With over 18 years of comprehensive marketing experience in various coaching and GTM strategies, Adeline Chew, currently, Head of Brand Experience at Cheil MEA started her professional journey as an Account Executive for a marketing firm in Malaysia. With a knack for innovative thinking, user experience development, and the ability to bring together multiple online and offline tools to build one brand journey, Chew joined Cheil in late 2013, taking over as the Senior Project Manager for Brand Experience across MEA.
What inspired you to take up a career in PR and communications? How did you find your interest and niche?
I have always been passionate about storytelling as I believe it is a powerful way to build relationships and connect with people. This led me to develop a keen interest in PR and communications during my college years. Starting in public relations, I quickly became fascinated by the broader landscape of advertising beyond PR. My niche lies in brand storytelling. Collaborating with brands to craft narratives that resonate with their target audiences is what I truly enjoy. I firmly believe that the most successful brands are those that can tell stories that people can relate to, and I am dedicated to assisting brands in achieving that goal.
We see you’re close to completing 10 years with Cheil MEA. How do you believe this organization has enabled you to grow and what do you think you’ve brought different to the table?
Cheil MEA has been an amazing place to grow my career. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects, and I’ve learned so much from my colleagues. I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor and develop junior talents, which has been incredibly rewarding. I think I’ve brought a unique perspective to Cheil MEA. I’m a woman, a mother, and a marketer, and I think my experiences have given me a deep understanding of the different challenges and opportunities that brands face. I’m also passionate about using my skills to make a difference in the world, and I think that’s something that sets me apart.
Tell us about some of the work that you’re proud to have worked on. Are there any achievements you’d like to highlight?
I’m proud of all the work that I’ve done at Cheil MEA and all other projects that have contributed to my growth to date. One project that holds a special place of pride for me is the inaugural social campaign for Energizer Holdings, specifically targeted at Saudi Arabia. In 2018, we presented a compelling idea to assist Energizer in reclaiming its market share. This campaign marked the brand’s first-ever global foray into social media, and its tremendous success was evident through a significant return on investment in terms of market share and sales. It was this accomplishment that solidified our partnership with Energizer, securing the account for future years to come. Another project that fills me with pride is our Go-To-Market approach to launching a brand in Japan, a country unfamiliar to both the brand and our agency. To connect with the audience effectively, we developed a Manga series that resonated with them and their interests. Convincing the client about the significance of storytelling over product-centric marketing was a challenge, but we succeeded in emphasizing the growth potential within the audience. By allowing them to first connect with the story and then the brand, we achieved remarkable results. This project has brought us numerous rewards, including building trust, strengthening our relationship with the brand, and receiving recognition with over 4 international awards in the advertising industry.
How would you describe your journey as a professional and a mother? What were some of the challenges you faced in the process of juggling both roles?
My journey as a professional and a mother has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s been challenging to balance the demands of my career with the demands of being a mother, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding. It’s a balancing act that many women go through, and it’s not easy. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is finding the time to do everything that I need to do. I have a demanding job, and I also have a baby who just turned 20 months old. It can be difficult to find the time to work, take care of my son, and take care of myself. Another challenge I have encountered is the feeling of guilt over not being able to spend as much time with my son as I would like. Due tomy long working hours and occasional business trips, I often find myself unable to witness all of his milestones. It is crucial to constantly remind myself that I am doing the best I can.
Have you along the way faced any compounded biases? If so, how did you overcome these biases?
I have faced some challenges in the workplace, such as being told that I’m not as qualified as my male colleagues and being passed over for promotions. I overcome these challenges by being persistent and by believing in myself. I’ve also had the support of some amazing mentors, and that’s been invaluable. A few learnings I find critical to have within my inner self:
• It’s important to speak up against bias.
• It’s important to build relationships with people who can support your success.
• It’s important to never give up on your dreams.
• Everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or any other factor.
Where do you think the advertising and marketing industry is headed in bridging the gap between a human experience and a brand experience?
I think the advertising and marketing industry is headed towards a more human-centric approach. Brands are realizing that they need to connect with people on an emotional level in order to be successful. This means creating brand experiences that are more personalized, relevant, and engaging. One way is to embrace the technology to create more personalized and immersive experiences for consumers. For example, brands can use mix reality allowing consumers to interact with their products in a more realistic way.
Another way to bridge the gap between a human experience and a brand experience is to focus on storytelling. Brands can tell stories that resonate with consumers on an emotional level, and that creates a sense of connection between the brand and the consumer. Two great examples of how brands are bridging the gap between a human experience and a brand experience are:
• Samsung’s “Be Fearless” campaign used VR technology to help millennials unleash their fullest potential by overcoming their fears. The campaign connected with people on a personal level, helping circulate a positive message about the power of overcoming fear.
• Google’s “Year in Search” campaign used augmented reality to allow consumers to see their own search terms come to life. The campaign was a hit among consumers, as it portrayed how Google is always innovating and finding new ways to connect with people.
How do you foster inclusive and genuine relationships with clients in the process of building effective brand experiences?
To me, it is about building relationships based on trust, respect, and understanding. I always remind myself of these key points:
• Be mindful of your own biases. We all have biases, but it’s important to be aware of them and to evaluate them when working with clients.
• Be open to feedback. Be willing to listen to your client’s feedback and to make changes to your campaigns as needed.
• Be patient. Building trust and rapport takes time. Don’t expect to become best friends with your clients overnight.
I always invest in listening to clients’ needs and understanding their goals. It’s important to make sure everyone is represented and heard. I believe that the best brand experiences are created when everyone is working together towards a common goal.
What is your advice to the young women out there aspiring to become future advertisers and marketers?
• Be passionate about your work. Advertising and marketing is a creative industry, so it’s important to be passionate about your work. If you’re not passionate about what you do, it will be hard to succeed.
• Be curious and always learning. The advertising and marketing industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to be curious and always learning. Staying up to date on the latest trends and technologies, and being open to new ideas.
• Be confident and assertive. The industry is still male-dominated, so it’s important to be confident and assertive. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas.
• Be collaborative and team-oriented. It’s important to be willing to work with others and share credit.
• Be persistent and never give up. It is one of the most competitive industries, it’s important to be persistent and never give up. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. Keep working hard and eventually, you will succeed.
I have faced many challenges in my career as a woman in advertising and marketing. I have been underestimated, overlooked, and even discriminated against. But I have also faced many successes. I have worked on some of the most successful advertising campaigns, and I have helped to build some of the most iconic brands.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.