China's ad industry has evolved as a parallel universe over the past 20 years, with global agency networks handling ad accounts for multinational advertisers and Chinese agencies working with local companies. There was very little overlap until executives such as May Tse Wing Yee reversed the trend by combining Western experience with local market knowledge.
Ms. Tse joined Online Marketing Partner, a digital agency founded by Jeffrey Ding, as VP in June 2011, when its success with domestic companies such as skin-care and cosmetic maker Proya began to gain the attention of Western firms.
"It is easier to operate in China as a local agency," said Ms. Tse. "It's easier to talk with the client and we can be more flexible since we are not part of a … network."
OMP handles digital marketing for companies such as FrieslandCampina, maker of Friso brand baby and infant food products; L'Oreal's Biotherm; Maybelline; and L'Oreal Professionnel brands. The agency recently launched a "Live Like a Man" campaign for Biotherm featuring a digital men's encyclopedia, tips, and branded apps to educate male consumers about skin care.
Ms. Tse is adept at winning business from Western agencies because she spent much of her career at them. She started at BBDO, Hong Kong, working with brands such as Cartier and Hyatt Regency.
The Hong Kong native went on to work at creative, digital and media agencies, but found a home last year at OMP, where she leads online media strategy, planning and buying.
"OMP is one of China's largest independent digital agencies and May has been a great driver in that , helping OMP grow to over 250 staff," said Greg Paull, a principal at R3 in Beijing.
"We're really pushing the strategic-consulting side of digital marketing and offering full-service to clients, not just media buying," Ms. Tse said.
Ms. Tse doesn't worry about convincing multinational marketers that OMP can handle their business. She said the agency's biggest challenge "is convincing local clients we have international connections as they start expanding outside China."