Meet…Fran Ayala

Firstly tell us what a typical day looks like…

I keep interesting office hours because the nature of my role requires me to liaise with three different geographies. I work closely with The Economist Group to service clients in Asia by enlisting the services of TVC’s strategy, creative, PR and production teams based in the UK and US.

A typical day for me is spent offering strategic counsel, account management and creative support to The Economist Group’s content and sales teams, as well as their current and potential clients. My evenings are then spent working with my colleagues in London and New York to bring these ideas to life, address any challenges that we may encounter in the process and ensure that the content we deliver works as hard as possible to reach the right audience.

That sounds like a really hectic schedule!

It’s not all work for me! I have a team of amazing colleagues who aren’t afraid to put their hand up and offer support when it’s needed.

On my nights off, I have dinner with friends at the many exciting restaurants Hong Kong has to offer and I do a lot of work with The Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong. I also moonlight as a stand up comedian.

What are the biggest challenges for brands wanting to expand into APAC?

I’d say the biggest challenge is shifting strategy away from a Western lens. Asia is the most diverse continent in the world comprised of different cultures and languages, so what’s worked in Western markets won’t necessarily work in this region. Successful expansion into APAC requires time, effort and an open mind.

What do you think TVC brings to the market that gives a point of difference? 

Giving ideas the power to influence hearts and minds is a space in which TVC has been winning for over two decades. This means we’re well placed to help Western brands activate themselves in APAC and help Asian brands expand their international footprint.

Before moving to the dark side you worked in Los Angeles as a crime reporter on the homicide beat – are there any transferable skills that you were able to bring to your comms roles?

I’ve interviewed a range of colourful characters, including LA’s alcohol-sodden politicians and Hong Kong’s youngest tycoons, and learned that everyone has a story. And it’s not always what you think it is. What I’ve taken away from this is that as communicators, it’s important to listen with intent and tell stories that not only honour our clients, but also challenge the way their audiences see things.

What are the big content trends you’re seeing emerge in Asia?

This is a mobile-first or mobile-only market. There are over a billion smartphone users in Asia and it’s where the super app was born – think WeChat, Alipay, LINE and Go-jek. Content that’s consumed on smaller screens is on a massive upswing and brands that don’t integrate this into their comms strategies risk missing out.

Tell us about one  of your favourite campaigns and why.

The Palau Pledge by Host/Havas is by far my favourite campaign – it was from 2017 but won several awards last year, including a Cannes Lion. Its aim was to build awareness of the environmental effect that mass tourism had on the island of Palau and incite tourists to do their part in preserving its environment. The agency created a pledge that visitors had to sign within the visa stamp in their passports, outlining a promise to help Palau protect its environment as a condition of entry.

I love this campaign because it’s such a simple concept but its reach has been significant because it speaks to an issue that affects everyone in the world. This is a true testament to how ideas that speak to a single, human truth can rally a global community to push for positive change.

And finally, we can’t ignore what’s happening in Hong Kong at the moment –  how are you dealing with the pro-democracy protests and the disruption that brings?

Yes it’s true that the violence has escalated and this has affected certain conveniences such as public transport but if I’m being honest, the true disruption is emotional. Hong Kong has been my home for eight years and my heart breaks for these students who are risking everything to protect the freedoms that have defined this city for decades. 

To those kids, I say ga yau (“add oil” in Cantonese).


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