Name: Floriane Tripolino
Title: CEO & Representative Director, Publicis Groupe Japan
Years in Japan: 2.5
Increasing numbers of firms in Japan are trying to make work-life balance a priority, but in a business culture where overtime is still the norm, this is easier said than done.
Since coming to Japan two years ago, Floriane Tripolino of the Publicis Groupe has successfully implemented various initiatives. She offers a blueprint for a new working style and perhaps the shape of things to come.
Having lived and worked in multiple countries, Tripolino brings a global mindset to the Japanese organization. “In Japan, when people are telling you ‘it is unique’ they are right. I had to erase all my ideas in terms of management,” she said with a smile. “I try to push my empathy level, which is probably where my multicultural background has helped. I am trying to connect at the human level — to try and feel what the (other) person is feeling.”
Tripolino describes herself as a brand builder; someone who can build an entity that will function in the lives of consumers. “You need to ensure that the brand you are trying to build is useful to people — a functional side… but also one that can act at an emotional level. Why do you buy one product over another? Probably because you have a bond with the brand,” she said.
Sustainability is a topic close to Tripolino’s heart, and a recent concrete example is Publicis Groupe’s work on the McDonald’s Japan’s Toy Recycle project, for toys that come with children’s sets. The program is unique to Japan, which has the technology to process the multiple kinds of plastic found in the toys and recycle them into trays.
“As much as the kids love them, after two months the toys are just sitting in a box. Together with McDonald’s, we thought, why not encourage the kids to recycle the toys?” Tripolino said.
All Publicis’ creative and media interests in Japan came together under the banner of Beacon in 2001, with Japanese advertising giant Dentsu as a shareholder. Other companies have since joined the group over the years, forming an integrated entity that Tripolino considers an ideal business model for her industry.
The communications and advertising industry has seen great changes in recent years, and Tripolino’s firm has been evolving to meet these new challenges.
One major aspect has been a shift to a more holistic and collaborative business environment, requiring her team to meet the needs of clients across multiple platforms, including brand strategy, social media, web design and e-commerce. Tripolino says that advances in digital technology are also playing a large part in this new style of business.
Moreover, team members must develop new skill sets and the ability to adapt to this ever-evolving environment. “In the past, it was passive, answering the client’s requests. But in this new world, we need to be way more proactive — telling them what they need before they know they need it. This is the new reality,” she said.
She notes that the “T-shaped” skill set model is increasingly necessary in the industry, with personnel who have expertise in their field, coupled with an overall understanding of the business and the ability to work collaboratively.
Another area where Tripolino is effecting change in the workplace is in terms of supporting working mothers. As the parent of two young teenagers, this is a topic that resonates with her both professionally and personally.
“For me, there was no real contradiction between having a career and having a family. Both were possible,” she said, also acknowledging that one cannot “have it all,” and that it is also necessary to make compromises and build in some coping mechanisms.
Pointing out that Japanese working mothers still have relatively few role models in the corporate environment and often cannot rely on their partners, Tripolino said that she has “ultimate respect” for women who choose the challenging path of raising a family while pursuing a career in this country.
In view of this, a major mission has been to create a working environment at Publicis Groupe in Japan that offers a better work-life balance for employees.
One interesting program encourages employees to leave the office at 3 p.m. every Friday for four months during the summer and two months in winter. Other initiatives encourage staff to take five consecutive days off in a six-month period, as well as the option to work from home.
“Of course this (all) helps women, but there is no limit on the age of kids, or on even having kids, or on gender. At the end of the day, it is modern working style,” Tripolino said. “It has worked wonderfully well, and we have reduced overtime by 23 percent between 2017 and 2018.”
Tripolino is grateful that client companies have been understanding and supportive of these initiatives. Having her team members communicate the changes to their direct counterparts at each level has been very helpful in this respect.
One rather unique program that has won favor with her team is “Oyatsu Time” on Tuesdays and Thursdays where staff gather for snacks in the afternoon. Not only do employees appreciate the food, but it also creates opportunities for people from different areas to meet and chat, building on the collaborative atmosphere.
Tripolino herself is enjoying being in the “gourmet paradise” of Japan. “My mum is a cooking teacher; my dad is Italian and so a love of food runs in my family. It has reached a new level here in Japan,” she said, grinning.
Multicultural roots behind notable roles
Floriane Tripolino is a true global nomad. Born in France to a family with Italian roots, she has also lived and worked in Germany, Russia and Singapore. After graduating from CELSA, a communications and journalism school of the Sorbonne University in Paris, she started her career with ad agency BBDO in 1997. Tripolino went on to work at several of the world’s leading creative agencies, including international postings for J. Walter Thompson as a regional director in both Hamburg and Singapore. In 2014 she returned to Publicis Worldwide, where she served as executive vice president, head of global clients for the Asia-Pacific region before her subsequent appointment to Japan as managing director of Publicis One in 2017. She assumed her current role of CEO and representative director for the Publicis Groupe in January this year. Tripolino is a keen runner and skier, and enjoys exploring Japan with her family when time permits.
The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.