Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2020 | PRovoke Media
Our fourth 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 at a time when the industry is reimagining the future of work, campaigns, live events and much more.

The people recognised here come from various corners of the industry — creative strategy, digital execution, influencer mapping, media storytelling, senior management — 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. We have also collected insights and trends among this year's Innovators in the infographic below, including the organizations they come from, the brands and people they admire, their collective take on the PR industry's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to innovation, and their own personal habits and tips. 

The highest proportion of our class are based in Singapore (28%), followed by China (20%), and Australia (16%), Hong Kong (16%), and India (16%). Other markets featured include Indonesia, Japan, and Korea.
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. While previous years have seen the early morning favoured to a degree that sometimes seems alarming, this year saw a broader spread of answers, perhaps reflecting the realities of lockdown life. 

"The afternoon, when I am at my chirpiest, and most people around me are coping with the post-lunch, pre-coffee stupor," says Phonepe's Priya Patankar

"11pm onwards," adds Andrew Yeoh from IKEA. "Journaling and reflection time."

Yeoh is not the only night owl on the list. "I prefer either late nights from 1-3am or early mornings from 4-6am," adds Edelman's Christine Park, who appears more indefatigable than most. "That's when I like to make plans and write down ideas. It really energizes my day."

Rest assured, there are still plenty of early birds on the list, including Weber Shandwick's Valerie Pinto, who prefers the early morning as "the mind is freshest."

"5am" adds Manisha Seewal from Carro. "Brand new possibilities and morning workout ritual."

While some split the difference — "either very early in the morning with my cup of coffee, or very late in the evening with a glass of wine", according to the Hoffman Agency's Caroline Hsu — others offered more intriguing options, demonstrating how family life has infused the work day like never before in 2020. 

"Waking up my little kids," explains Archetype's Rosemary Merz. "For them, every day is fresh, there are no hangovers from yesterday's activities and the future is the next 5 minutes. They remind me that the here and now is where we live and it’s the most inspiring way to start the day (before they have a tantrum because their cereal of choice isn’t on offer!)"

"Whenever I am with my family" adds Audible's Leanne Cartwright-Bradford. "They are what life is for."

"Breaks between office calls where my wife and I spend time with our pets (4 mischievous rabbits)," notes Isentia's Prashant Saxena.

"I don't have a favorite time, but I do have a favorite moment," concludes Dole's Peewee Bauman. "It's when I am either spending time with the dogs & my husband or I'm learning."

Elsewhere, our Innovators offered some sterling advice for those seeking to extricate themselves from a creativity rut. "Find something better to do," advises TBWA's Russ Tucker. "The amount of time spent thinking about being in the rut is what keeps you in the rut. I find the best approach is to dive into an unrelated job or activity. The answer more often than not is clear when you return or you solve it subconsciously whilst distracted."

The importance of getting away from work was a theme taken up by others too. "I meet with people from different industries and with different interests," says HS Chung from H+K Strategies. "Having a cup of coffee with someone who is from a different profession or who has different hobby can give you different views and ideas."

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, music and exercise rated high among useful distractions. "When feeling stuck, I switch up the genres of music I listen to, watch content (whether it be a show or something on a social media channel) that I would otherwise not consume," adds Nafas' Piotr Jakubowski. "Going into a new genre or show brings with it a sense of curiosity, which is for me the key to getting out of a rut — you gotta do something new or different."

"Go for a swim," suggests Shane Allison from Public Address. "Creativity and innovation comes from connecting the dots when your brain isn't occupied and my brain needs the mindless repetition of swimming or cycling to reach that."

"I produce electronic music," offers Logitech's Parekhit Bhattacharjee. "Getting into the studio and creating something new always refreshes me. Whenever I've been stuck, music has always been the answer for me."

Perhaps the most dramatic advice came from DeVries Global's Lydia Shen: "Quit the industry in 2015 and became an investor/incubator to help startups who have innovative models."

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. Redhill's Jacob Puthenparambil, for example, would be a coconut farmer in his native Kerala.

"I would love to work in an auction house as it combines my passion for art and finance," adds Bloomberg's Belina Tan. "There is something very exhilarating about live art auctions."

BlueCity's Victor Wu, meanwhile, would be "running a theatre". Alice Yu Yuebo from Prudential leans on her academic background and family heritage to explain why she would be an educator: "I believe a good educator should also be a good practitioner, so that he/she can share the best practices in the real world."

The final word, though, must go to Girish Balachandran, who has a succinct answer as to what he would be doing had he not launched On Purpose two years ago. "Feeling miserable working for someone else. Becoming an entrepreneur has helped me drop any illusions of being smarter than my peers and made me realise my shortcomings as a leader. I couldn't get this any other way and am grateful for the journey."
Unfortunately, only 10% think communications is ahead of other marketing disciplines in terms of innovation, compared to 24% in last year's study. This year, 43% think the PR industry is lagging.

When it comes to innovation, marketing and PR should focus on analytics and measurement say almost two thirds of the class (63%). Other options garnering support were integration (55%) and creativity (41%), both of which ranked ahead of diversity (32%) and social media (18%). Meanwhile, when it comes to leading innovation, our group sees integrated marketing as the PR industry's top opportunity (33%), ahead of content creation (29%).

When asked who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is, the CEO overtakes the CMO this year, with 50% of the vote. Agencies increased to 5% of the vote. 

Which brands and agencies do they find most innovative? The usual international suspects scored high — Nike, Airbnb, Burger King, Apple, Volvo, Netflix, Tesla and Lego — along with local heroes Alibaba, Bilibili, BTS, Heytea, Godrej and Uniqlo. When it comes to agencies, OPR, Emotive, Hearts and Science and R/GA were all cited.