“My job is to build the brand and the business solidly over the next three or four years, and try to put PHD on the map,” said Mr. Heap, 33, who is currently head of planning, China for MindShare in Shanghai.
He faces a difficult challenge amid high expectations. PHD has become the darling of the U.K.’s media scene over the past decade for pioneering innovative media solutions. In the last two years, PHD has branched out into other regions, including Asia, under the leadership of Paul Payne in Singapore, managing director, Asia/Pacific. Last year, the media agency moved its executive planning director, Mark Holden, from London to Sydney, to run Australia and New Zealand.
Now, the agency is beefing up its operations in China and India, markets where advertisers “now want an agency that looks at communication a bit differently and is not following the same patterns as everyone else,” Mr. Payne said.
“We looked long and hard for the right candidate to take us forward in China and things that struck me about Mark were his strategic and planning capabilities. But he’s not just an empty theorist about communication and media. We could see tangible evidence of strategic thinking translated into different behavior for brands.”
Although China is "still a developing market for us,” admitted Mr. Payne, the agency is already working with brands such as Standard Chartered Bank and Beiersdorf’s Nivea. “The opportunity is not just one of scale, our conversation with creative agencies and clients is that people are excited to do different things. They are tired of some agencies just leveraging scale and might, they want to be challenged in their thinking.”
Translating those conversations into income will be difficult, however. China’s media market is massive, fragmented and expensive, particularly this year. Rates for mass media like TV and magazines will reach their highest prices ever in 2008, because of the Olympic Games in Beijing this August, making the benefits of scale attractive to big-budget marketers.
Chinese companies are suspicious of small organizations lacking a proven track record. PHD will also have to quickly develop digital capabilities in China, the second largest internet market in the world, after the U.S.
“Digital is a big part of consumers’ lives, this area is something we’ve got to address,” said Mr. Heap. “We will either bring in well-rounded people with digital experience or partner with other companies within the Omnicom Group.”
However, a number of creative agencies have entered China recently, such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden+Kennedy, working with marketers like Diageo and Nike, suggesting the arrival of boutique media planning agencies like PHD was not far behind.
“PHD was set up with different positioning, there is more to media than scale and rates. I feel China is ready for this kind of approach. It’s not for everyone, but the Chinese market has changed hugely, I think there are a lot of clients who want solid strategy and fresh ideas,” said Mr. Heap, a native of Manchester, U.K.
He joined MindShare 12 years ago, when he was transferred internally from the media department of JWT, London. In 2000, he moved to MindShare in Sydney to help run its IBM business in the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games.
Four years later, he took responsibility for the group’s Advanced Techniques Group (ATG) in Australia, MindShare's econometrics and business science division. He soon relocated to Shanghai, “to raise the bar of the planning product with responsibility across all of MindShare's offices in the mainland,” he said. “I leave on very good terms, but the opportunity with PHD was too tempting a challenge to pass on.”
Other appointment news in Greater China
[beijing] Omnicom Media Direction has relocated Pauline Tsang to Beijing as general manager of its Johnson & Johnson media account in China, primarily the Xian Jansen pharmaceutical business. Previously, she was general manager of OMD, Guangzhou, a position that has been filled by Sidney Wang. Most recently, he was business director at MindShare in Beijing.
[guangzhou] DDB Worldwide has appointed Gordon Hughes as managing director of its Guangzhou office, a new position. Previously, he was exec creative director of Leo Burnett Worldwide, Greater China, also based in Guangzhou.
DDB has named Sean Liang as exec creative director of DDB, Taipei, effective Feb. 12, 2008. He succeeds Coco Chen, who resigned late last year. Previously, he was creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, Taipei.
[shanghai] Lowe Worldwide has promoted Caroline Slocombe, regional business director, Asia to general manager of Lowe, Hong Kong. She will continue her regional role, managing Lowe’s key global and regional clients in Asia such as Johnson & Johnson, Nestea and Unilever, but she has relocated to Hong Kong from Shanghai, where she was based previously. Ms. Slocombe, who has worked at Lowe for over 15 years, succeeds Ruby Or as head of the Hong Kong office.
[shanghai] Nielsen Co. has appointed Mitch Barns in Shanghai as president, Greater China, a new position overseeing the company’s operations across China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In addition to expanding Nielsen’s established consumer business in China, he will lead efforts to fully develop and integrate the company’s media services and introduce new online and mobile services to China’s fast-growing broadband and wireless markets. Previously, he was global president of Nielsen’s Homescan, Spectra and Loyalty practices, based in Chicago.
[shanghai] TBWA Worldwide has appointed Carol Lam as exec creative director of its Shanghai office, succeeding Yang Yeo, who joined JWT, Shanghai last fall. Previously, she held the same position at McCann Erickson, Hong Kong, where she led creative for the agency’s Cathay Pacific team. Over the past 17 years, she also worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett Worldwide, JWT and Ogilvy & Mather.
[shanghai] WPP Group’s GroupM media division has appointed Sara Si as general manager of GroupM Knowledge Center, a newly created specialist unit that will be responsible for industry-wide thought leadership research, exploring issues affecting the media industry in China, working with syndicated research suppliers, and managing the group’s proprietary tools, research and systems. The center will also manage a media consultancy, advising clients with specific media research requirements. Previously, Ms. Si was general manager of the group’s MindShare office in Shanghai.
[hong kong] TNS has relocated Hong Kong-based Rosie Hawkins, previously head of brand & communications research for Asia/Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, to London, as global head of brand & communications research.