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A decorated veteran who continues to reach new heights – Malu Vasallo, CEO, Wavemaker Philippines

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Wavemaker Philippines’ CEO Malu Vasallo wins Women to Watch 2021, one of 40 women who have been selected —a list of exceptional business leaders, innovators and change advocates.

Malu’s background in media research and planning/buying has evolved into a successful career in agency leadership, leading the growth of six agencies under her over two decades in the industry. For the past 11 years, she has been the Chief Executive Officer of Wavemaker (formerly MEC and Maxus), the fastest-growing agency in GroupM Philippines, and a model for strategic thinking, content development, and precision marketing in APAC and globally. Utilizing her experience in running top-calibre media agencies in the Philippines, she designs and models growth strategies and activations for some of the biggest multinational and local companies in the country, with emphasis on the crucial role of talent development, service excellence, and quality standards.

One of her legacy projects was to introduce Precision, an outcome-led work process that led Wavemaker to become the first in the market to offer clients a single hub of digital expertise combining planning, tech, analytics, platforms, data strategy and content—enabling personalisation at scale. At a time when media agencies are struggling for relevance in increasingly streamlined marketing functions, she sought to propagate a media-content-technology offer to help the agency leap one step ahead as the pandemic hit.

Don’t just take our word for it. Digital services and capabilities at Wavemaker led to an improved per-capita revenue by 17% in 2020, exceeded new business billings by 60%, and clinched an impressive nine out of 10 success rate in new business pitches. According to R3’s New Business League last year, the agency came in top with US$2.3 million in new business revenue.

Malu also understands that talent is the most important part of an agency’s transformation. To aid with staff retention and morale, she initiated a talent investment programme in 2019 to cover expertise in data strategy, ecommerce and other specialisations which drove staff to gain certifications from Google, Facebook, and the like. On top of that, she instituted a performance awards programme to compensate hard workers, and prioritised mindfulness and mental health especially during the crisis. In 2021, the agency will extend health benefits to blended families and LGBTQIA+ partnerships.

Her wealth of experience and philosophy of continuous reinvention has led to numbers-driven success at every career junction.

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