Bates Asia's Mike Wong

Other people news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--After a career of working in Asia's largest multinational networks and small, nimble independents, Mike Wong, 45, will move into the middle ground by taking a new position at Bates Asia, a small regional network backed by the resources of WPP Group.

As head of strategy for North Asia, a new position, he will help the agency's key clients, Nokia Corp. and HSBC, fine tune their message in the region, particularly in mainland China. He will also help the agency develop its strategic planning capability.

Although the Hong Kong native will not start in the new role officially until January 2007, he is already traveling to Bates offices around the region such as Shanghai, where he is based, and Seoul “to get an orientation,” said Hong Kong-based Jeffrey Yu, president of Bates Asia.

They first met after Mr. Yu took over as chairman of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Hong Kong (HK4As) five years ago. Mr. Wong was on the committee and later took over the chairman role from Mr. Yu.

“We worked well together,” said Mr. Yu, who thought of his former colleague “when this opportunity came up with an interesting job. Mike is one of those unique guys who’s done planning and management, so why take another stressful profit-and-loss job when he can work on strategy instead? I was looking for someone who understands planning but also understands the business side of the industry. He’s one of those unique fellows.”

Most recently, he was managing partner of the Eight Partnership, where he helped the independent Hong Kong-based ad agency and custom publishing company expand its operations into mainland China. He was drawn to Eight by Charles Brian-Boys, another managing partner there. They became friends when they both earned an MBA degree from the Kellogg School of Management and University of Science & Technology at the same time.

Before that, he was VP, Greater China and managing director, Hong Kong at McCann Erickson and earlier, managing director of Ogilvy & Mather’s Hong Kong office. At his first major industry position, head of planning at J. Walter Thompson in Hong Kong, he met a colleague who later became his wife, Shantel Wong, now Starbucks’ VP-marketing for Greater China. He is also a regular lecturer on consumer behavior and audience analysis at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

His twofold role at Bates will entail significant work with key clients, particularly Nokia and HSBC, by upgrading the agency’s planning quality. Besides multinationals, Bates also works with local companies, especially now, since Mr. Yu acquired a 51% stake in APEX, the largest agency in China’s Szechuan province, earlier this month. The details of the transaction were not disclosed, but APEX earned $4 million this year in revenue and has 120 staff.

Mr. Yu admitted he underestimated local agencies like APEX originally. “I always thought only multinational agency guys understand advertising but local agencies do too. I quickly realized how intelligent they are.”

What they lack, he added, “is a systematic process to put their thinking process forward in an easy-to-understand way for local clients. But they are already very good and we can learn from them too. They absolutely understand local consumers better than foreign agencies.”

Based in Chengdu with offices in Chongqing and Xi’an, APEX works with Guo Jiao Group, a leading Chinese wine producer, the Szechuan Tourist Board for its Chengdu Food Festival and the leading tea brand in Chengdu, Zhuyeqing.

But its biggest client is Mengniu Dairy. The agency earned national prominence last year when it orchestrated sponsorship of the second season of China’s Supergirl TV show for Mengniu. That season of the singing contest, produced and aired by Hunan Satellite TV, one of China’s most innovative provincial broadcasters, became the most-watched TV show in Chinese history, largely due to the dairy’s savvy marketing efforts surrounding the show.

“APEX is the key entry point for us to big local clients in China. We want to help them assist local clients in understanding their strategic market position,” said Mr. Yu.

Mr. Wong has also been assigned the task of “helping Bates staff better understand key changes taking place through the rise of new media and cultural trends. Changes happening in daily life in Asia are changing brand preferences,” said Mr. Yu. In particularly, he will oversee Changepoint, a strategic planning tool designed by Bates Asia.

“He will help the agency improve its research, both by conducting our own research through strategic alliances with WPP companies and through alliances with local universities.”

Other people news in Greater China

[shanghai] Richard Lee, Shanghai-based VP-marketing for Greater China at Pepsi-Cola International, is relocating to New York next month for an international position at the U.S. food and beverage company. His title has not been announced, but he will take on a global marketing role.

Mr. Lee, 41, has turned Pepsi into one of the hottest youth brands in the mainland since he was recruited as marketing director for the soft drink brand in China in 1997. Tapping into his roots as an aspiring filmmaker when he was a teen in Hong Kong, Mr. Lee developed TV commercials for Pepsi that resembled popular kung fu epics. He also focused on innovative online promotions that tap into the popularity of the internet in China, such as the Pepsi Creative Challenge, which allowed Chinese consumers to develop the storyline for its latest commercial starring pop star Jay Chou. (See also "Pepsi brandbuilder Richard Lee," AdAgeChina, August 1, 2005)

Harry Hui will succeed him as head of PepsiCo's marketing in Greater China. Until last September, the Hong Kong native was president, Southeast Asia of Vivendi’s Universal Music. Mr. Hui ran Universal Music’s operation in Asia for five years, particularly in China, where he led the company's aggressive digital media strategy. Before that, he was a senior executive at Viacom’s MTV Networks Asia.

[shanghai] Barry Leung has joined Ogilvy & Mather in Shanghai as CEO of its activation division in China. For the past year, Mr. Leung has run his own consultancy in China. Before that, he was Shanghai-based regional director, Greater China at Bates Asia.

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