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‘Diversity is not optional’: WPP’s new Japan CEO on her plans for Asia Pacific

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

May 6, 2022 | 4 min read

Kyoko Matsushita, the newly-appointed WPP chief executive officer in Japan, speaks to The Drum about strengthening the holding company’s business there.

Kyoko Matsushita

‘Consumers will quickly know the difference between straight-out-of-the-tube marketing and a brand that authentically shows up’ / WPP

Kyoko Matsushita is currently chief executive officer for Essence Global, the WPP media agency with 23 offices in 12 countries. She joined Essence in 2014 as its first chief executive officer of the APAC region.

Her new appointment as the WPP chief executive officer for Japan will see her return to Asia, working out of Tokyo, after a transition period as the merged EssenceMediacom business prepares for launch.

The Drum catches up with Matsushita as she readies herself for the new challenge.

As EssenceMediacom prepares for its launch and the creation of GroupM Nexus, what will it bring to the table for WPP’s clients in APAC?

Clients right now want a single agency that can handle brand and performance, single measurement metrics, single optimization targets, and that can think about channel fluidity and how to move things to whatever is most efficient.

By bringing these things together, we eliminate the need for clients to choose – we’ve got one agency with the scale and capability embedded with the best digital thinking and performance orientation in the marketplace.

The creation of GroupM Nexus is exciting and powerful for WPP, especially in a multi-market region like APAC.

In your new role, how will you ensure WPP agencies help brands and advertisers in APAC stay culturally relevant?

Being culturally relevant means sharing genuine connections with people. At WPP, it starts with actively listening, understanding and respecting what people say and do. It is no different from our relationships in our everyday lives.

In marketing and communications, it also means continuing to re-imagine what is possible together and continuing to build meaningful relationships and experiences with our customers.

People appreciate and support brands that stand for something authentic and do something that drives positive change in their world.

And how will you ensure WPP agencies help brands in APAC to create distinctive and engaging experiences that consumers want to seek out, learn more and participate in themselves?

For our business to be successful, having diversity in thinking, skill sets and representation is not optional – it is a necessity.

When our experts and clients start having conversations about what is possible, it is unstoppable. In these conversations, you will see phenomenal ideas emerge and it is all up to us as a team to make things happen.

Consumers will quickly know the difference between straight-out-of-the-tube marketing and a brand that authentically shows up and welcomes the co-creation of experiences.

What must advertisers in APAC do to ensure consumers don’t feel ’chased’, but rather ’invited’ by brand campaigns?

It starts with mutual respect, like in any relationship. If you do not listen but are busy talking about how great you are, soon you realize you are left alone in a room! If you focus on getting to know people and start having conversations about what is possible, I think you shift everyone’s mindset to a positive and creative space.

That does not feel ’chased’. It’s a way of being and doing and interacting with everything around us. I see organizations thrive by actively inviting people to co-create something they will be part of. We all know that top-down or one-way messaging is of the past. Also, it is simply much more fun and rewarding when you do it together.

In WPP’s APAC markets, I have often seen the power of the collective and look forward to supporting and developing APAC-first innovation in our industry as a whole.

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