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Leading with empathy: Tats Cruz as Publicis Groupe Philippines’ new Chief Creative Agencies Officer

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Publicis Groupe Philippines (PGP) strengthens its “Power of One” promise with the promotion of Tats Cruz to Chief Creative Agencies Officer, a role that puts the tenured creative at the forefront of relationship-building and culture-defining across all PGP agencies: Publicis JimenezBasic, Publicis Manila, Leo Burnett and Black Pencil

As Chief Creative Agencies Officer of PGP, Tats will oversee all creative agencies. Her primary focus will be to help foster collaboration among different agencies to strengthen ability to deliver on clients’ ever-evolving needs, and thus further deliver sustainable growth for the network as a whole. 

Most recently Head of Agency at Publicis JimenezBasic, Tats has led creatives through remarkable partnerships with clients, winning Best in Management of Business at last year’s 4As Agency of the Year Awards. In this exclusive interview with adobo Magazine, we got to know Tats’ journey in advertising, starting out as a young dreamer to now being one of the industry’s most respected leaders in one of the biggest network agencies in the country. We also picked her brain on creativity, leadership, and today’s evolving ad world. 

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The beginning: creativity 

Tats Cruz graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a degree on AB IS (Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies), a program that champions the integration of various disciplines, and the multidimensional interests of students. Since its institution in the ’70s, it has produced graduates in the fields of law, business, education, sports, and the arts. For Tats, this was the perfect gateway to further her interest in advertising and marketing, as well as broaden her knowledge in other fields that will later on be useful in her work.

“Contrary to its reputation as a course for those ‘with no direction’ or those who are unsure, my experience with AB IS was the opposite,” she started. “AB IS offered the flexibility, freedom, and creativity I needed to pursue my interests while equipping me with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills for success in the field. Instead of feeling uncertain, the interdisciplinary nature of the program gave me clarity and purpose. I explored various fields of study, from advertising communication to psychology to business and law, all of which are essential in advertising. This approach broadened my knowledge and equipped me with a diverse skill set that is invaluable in this dynamic industry.” 

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Even this early on, Tats has already identified within herself a fascination with advertising. Until today, she told us that her favorite thing about it is “its fusion of creativity and critical thinking,” comparing its practice to cracking a mystery or solving a puzzle.

“We dive into human behavior, market trends, and connect them to brand goals, and then weave them into compelling narratives. Seeing these ideas come to life in campaigns that influence people is incredibly rewarding. It’s a dynamic field that constantly challenges you to stay creatively engaged as society evolves,” she explained. 

“I’ve always been captivated by the industry,” she continued. “When I began at J. Walter Thompson, I immediately dove into projects for major brands like Unilever, Warner Lambert, San Miguel, and Philippine Airlines. Collaborating with talented creatives only deepened my passion for advertising. Today, I feel fortunate to work with iconic brands — it’s been an amazing journey. Every day, I’m not just shaping brands but also nurturing the talent of our teams. It’s a constant affirmation that I chose the right career path.” 

It is this fascination that has fueled her career in the industry, and her passion for learning and creativity. She noted the allure of exploring new ideas and perspectives, and this constant state of discovery — transforming every challenge into an opportunity. “But,” she added, “what really keeps me going is seeing the real impact our work can have. Whether it’s forming a strong connection with an audience, driving sales for a brand, or simply bringing a smile to someone’s face, those moments of impact drive me forward and inspire me to keep pushing boundaries in our work.” 

With this, it’s clear that creativity is the starting point of Tats’ rich relationship with her work. A deep-rooted curiosity to learn and understand, and an eagerness to play and solve. It is this strong creative mindset that has truly kickstarted and sustained her career in advertising to what it is today. 

The now: creativity + empathy

These days, a different type of creativity calls. That is, the creativity that comes with leading people and fostering relationships. This is especially true now in her new role as Chief Creative Agencies Officer, which expands her leadership scope to a whole network’s worth of clientele and personnel. Surprisingly, it’s what she does out of the office — and in the very beginning of her day — that lays down the foundation of what she needs to do once she gets to work. 

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Tats starts off her day around 5:00 to 5:30 in the morning, proudly calling herself a morning person. To her, there’s a special magic in the early hours of the day — a time when the world is still quiet, and her mind is at its sharpest. “In these peaceful moments before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, ideas flow freely. The silence allows me to think deeply, and to let my imagination roam without interruption,” she mused. 

“Whether it’s brainstorming for a campaign we are working on, problem-solving for a client or a team member, or simply reflecting on life, these morning hours are invaluable. They set the tone for the rest of my day, filling me with inspiration and energy to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.” 

A big part of Tats’ role as a network leader is dealing with people in and out of the agencies she oversees. And for someone who’s been doing this for a long time, she underlines the value of effective communication and trust as key pillars in building strong relationships with clients and teams: “It’s vital to actively listen to their needs, concerns, and objectives, and then communicate clearly and transparently about how the agency and you as a leader can help,” she emphasized.

“Regular check-ins, progress updates, and proactive anticipation of their needs foster trust and show your dedication to their success. Beyond communication, strong interpersonal skills, empathy, reliability, and a genuine desire to collaborate and achieve shared goals are essential for relationship-building. By fostering a culture of respect, transparency, and teamwork, you can cultivate enduring relationships that benefit both clients and teams.”

She attributes these learnings to having advertising legends as her mentors — the late Mon and Abby Jimenez, former joint Chairpersons of Publicis JimenezBasic — who drilled in her training the importance of leading through hard work, honestly and integrity with “deep genuine concern for the people you serve,” she recalled. “[They] are the ones I would give credit to to molding me into the Agency leader I am today. They always reminded me to not be afraid of taking risks and to embrace failure as part of the learning process. In the dynamic and competitive world of advertising, being willing to experiment, learn from mistakes, and adapt to changing trends is essential for growth and success.”

But perhaps the most crucial trait that Tats believes leaders should have is empathy. Understanding each team member’s unique strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and viewpoints is key to effective leadership, she stressed, as it fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and inspired to contribute their best work. “Leaders who cultivate empathy and communication empower their teams to thrive creatively and achieve collective goals.” 

“Leaders should also actively foster creativity by encouraging experimentation, risk-taking, and maintaining an environment where ideas are welcomed and nurtured. Flexibility and adaptability are also vital, as creative projects often evolve, requiring leaders to make quick decisions and adapt strategies on the fly.” 

Tats stated, “Effective leadership in creative teams involves creating a supportive and empowering environment where creativity can flourish, while ensuring a shared focus on achieving team goals.”

Beyond: creativity + empathy = focused innovation 

Focus, therefore, is the key word of Tats’ newest chapter, embarking on a new beginning for both herself, and the network at large. “The Power of One vision began seven years ago. Since then, we’ve witnessed both the collective achievements and challenges of the agencies within Publicis Groupe Philippines. While maintaining our competitiveness as individual entities, we’ve noticed a genuine willingness to come together and collaborate when circumstances allow, offering clients something beyond their expectations and contributing to their success,” she explained.

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It is her role, then, to focus all this energy into creating better and more innovative work for their clients. “In my role as Chief Creative Agencies Officer, I’m tasked with building upon the partnerships we’ve forged, fostering even stronger collaboration and coordination. This includes nurturing talent development, managing client relationships, and streamlining business operations across our creative agencies. Ultimately, our aim is to deliver impactful and effective creative solutions for our clients.” 

This includes adapting to the constant state of change and evolution that the advertising industry calls for, especially in the Philippines’ vibrant world of communications. She believes that this change, although opens up new challenges, also offers endless opportunities for growth and creativity. There’s always something new to learn — a just-launched platform, an emerging storytelling approach, or a widely growing trend. “This dynamic environment keeps our industry exciting and full of possibilities.” 

Of course, this comes with its unique set of hurdles as well, such as keeping up with the rapid advancement of technology and shifts in consumer behavior. “Creative agencies must continuously evolve to remain relevant and meet the changing needs of their audience.” 

“Also, there’s the ongoing pressure to deliver exceptional work that not only captivates but also brings tangible results for clients. Achieving this balance between creativity and effectiveness is crucial to success in advertising.”

But it is not to be forgotten that Tats’ curiosity and fascination with the advertising industry is what started it all in the first place. Therefore, these changes and challenges are but new pathways for her to explore, and new worlds to play around in — and as a leader across agencies, this puts Publicis Groupe Philippines in a very opportune spot with her at the helm. 

“In my new role at PGP, my aim is to foster a culture of creativity, collaboration, and innovation. I strive to lead our teams in delivering exceptional work that exceeds our clients’ expectations. By staying ahead of industry trends and embracing emerging technologies, I intend to drive growth and success for PGP by leveraging the diverse strengths of all our disciplines. Client satisfaction and fostering long-term relationships are top priorities for me,” she commented.  

Speaking on this new chapter, Tats reinforced her commitment to leading PGP with focused innovation, with creativity and empathy at its core: “I am dedicated to creating a collaborative and empowering environment where every team member feels valued and motivated to contribute their best work. Ultimately, I aspire to solidify PGP’s position as an industry leader, delivering outstanding results for our clients while pushing the boundaries of advertising.” 

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Learn more about Publicis Groupe Philippines’ Power of One vision at https://www.publicisgroupe.ph/

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