How to be a successful Filipino expatBy Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
She idolizes the likes of Brandon Tartikoff, the television guy who made many primetime hit series (“The Golden Girls,” “Punky Brewster,” “Knight Rider,” “Empty Nest”) and Barry Diller, the media executive who created Fox Broadcasting Company.
She could have been a scriptwriter or even a network star.
To pursue them, she took up Masters in Communication Arts, majoring in writing and TV production, in Los Angeles’ Loyola Marymount University after graduating from Ateneo de Manila University.
Fate intervened, although she still ended up in a related field—advertising.
On her very first ad agency, Mitos Borromeo was tasked to manage multinational brands because she was perfectly fit for the role.
She was cut to be a leader early on. She had a commanding presence because she never feared to express her thoughts when she was right.
On her way to tougher positions in advertising, she became a regional client services director around Southeast Asia.
She was destined to be because it was up her alley, an expat in the truest sense of the word who speaks English with ease in a corporate world surrounded by tough multinational brand builders.
Mentoring, training, accounts servicing on the job, battle-tested Borromeo was one fine example of a Filipina who succeeded in an expat-laden region.
No wonder she became an executive vice president in Thailand for five years, a managing director of a giant multinational ad agency in Manila, eventually expanding into a bigger and challenging role—CEO of a multinational media agency, and coming full circle in an atmosphere she’s very at home with.
In the lead role at Bates 141 Philippines today, Borromeo’s career is colorful, each sequence as vivid as the colors of life, each episode, an enthralling story in itself and as exciting as Tartikoff’s series.
She first handled Colgate-Palmolive brands at DYR (Dentsu, Young & Rubicam) Alcantara (formerly Grant Advertising which became Y&R Manila that had also bought out the Alcantara family).
She was naturally “piratable.”
Lintas, predecessor of Lowe Worldwide, gave Borromeo more space to grow as a management supervisor. Her account management style would bring her to the huge, complex Indonesian market handling the Unilever business for six years.
Together with Eleanor Modesto, the Filipina country manager at Lintas Jakarta, Indonesia’s biggest ad agency, she did strategizing and the Herculean efforts to improve the ad agency’s accounts servicing standards.
She would soon spread her wings to Lintas Bangkok replicating her Jakarta role as advisor and on to executive management position.
“Though English was a problem, I had fun with the Thai people,” she says on the lighter side.
Next was Lowe Malaysia where she was once again on top of a highly demanding job, making sure that the agency’s bread and butter businesses were in place. She handled the confectionery business of her agency in Kuala Lumpur.
She’ll discover that one of her strengths was handling operations. Over a decade of managing different brands and clients in different markets, Borromeo was ready to go back to the country. She was appointed Managing Director of J. Walter Thompson Manila.
Off to bigger things
The booming media business was transforming Manila’s advertising landscape. It was time for Borromeo to go for bigger challenges.
Mindshare, the global marketing and media network with 115 offices in 82 countries throughout the USA, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, beamed on the horizon.
Borromeo was picked as managing director largely because she was a non-media person. The company needed someone who had a grip on the bigger picture, somebody with a broader scope and knew how to develop strategies, meeting them and making plans realized.
Her star shone brightly even more in 2004 when GroupM hired her as CEO of the Philippine office.
GroupM has over 17,000 employees around the world with 400 offices scattered in 81 countries.
The company is also under the WPP Group, formed to serve as the parent company of the holdings company’s media agencies: Mindshare, Maxus, MediaCom, Xaxis, Catalyst, Kinetic (the world’s largest outdoor media agency), among others.
It handles over 32 percent of the world’s media billings, making it the world’s largest media investment management operation.
Borromeo wore two hats—the person in-charge of Mindshare and GroupM.
“I find pleasure in solving a problem in each of this organization,” she tells Inquirer’s BusinessMonday.
For that, she was greatly rewarded. At the Philippine 4As Agency of the Year Awards, the most desirable and credible in the Philippines, according to industry folks, Mindshare won the Media Agency of the Year four consecutive times.
But one day, she woke up feeling tired and said: “I want to enjoy life.” So she traveled across the globe and changed the course of her career.
Rejuvenated when she came back, she partnered with industry colleagues and formed a communications and strategic consultancy company called Good Thinking Inc.
Today, she’s made a 360-degree turn and is back to managing an ad agency she wants clients to respect for its creative output, and wholistic approach to marketing.
“I want people to think of Bates 141 spontaneously because our work speaks for itself,” Borromeo says.
Called an exceptional talent by former regional chairman Tim Isaac because of her diverse perspective, Borromeo is right on track to become a formidable agent of change in the agency.
True enough, the agency recently won new businesses from Wyeth. “We go after new business opportunities rather than wait for them to come to us,” she says.
Her management style? Borromeo builds on people’s strengths and uses them to boost their efficiencies.
“I would defend people to the end if they can show me that they’re right. I love being challenged. I prefer people with their own perspective and point of view,” she stresses.
As background, the Bates brand started in 1940, with Ted Bates as the founding father. He grew it to become the world’s fourth-largest agency group.
WPP bought Bates in 2003, but the latter’s management team in Asia fought to keep the company alive and retained its BatesAsia 141 name.
In 2008, BatesAsia 141 rebranded as Bates 141 with a new logo. It also announced the acquisition of Singapore-based 10AM, one of the most creatively awarded ad agencies in Asia.