Q&A: Hanh Kanssen – ‘Stay Curious and be Brave to Act on What we Discover’

A conversation with the General Manager of LePub APAC.

After only a short time in APAC, Publicis agency LePub has already made a creative impact in the region with its campaign work for Tiger Beer, Heineken, and Singapore’s National Library Board.

To learn more about the agency, including the challenges of establishing a new office in such a vast and diverse region, we recently spoke with Hanh Kanssen, GM of LePub APAC. Prior to joining LePub, Kanssen held leadership roles at agencies including Ogilvy, BBDO, and Havas.

Over the course of our Q&A, she talks about creating campaigns that resonate across cultures, being in the “sweet spot” of a large network, the impact of AI, some of her favorite LePub creative work in the region, and more.


 

Expanding an agency from scratch into a new region is no small feat. What have been some of the biggest challenges and successes in growing the LePub APAC brand?

For me, one of the biggest challenges has always been finding the right talents with diverse skill sets who, when they come together, spark innovative thinking. This diversity brings power as well as challenges because it takes time for differences to gel, and that can be very tough when our rocket is always in flight. But success also comes from this challenge.

“I really love the fact that we have found a way to create tangible expressions for brands that stick in culture and are not just ads – they’re Acts.”

When I start to see people with such differences match their passion and see their drive come together to create great work, it’s amazing. As a result, we have created together many campaigns that are being noticed by the industry and beyond. I really love the fact that we have found a way to create tangible expressions for brands that stick in culture and are not just ads – they’re Acts.

LePub launched here in 2022 with Heineken and Tiger Beer as flagship clients. How has growing the portfolio gone since then?

We quickly started to pick up other clients within Singapore and in other part of Asia, including the largest food & beverage company in Mongolia, which has the ambition to take its brands global, a client in the financial sector, and others yet-to-be-announced.


 

We have also started working on some cool AI projects like Playbrary, created for Singapore’s National Library Board. Despite all this new growth, I am always conscious about having the right priorities for LePub’s APAC hub: accelerating the growth of Heineken and Tiger’s brand and business as foundation clients is still a top priority, we will never lose sight of this foundation.

The agency is known for its creativity. How do you maintain that reputation and navigate creative output across APAC’s diverse cultural landscape?

Stay curious and be brave to act on what we discover. We want to proactively come to clients with a POV on why a particular cultural movement will be the right place and moment to act. With our approach to building “Cultural Capital” for brands powered by data, our Culture Lab is the perfect engine for this intention. We will always have interesting cultural discoveries that inspire a brave act, that’s how everything usually starts.

“We will always have interesting cultural discoveries that inspire a brave act, that’s how everything usually starts.”

You previously said that “we are in a sweet spot as a creative agency that sits within a larger network, Publicis Groupe’s Power of One, with access to all of its integrated capabilities.” Tell us more about the sweet spot and what advantages it offers.

I’ve never truly enjoyed the power of a multi-disciplinary network until I came to Publicis Groupe, where everyone has similar views on bringing different capabilities together to serve a single purpose – growth for our clients, and growth for our own operations.

This makes it very clear on our course of action. LePub has its own creative mark, “Building Brands in Culture”, but the fact that we have access to so many capabilities in the same building has helped us build our creative solutions and maximise our impact. We regularly team up with Publicis Groupe agencies in Singapore and other APAC markets. The collaboration is very seamless.

What are your thoughts on the impact of AI on the ad world, and how is LePub leveraging its use?

Firstly, AI enables unprecedented levels of data analysis and insight generation, so our cultural discovery process has become much faster. It also allows us to continuously learn and adapt based on user interactions, refining targeting strategies and maximizing campaign performance. Of course, AI is not new news for LePub as Publicis Groupe has been using it to reorganise and transform for many years.

“When you find a way to combine human imagination with AI, then I believe something interesting will truly be born.”

However, when it comes to creativity, I would say AI is only an enhancer to human imagination, which is irreplicable. When you find a way to combine human imagination with AI, then I believe something interesting will truly be born.

Are there any particular campaigns LePub APAC has done in the region that you’re particularly proud of?

We’ve done a lot in a short time like a rocket launched into space, but these campaigns are especially timely because they address issues in culture:

Heineken’s LaundroMatch turned 24-hour laundromats into all-night sports bars for Korea’s most hardcore football fans:

Tiger’s Summer Puffer jacket made Tiger Crystal so relevant in culture via a collaboration with fashion designer Izzy Du

Heineken’s Ghosted Bar addressed the issue of overwork in Singapore and Malaysia, and encouraged people to have a work-life balance:

Our Tiger festive stunt encouraged people to stop chasing their ambitions during Lunar New Year, and take time out to appreciate their achievements instead:

Playbrary turns books into games and brings back the love for reading for Singapore’s National Library Board.


Quick Hits:

Book everyone in the industry should read: Emotion by Design: Creative Leadership Lessons from a Life at Nike

Favorite show you’ve been watching lately: Breaking2 (I am an avid runner and obsessed with how science & innovation can impact human running capacity)

One album you would take to a deserted island: Dr. Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation program.

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at: I wish I started running when I was much younger, I would be a much better runner now. 🙂

 

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