20 Questions with Ara Hampartsoumian, CEO of TBWA – Media Agency Interviews

Josiah Neo Media Agency Interviews

Name: Ara Hampartsoumian
Role: CEO of TBWA\Group Singapore

22 years ago, Ara Hampartsoumian came to the sunny shores of Singapore. Today, he is all settled down in this Little Red Dot leading a team of 200 as the CEO of TBWA Singapore. Under his watch, the agency has bagged multiple industry awards including – but not limited to – Marketing Interactive’s Overall Agency of the Year for 4 consecutive years. 

Outside the office, the father of 2 is learning the ropes of TikTok while getting immersed in the world of Vecna’s Upside Down. Recently, Ara took some time to let us into his busy life from his daily routines to the most pivotal moment in his career.

1. What are some of your hobbies?

Most of my hobbies these days revolve around spending time with my daughters and whatever they like to do like sports (wakeboarding, tennis, hiking), eating, TikTok’ing, shopping, playing video games, and watching movies. What normal teenagers do!

2. What is your favourite quote?

‘None of us is as good as all of us’ by Ray Kroc, although I first heard it from Nigel Bogel at BBH.

ara hampartsoumian
Image credit: Ara Hampartsoumian

3. What is your favourite movie / Netflix show and why?

I did recently get fully absorbed into the Upside Down of Stranger Things.

4. Who are some people (in the industry or outside) that inspire you?

My uncle Tro Piliguian, who was one of the original “Madmen” of advertising, he’s the reason why I’m where I am today.

5. What is your daily routine before and after work?

Wake up at 5.30am, exercise with a run or core training, coffee, coffee, coffee, scan the industry news and get into the emails and meetings. After work, not sure when that is?

6. Three words people use to describe you:

Generous, Fun, Spontaneous.

7. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:

Selfless, Empathetic, Intuitive.

8. In the 20 years you’ve been in Singapore, which food spot has been your favourite?

Aiyah, too many to choose lah. But I’m either looking for Mee Pok Tah from Song Kee Fishball Noodle or pizza. 

9. What’s your favourite thing about being a dad?

Learning from my kids.

ara hampartsoumian family photo
Image credit: Ara Hampartsoumian

The most valuable thing I’ve learnt from them is that it’s ok to not have all the answers all the time, to communicate more honestly and openly, and to figure things out together.

10. Tell us a fun fact your team doesn’t know about you:

I’m addicted to Fantasy Football.

11. What was the most memorable moment in your career?

Getting fired. It totally changed my trajectory.

12. Which campaign done by TBWA are you most proud of?

There have really been a lot of campaigns during my eight years at TBWA, but if I must choose one, it’s the work we created for Singapore Tourism Board. From launching the Passion Made Possible brand platform after we won the account in 2016, to the work we developed during the pandemic. The entire portfolio was really Disruptive for the Tourism category.

13. Which campaign was done by others most inspired you?

Arrrgh again, there are so many to choose from in my 30+ years [of experience], but these three stand out clearly:

14. How can interns stand out and have a better shot at converting into a full-timer?

They’re truly incredible as they are; confident, smart, and multitalented.

tbwa young disruptors internship
Image credit: TBWA\Singapore

15. What top three qualities do you look for when hiring creatives? Any interview tips? 

Confidence in their own ability, strategic in their creative approach, and client-business minded.

16. What do you think is the difference between a boss and a leader?

‘I believe the moment you stop being a “boss” is the moment you become a leader.’ – Ara Hampartsoumian

ara hampartsoumianImage credit: TBWA\ Singapore

17. What do you think is the best way to retain employees? 

Trust and empower them to do their jobs. Also creating a great working environment and a strong culture – it’s the only thing I believe separates us all in our industry.

18. What advice do you have for students starting a career in an agency?

The answer is in the question, treat it like a career and not a pastime, get involved in all aspects of the business, listen, learn, share and be awesome.

19. Any exciting agency developments (projects, new hires, expansion plans) you’d like to draw our attention to? 

There is always a lot going on!

We’ve launched our Disruption Accelerator offering where data is at the core of Disruptive solutions across our entire global collective. We also continue to invest in our innovation capabilities, deepening our offerings and hiring some amazing talent. We’ve enhanced our conventional approach to retention with data-driven retention strategies, elevating efficiencies and success to identify early causes of resignation, and we’ve created and implemented a true career mapping development program regionally. 

We’ve also continued to heavily invest in our training, expanding our expertise in skills, such as data analytics, leadership negotiations and Disruption X (commercially driven solutions for our clients).

20. What do you hope to achieve at TBWA in the next year?

We hope to continue being recognised for our ability to create work that extends beyond traditional advertising, work that fuses creativity and experience, adding value and impact for our clients.

Related links:

Ara Hampartsoumian’s LinkedIn
TBWA’s website

This post is part of our Media Industry Leaders series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected].


Cover image adapted from: Ara Hampartsoumian, TBWA\ Singapore

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