”In terms of creative quality, China isn't there yet. It's difficult to convince clients that humor works, or even that creative is important,” said Mr. Wong, 41, who joined Euro RSCG's Shanghai office last February as executive creative director, Greater China. Before that, he was ECD, China at TBWA Worldwide, also based in Shanghai, one of the few agencies in the mainland that has managed to develop a strong creative reputation.
“Everyone in the world thinks Mr. Bean is funny, no matter where you are from. Humor works, so I'm trying to convince Chinese clients to make ads more entertaining. But they think advertising is all about products, brands and getting information into a 15” spot, which are common in China.”
Their mentality is that advertising equals TV spots and as a result, he added, they ignore the 360 degree approach to marketing and “won't think about other things, unlike foreign companies like Adidas.”
The German sportswear company has attracted attention, and awards, for outdoor initiatives in Asia like Vertical Sprint. Mr. Wong's favorite execution to date was an outdoor campaign for Adidas that ran in major Chinese cities in 2004. The ads promote the company's Olympic sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Games with two-dimensional images representing swimming, weight lifting and diving.
The campaign is “simple [but] the best outdoor campaign that I've seen in China in years, an achievement that set the benchmark for outdoor advertising in this market,” said Shanghai-based Norman Tan, regional executive creative director for Asia at Bates.
A friendly, talkative Singaporean who used to own a hotpot restaurant in Shanghai on the side, Mr. Wong left TBWA because “our visions started to change. In the beginning, we agreed that we have to be the best international agency, but we also have to work in the China market to survive. You have to strike a balance, but working with local clients is difficult and TBWA wasn't that good at it, because Chinese companies are more focused on execution than strategy, which doesn't fit with their philosophy,” he said.
“As time went on, I worried that the agency's culture was becoming too westernized and felt I needed a change,” said Mr. Wong, who had been courted by Euro's Chinese management, Richard Tan and Mason Lin, for years. He's also a fan of one of Euro's founders, Jacques Séguéla and “his passion for creativity.”
Mr. Wong began his advertising career in 1985 in Singapore, but has worked in Greater China since 1993, when he joined Leo Burnett, Taipei. After a stint in Hong Kong at Leo Burnett and Batey Ads, he relocated to China in 2000 to run the creative department at D'Arcy in Beijing.
In the past 20 years, he has won 300 awards at shows like the One Show in New York, the U.K.'s D&AD, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and AdFest. He admits awards are still one of his strongest inspirations: “Lions, Pencils, these are the things that drive me to work harder, to actually continue with this advertising profession.”
Now he's using awards to motivate, train and retain Euro's creative teams in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei, with a strategy dubbed, “The Euro RSCG Greater China 5-Stars Creative Goal.”
In what he describes as “a wake-up call to instill passion and discipline,” all five offices have to produce at least one world-standard ad for TV, print, outdoor, design/direct and interactive media worth entering at one of the big international ad festivals.
“China is not viewed as a strong creative market by the rest of the world, but we need time to develop, improve and to change. While I detest people from the outside world rushing us on this, I do not want to see ourselves moving like a tortoise either,” said Mr. Wong.
Other appointment news in Greater China
[hong kong] Universal McCann has appointed Alice Lam as managing director of its Hong Kong office. Most recently, Ms. Lam held a consulting role to Clover, a Chinese garment manufacturing company but before that she was Hong Kong-based CEO, Asia/Pacific of GroupM's Maxus division. In her new position, she succeeds Roid Sin, who recently resigned from the media agency.
[shanghai] Aquent, a human resources firm specializing in the marketing, communications and creative sectors, has appointed Alicia Tay and Lily Xu as recruitment specialists in Shanghai. Previously, Ms. Xu was consultant at Manpower in Shanghai. Ms. Tay's last position was account manager, BBDO Worldwide, Singapore.
[hong kong] ACNielsen has appointed both Yvonne Lum and Joel Chan as director, client services, customized research to lead the company's customized research team in Hong Kong. Ms. Lum specializes in the general retailing industry while Mr. Chan will focus on fast moving consumer goods as well as driving total client solutions. Previously, Ms. Lum was associate director at Research International in Hong Kong, but before that she worked at ACNielsen in Shanghai and Tokyo. Mr. Chan joined ACNielsen from TNS in Hong Kong where he was research director.
[beijing] Ogilvy & Mather has promoted Tim Broadbent to regional planning director, Asia/Pacific from regional effectiveness director. He will remain based in Beijing. He succeeds John Shaw who has relocated to London as Ogilvy's group planning director, U.K. and regional planning director, Europe, Middle East & Africa. Hong Kong-based Paul Matheson has also been promoted to regional planning director, Asia/Pacific of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, a new position. Previously, he was regional planning director, Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok.