Connecting over the phone with three-year DB resident Raewyn McBain, Elizabeth Kerr discovers that the inspirational CEO of Pink Tiger Media is also a dab hand at feng shui
Attention to detail is incredibly important to me,” says Raewyn McBain, on the phone from Penang where she’s currently holed up with her daughter Vanessa. No, she’s not hiding from COVID-19 (you can’t) but with Pink Tiger Media’s Global Development Centre in the city, it was an easy enough decision to stay after the Lunar New Year holiday, and after all the schools in Hong Kong shut down. It means her husband, John, has to commute from DB every week, but that’s life for the foreseeable future.
Raewyn, though, is clearly not the type who would be swayed from a face-to-face meeting in the plaza were she in town. That much is obvious, even across a telephone line. She’s not reckless but she’s obviously fearless, and unlike too many women she’s unafraid to detail her accomplishments. If a man did it, we wouldn’t even be mentioning it. She’s not arrogant, just factual.
“In terms of who and what I am, I think there’s a strong interaction between my business, my personality, my position as a woman CEO and my interest in Chinese metaphysics. It’s created an expressive person,” Raewyn says. “I am driven and passionate about both my personal and work life. I love how Benjamin Franklin phrases it: ‘It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.’”
A native New Zealander, born in the wine country (Hawke’s Bay), Raewyn moved first to New York for two years, before heading to London during its 1980s’ heyday. She lived there for 12 years, working as a journalist for Dow Jones, an experience she remembers vividly.
“What I went through in the late ’80s and early ’90s, well no one can wind me up now,” she scoffs of the days of the so-called long lunch. Sexism was (more) rampant, and degrading nicknames were par for the course. It was a lifetime before the advent of movements like #Time’sUp.
“I remember once having a job interview for a major multinational and my headhunter said, ‘Raewyn, you’ve worn trousers to your two interviews. Maybe if you wore a dress?’ You couldn’t get away with that today. And those trousers were Giorgio Armani!” Needless to say, Raewyn wore trousers to work at Dow Jones, and she’s already preparing five-year- old Vanessa to wear them in her future career. International Women’s Day is an important date on the family’s calendar.
Raewyn founded Pink Tiger Media in 1996, while still in London. Hong Kong became head office in 1998 when husband John visited to complete a two-week project, and couldn’t bring himself to leave.
Feng Shui Practitioner
“I arrived in Asia and basically fell in love with it,” Raewyn recalls. “When I was moving out here, people asked me what I was going to do. I made a flip remark about studying feng shui, making light. But when I got here and fell in love with the place – the culture, the energy, the dim sum; it just worked. It’s my favourite city in the world. What’s interesting now is that having studied feng shui, and gotten past the frustration and urge to chuck my books off the ferry, it’s just something I incorporate into my day. I love the balance.” Raewyn gained her Feng Shui Practitioner diploma while studying under Grand Master Raymond Lo, Hong Kong’s celebrated ‘Feng Shui Lo.’
Like many of us, Raewyn was first drawn to feng shui because of the stories about Hong Kong’s buildings – that many of them are designed to maximise sheng chi (positive energy). She was fascinated by the logic behind this. “Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art and science of aligning the flow of chi within a building to tap into good fortune. It is neither magic or spiritual, it requires judgement, skill and precise interpretation.When the natural forces of chi are balanced in our homes or workplaces, the occupants will have a more harmonious, healthy and prosperous environment. Its effects can be immediate and powerful.”
Raewyn embodies Hong Kong’s work-hard-play-hard attitude
Pink Tiger Media CEO
You could say balance is in Pink Tiger Media’s DNA, or perhaps it’s the natural reaction to a decadeand- a-half on the other side of the media coin. A full-service agency specialising in financial services and technology through six solution offerings, including public relations, visual media and integrated marketing campaigns, Pink Tiger Media was partially a response to what Raewyn calls “bad advertising.” Regardless of whether or not we like it, ads are ingrained in the media landscape, and their use has changed since the art was formed in the mid- 20th century. “You can’t just do a graphic or write some copy and put it out,” argues Raewyn, who gets riled at just the idea of those familiar – and ghastly – MTR ads that line escalators.
“Oh god, they’re awful and you’re quite right. Standing on an escalator and looking at some of those ads, all you can think is ‘What were they thinking?’ And typos!” she laments. “That’s people not caring and a lack of attention to detail. It’s crazy. In some cases, I wonder if it’s down to budget but that doesn’t hold water anymore. They haven’t looked at what they’re trying to say.” And therein lies the mission. Advertising is about messaging, and Pink Tiger Media – a Golden Globe Tigers award-winner for brand excellence in the banking and financial service sector – sets itself apart for its ability to cut through the noise and get the message right.
“In Hong Kong, you always have a slightly different message from one in the US or Europe. I have a number of clients whose headquarters did a graphic or a social-media message, and quite often we’ll have to tweak it. You can’t use the same message or visuals here. You just can’t.”
In addition to the Penang office, Raewyn operates in Singapore, Central and now DB, where she’s lived with her family for the past three years. Having children was something she and John “never got around to” until three years ago, when they adopted a girl locally. “Vanessa is an amazing little girl who copies Mummy’s every mannerism; she has filled my life with love and laughter,” Raewyn says. “John and I micromanaged a range of medical issues: 23 food allergies, and lung and sight problems all related to Vanessa being three months premature, which I relate to having also been three months premature. Mummy’s cuddle-and-kiss shop is open 24 hours a day.
“It’s important that women, even from a young age, grow up with a sense of self. They shouldn’t be living someone else’s life,” Raewyn adds, with reference to her daughter, but throwing the idea out in general. Raewyn herself learnt that the hard way. “I went off to boarding school at a fairly young age and absolutely detested it,” she says with a slight chuckle. “I tried everything I could not to go back, but sadly it didn’t work. It gave me a strong character and I think it set me up for travel and all that came with it.”
Vanessa attends Discovery Mind Primary School, and the family relish the DB lifestyle. “It’s changed since we first lived here in 2010. It’s now much more for business as well, and the fact we have a five-year-old helps. There are places for Vanessa to run around and ride her bike, and she can walk to school. When schools are open,” Raewyn says with a laugh. She describes the pleasantness of looking at ocean on one side and mountains on the other when on global conference calls.
Pink Tiger Media’s agile, technology-based business model makes it easier to ride out storms like COVID-19. For Raewyn, with crisis comes opportunity, and in “everything-can-happen” Hong Kong, she’s confident about the future and her place in it.
“I’m a maximalist at heart,” she finishes. “I have ridiculous drive – which I wish I could slow down.” Why stop now? After all, ‘Feel the Rush’ is Pink Tiger Media’s tagline.