideas come to me when I am in the bathroom," adds Dionne Taylor from Polkadot Communications. "I'm not sure what it is, whether it's the silence, the lack of technology and disruption, but I always have my creative juices flowing when I am in the bathroom."

"I sleep on it... literally," said OPPI's TK Kanchana.

Others advise tapping into different perspectives. "For me, the brain is a Rolodex," said Airbnb's Belle Baldoza. "To spark creativity, you need to add new ‘cards’ or ideas, or shuffle the Rolodex to stumble upon new inspiration. I like to read a lot about goings-on in popular culture and join a think jam with my teammates to further discuss ideas."

"Collect and analyse data at scale," said Edelman's Jonathan Hargreaves. "I talk to my work buddy, Hosea Lai who leads social impact at LinkedIn," adds Linda Lee. "He comes from a very different background from me so he is always able to share a different perspective, which always is helpful."

"I have four year-old twin daughters," said Archetype's Lee Nugent. "I’m a firm believer that the most creative humans you will ever meet are children. They embrace play time; they constantly test and try ideas without embarrassment and their resourcefulness means they always find a way to achieve something. So, I colour in unicorns, I make flowers out of Play-Doh and I build Lego cars. And ‘Daddy, that’s not right’ is the constant soundtrack to my life. An hour or so of this, and my brain is clear, refreshed and unconstrained."

There were also some interesting responses when we asked our Innovator 25 class what they would be doing if they were not in their current jobs. "I'd love to have one of Hermione Granger’s 'Time-Turners' so I can exist in multiple realities at the same time — I'd be a criminal profiler, animal trainer, dive instructor, holistic doctor, farmer living off the grid... the list goes on," says DHL's Belinda Tan. "Life would be exhausting, but oh so cool."  Unfortunately, only 24% think communications is ahead of other marketing disciplines in terms of innovation, compared to 25% in last year's study. This year, 29% think the PR industry is lagging.

When it comes to innovation, marketing and PR should focus on analytics and measurement say more than two thirds of the class (67%). Other options garnering support were integration (62%) and creativity (38%), both of which ranked ahead of social media and diversity (33% each). Meanwhile, when it comes to leading innovation, our group sees content creation as the PR industry's top opportunity (39%), ahead of creativity and integrated marketing (24% each).

When asked who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is, the CMO continues to reign supreme, with 43% of the vote, ahead of the CEO (19%). Agencies increased to 14% this year. 

Which brands and agencies do they find most innovative? The usual international suspects scored high — Nike, Airbnb, Burger King, Apple, Volvo, Netflix and Unilever — along with local hero Grab. When it comes to agencies, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Adfactors and Ogilvy all made the cut.