If you ask VMLY&R Thailand’s CEO Yupin Muntzing to talk through her career she’ll joke that you’ll need at least two hours to hear about the past three decades. And having recently been announced as CEO of VMLY&R’s Thailand division
, one can say that Yupin’s journey has been an exciting one at that.
For many around the world taking on a new role while in the middle of a pandemic would spark hesitation but Yupin says hers is the best decision she’s made. “I feel this is the right time to really find new challenges, have some changes. This is the best time ever, although some people say ‘are you sure it’s the best time?’ because it seems like there’s a lot going on in the world and I decided to make a change with my career, but I think it’s the right and the best decision.”
Prior to this she was CEO at McCann Worldgroup for five years and admits that while she wasn’t looking for a new role, her curiously to step out of more traditional agencies led her to a six-month period of meeting the team at VMLY&R and getting to know the business. “I actually didn’t look for an opportunity. Someone called me and asked if I’m interested in this company called VMLY&R and I said, well you know if its someone like Dentsu or a traditional agency then I will say no, but because it's VMLY&R I said OK let’s explore. The name of the agency is very interesting for me because I know what kind of capabilities VMLY&R has.”
Yupin knows better than most about the capabilities of the agency, having done a brief stint at what was then Y&R early on in her career. However, her entry into the working world was somewhat different with a degree in communications and a first job in journalism. She groans in horror remembering having to transcribe ten cassette tapes per interview she did. Despite disliking the job, the fact that she was able to speak to so many different people taught her a lot about how insights can impact who we are as people and this is something she employs when dealing with consumers and customers today.
It’s not just Thailand that Yupin has worked in, shortly after leaving a role at Saatchi & Saatchi she joined a digital agency in Hong Kong. While much of Asia has much the same style of communication, their consumers are different and so Yupin’s understanding of them comes with a very human approach: “People laugh, people cry and the way that people feel is quite universal. But the way they act with certain things because of space, certain cultures, belief is all different. I feel that as long as you understand those layers you can communicate well with your target or your consumers.”
This approach is something that Yupin drew upon when, after a decade working for Ogilvy, she decided to leave to set up her own agency called Muntzing. Ironically it wasn’t just clients that came to her for her work, but Ogilvy themselves and despite having little experience with anything outside of strategy Yupin met this new challenge head on. “It turned out that I became quite resourceful and whatever problem came in I solved it. You learn to fix things yourself. If I had spent my whole career with a very big company because there’s a lot of people there to support you that could create a different kind of mindset. But having my own company I learnt that all problems can be solved and all things can be adjusted and learnt along the way.”
Two years after creating Muntzing, Yupin knew she was up for a new challenge and McCann Worldgroup came knocking. But before she decided to take up any role there she recounts asking a former colleague if the role would be challenging enough for her. “I felt like I had done so much but I still had a lot of energy left to do a larger scale of very interesting, challenging work”.
Running her own company was of course the perfect practice for Yupin’s role of CEO at VMLY&R. She remembers being faced with problems in her agency and telling herself that she can either fix them or they will be a disaster. “Somehow I became more grounded and understood that any problem can be solved as long as you’re resourceful and have good ideas and work it out with your team.” But Yupin jokes that a little “inhale-exhale meditation” has also been a huge help for her: “A little meditation and you feel you can rule the world”.
There are plenty of odes to women ruling the world, but for Yupin as CEO of an agency, inspiring two women closer to home has been pivotal for motivating her. “It's important as a female leader for me to show to the world that we manage, we do it fine. But for me it's more that I should be an inspiration to my two daughters, I’m not sure if you asked them they’ll say the same!”
So what of the future of not only VMLY&R but also Thailand’s creative industry? Yupin is quick to notice that in Thailand “no one talks advertising anymore”. She explains: “Everything is all about experience, so it could be a little journey but right now it's an extended experience. What most of the clients and people want is a seamless experience from seeing the ad to going to the store.
“Video content is quite big and short video content is quite big now. People have less patience and less time. In Thailand if you know the way we communicate, we tend to be quite emotional. We either laugh or cry and that tends to be in a long form but right now you have less long-form video.”
For a generation used to short clips all over their feeds, longer spots may slowly die out, but Yupin hopes that her office is able to work closely with VMLY&R in Singapore to learn from them about how to be relevant for today’s needs and that of the market.
Aside from work Yupin has her fingers in many different pies from gardening to learning new topics – though not everything she touches turns to gold. “I tried to do a herb garden which was not very successful and I grew basil which ended up yellow and dried out!” But Yupin’s mind never strays far from work and when she’s not walking as a form of meditation, she is learning economics in an online course and listening to directors sharing their experiences and tips for what makes a good production.