When it comes to creativity, Indonesia isn’t a country that lacks such talent but in terms of top management positions across creative agencies in the region, there’s a distinct lack of Indonesians. We spoke to Paramita Mohamad, Lowe Indonesia’s chief strategist (pictured above, in the middle), on the matter.
Mita, as she is more commonly known, spent some time with Lowe in France and England to handle a global account and she told AdDiction that “it’s a lot of work and a lot of time spent on trains”. When handling a regional or a global account, time spent with clients is decidedly less than the time spent handling the operational matters within the company and when it comes to implementation of an advertising campaign, it’s local insights and wisdom that play a larger part.
“It’s about financials”, she said. “Who is going to pay people in the regional level? It’s very expensive to maintain a regional office because of all the flying that’s involved and if you don’t have a regional client, there’s really no good reason to set one up”.
One of the reasons why there are very few Indonesians in regional executive positions is because there’s a lot of politics involved. Mita said that Indonesia is home to many creative talents but most of them aren’t interested in the politics associated with being in the top positions, they just want to produce the best creative work that they can come up with.
Another issue is language. English is the lingua franca in the advertising world, especially in Southeast Asia, but Indonesians generally are not that fluent in English, which provides a significant challenge when communicating with non-Indonesian colleagues or clients, which is crucial at this level. Given this lack of skill, talents from other parts of Asia, such as India, the Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong, have a significant upper hand, though not necessarily a deciding factor.
A third reason, she said, is complacency. “A lot of Indonesians are happy with being in Indonesia and what they’ve achieved here and they don’t see a calling to go further”. This, however, might also relate to the political nature of being in a regional level where the focus isn’t so much as working with clients but managing the welfare and future of the company’s many offices.
With few Indonesians climbing the corporate ladder beyond the domestic scene, it’s no surprise that regional heads tend to come from other countries but when Indonesia still maintains the best growth rate for the industry in Asia Pacific and provides the most opportunities for creative professionals, who can blame the locals for wanting to remain in the domestic scene?