TBWA South Africa CEO Sean Donovan elevated to president of Asia

10 May 2019 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read
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TBWA has promoted Sean Donovan to the role of President, TBWA\Asia, as the firm looks to deepen its specialist units in analytics, data, and consultancy.

Sean Donovan, TBWA’s current Group CEO of South Africa, has been appointed to take on the additional role of President, TBWA\Asia, until such time that a chief executive successor is named for South Africa – a position Donovan has held since 2016. Donovan’s association with TBWA dates back to 2010, when the agency acquired an equity stake in integrated communications firm OpenCo-The Open Collaboration.

“I am humbled and honored to take on this role within TBWA\Asia,” said Donovan, who holds a Master of Science degree and an MBA from the University College Dublin Business School. “I've been a huge fan of the many innovations, products and business offerings that have come out of the region for years and look forward to working with many of our agencies to continue to push the industry forward.

A founding partner at OpenCo from 2008, Donovan then took on the managing director role at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, before ultimately taking on responsibility seven group operating companies across South Africa – further including, GRID, Yellowwood, OpenCo, HDI Youth Marketers and Magna Carta – along with 19 affiliate agencies across 14 other African countries.Sean Donovan - President - TBWA AsiaNow, Donovan will be tasked with further advancing TBWA’s position across the Asia region, with the Omnicom-owned agency and its various enterprises having around 40 or so outlets in East and Southeast Asia.  Entering the world of advertising via a career start in management consulting, Donovan is now set to drive TBWA’s ambition to deepen its specialist units in analytics, data, consultancy, health, and e-commerce locally.

In a statement, TBWA pointed to Donovan’s entrepreneurial background and experience in running a group of companies in South Africa as making him an ideal fit for the new role. “Sean has been a key part of our global leadership team for several years, and we’ve seen the tremendous impact that he’s made across his market and beyond,” said Philip Brett, TBWA\Worldwide COO. “He is eminently qualified to lead a region as big, dynamic and diverse as Asia.”

Troy Ruhanen, CEO of TBWA\Worldwide added; “Sean has run a group of successful companies and pushed them to the next level of performance, encouraging integration, collaboration, strengthening client relationships, attracting top talent, and driving a new standard of creativity. Entrepreneurship and innovation are in his DNA. He is the ideal person to lead the vibrant and diverse markets of Asia, where we continue to innovate at speed and scale.”

Donovan replaces former Asia president Ian Pearman, who departed the firm in February. Under Pearman’s watch, TBWA rolled out a number of the firm’s specialist units catering to the contemporary advertising landscape, including its data and consumer insight growth advisory Disruption Consulting in Singapore and Japan last year (most recently adding Indonesia in March).

“I have heard some agency leaders saying that they haven’t seen the consultancies turn up on pitches yet but I think that is entirely missing the point,” Pearman said at the time of the launch. “They don't need to compete in our market, they are too busy shrinking it… You can track their ambitions by the press releases that we’ve seen from Accenture, EY and Deloitte, each announcement representing another step towards our natural territory.”