30U30: Dentsu ANZ CEO Angela Tangas – “We’re In A Good Position For Growth In 2021”

30U30: Dentsu ANZ CEO Angela Tangas – “We’re In A Good Position For Growth In 2021”
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After an extraordinarily challenging year for the company globally, dentsu’s Australia and New Zealand operations look set for growth in 2021, claims its regional CEO, Angela Tangas.

Today is the last day for creatives to submit their late entries for the B&T 30 Under 30 Awards, presented by Vevo, with the April event just around the corner.

As we head closer to the awards on 15 April, B&T is drawing advice and insight from ad-land leaders with the hopes of inspiring the industry’s next cohort of professionals.

Angela Tangas is the chief executive of dentsu ANZ, a post she took on in 2019 from her role as the company’s chief commercial officer, following leadership positions for both NYSE and ASX-listed organisations.

As the leader of the agency’s regional operations, her employment to the top role came as dentsu continued its colossal reduction of its brand portfolio, from more than 160 brands to six leadership brands globally. Speaking to B&T, Tangas said the coronavirus pandemic had sped up this process.

However, ANZ remains “well ahead” in the process to simplify operations, she claims, with dentsu on track for growth in 2021.

You’ll find more insight on this, along with Tangas’ pick for the best and worst ads in recent memory, below.

B&T: Angela, you took the reins as chief executive of dentsu Australia & New Zealand in November 2019, after nearly two years as DAN’s chief commercial officer.

In the time since becoming CEO, you’ve also been named among the 10 most powerful women in media.

What’s your secret to success?

AT: Firstly, to be considered amongst that cohort of powerful women in media is humbling and flattering.

My career path to date has not been by design, it’s been centred on the size and scale of the opportunity that has presented itself at the time. I’ve always challenged myself to be brave enough to take (educated) risks in the hope that the business and scope of the role provides both opportunities to thrive, learn and be a better human—professionally and personally.

I am fortunate to have spent the majority of my career client side, which has proven invaluable in making the shift. From pre-sales to product development, operations to service delivery, and everything in between, I know what I expect as a client and that’s what we’re creating at dentsu—the whole customer thinking to drive the best outcomes, on demand, that’s easy.

Getting this right means a more meaningful partnership that creates mutual value—and commercial edge.

To do this, it starts with getting the basics right, earning trust and delivering great outcomes, which is underpinned by a great team that’s committed and accountable.

We made difficult decisions early last year that landed positively because we responded as a team and as one unified business. I am very proud of the way our whole ANZ business has responded to the challenge, and the strength and resilience of my executive leadership team.

It’s been an extraordinary year, but the turnaround has been significant. We are now a fundamentally different shape and type of business, and the strength of talent we have is a testament to the speed at which we have been able to make the necessary pivot to future proof.

However, it’s been an extraordinarily challenging year for dentsu internationally—6,000 jobs slashed, after posting profit slumps in the last financial year, citing the impacts of COVID-19.

How are operations looking in Australia & New Zealand? What will we see in 2021?

Dentsu is a multi-national organisation that has grown quickly through strong acquisition activity, and each market is different and in a different lifecycle stage. However, our collective goal is to make it easier for clients to work with us and focus on creating real business advantage.

Last year, we announced our plans to reduce our brand portfolio from 160+ brands to six leadership brands globally. For some markets, COVID-19 may have accelerated this process, but for ANZ, having been on a journey of simplifying our business for the last 18 months, we are well ahead.

Despite the challenges, 2020 was a strong year for us locally—we gained a lot of positive momentum and, coupled with new business wins, we’re in a good position for growth in 2021.

How do you stay calm under pressure?

I’m a pragmatic, fact-based decision maker and know when to leverage instinct. This helps reduce emotion from a situation and enables me to focus on the target outcome—not just the decision right in front of us.

I also believe it’s ok not to always be right. I learned that a long time ago, it’s one of the most important elements of creating inclusive leadership and high performing teams. Growth comes from the good and the bad, and makes us better. Being vulnerable to that provides a sense of calm—after all, no human is perfect.

Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years, both personally and professionally?

I can’t say that I have mapped that out, however, I am very reflective and self-regulate every 12–18 months, which is usually an assessment of how challenged and fulfilled I am and the level of positive impact I am making. I thrive on progress at pace.

Right now, dentsu and I are a good match: A challenger, breaking through a legacy model, and right in the middle of realising its full potential. The opportunity to create and realise a true teaming company of the future, that’s essentially a dynamic customer platform leveraging all our capability in real-time to create meaningful impact.

It needs to be remembered, dentsu ANZ is less than 10 years old and through simplifying we can scale in the right way, which is hugely motivating and exciting.

This business is already a better business than where we were 12 months ago, and it will be the best business it can be in a couple more.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Live in the moment and enjoy the wins!

What were your biggest mistakes and what would you do differently?

All mistakes are good ones. I’m a firm believer that you grow through headwinds and successful careers are those that have not taken an easy road, those bumps (mistakes) make you better.

It’s all about how you choose to respond and act that matters.

What ad was the all-time most damaging for the industry? What was the best?

The ads that have resonated with me over the years are those that create a sense of emotion and focused on social good. Our very own BWMd produced Project Revoice—a remarkable campaign that won awards globally, while changing the lives of many.

And of course, the use of technology to deliver on this reinforces that anything is possible, we just need to believe it is.

Beyond this, the Slip Slop Slap ad still encourages me to put on sunscreen and hat before going outside and teaching my daughter the steps to being sun smart. It’s old school but that slogan was catchy (showing my inner geek here!).

The most damaging—I can think of several ads across the course of the ‘80s that were sexual in nature and derogatory to females. Whilst this is now changing, which includes a heightened focus on changing the perception of women in society and in the workforce, there is still a way to go.

As an industry, we have a big role to play in helping improve gender diversity and imbalance in Australian society.

As the most senior female at dentsu, my job is to be a force for good. A diverse, equitable and inclusive business is one that is best set up to succeed and our people are proud to be a part of dentsu—a win win.

If you weren’t working in our industry, where would you be?

I’d probably be harnessing my entrepreneurial spirit. There continues to be significant disruption in the global business community, which always creates opportunity and excitement—if I ever need a bit of inspiration, I often find it on TechCrunch.

For now, though, I’m right where I need to be… but who knows what comes next!

We all know how much advertising has changed. What particularly blows your mind?

The industry is constantly changing and transforming, which of course is necessary to remain relevant and one step ahead of client needs. As someone that has always leveraged data and tech to achieve better commercial outcomes, it’s been great to see (and champion in our own business) the accelerated industry focus on how we use data to deliver powerful human connections tangibly, whilst drive margin accretive value for clients. I love that.

We can positively influence real business outcomes through shaping great connection and creating brilliant experiences. Where else can you really support influencing the whole value chain? And, there is still so much more potential, look at Bitcoin for example.

It’s exciting to be a part of an industry that can respond to disruption, thrive on creativity and innovation, and play an active role in steering its future. That’s motivating.

What’s a hidden talent of yours?

The greatest online shopper the world has ever seen. It also means I have very strong views on what a good commerce and loyalty experience looks like!

Late entries for B&T’s 30 Under 30 Awards close Monday, 1 March 2021. You can submit your entry here.

The 30 Under 30 Awards will be held at The Factory Theatre, Sydney on Thursday, 15 April.

If you’d like more information on the event, head to this website.

Other key information

  • Late entries close Monday, 1 March 2021
  • People’s Choice Poll launches Wednesday, 3 March 2021
  • Judging period: Wednesday, 3 March to Friday, 19 March 2021
  • Shortlist announced Wednesday, 24 March 2021
  • Early bird tickets close at 11.59pm Wednesday, 2 April 2021
  • Full price tickets on sale at 12am Thursday, 3rd April 2021 (until sold out)
  • People’s Choice Poll closes Friday, 26 March 2021.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors for making this event possible.

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