Compared to working in Singapore or London, for example, “things happen much more quickly in China,” said Mr. Yang, who succeeded Eddie Wong, now ECD, Greater China at Euro RSCG, Shanghai.
But his steady demeanor belies the significant transition this up-and-coming creative has made in the past six months. At TBWA, he oversees one of the strongest creative departments in China with more than 50 people in a large, growing market deemed critical by clients such as Adidas and Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas. Both marketers have been fighting for brand awareness and share growth against the market leaders in each category, Nike and Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker whisky, in a market that evolves with lightning speed.
According to the World Bank, China has surpassed the U.K. to become the fourth-largest economy in the world. But the country’s developing status is apparent in its dearth of good creative. Only a handful of agencies, led by TBWA and its direct-marketing arm, Tequila, even attempt to produce world-class campaigns.
Until last January, Mr. Yang had only a dozen staff in Singapore, where he was managing partner and creative director, Asia at Fallon Worldwide, working alongside the agency’s president and creative director for Asia, Calvin Soh. The pair founded Fallon’s Asian operation in Singapore in early 2002, and later opened an office in Hong Kong to work with advertisers like United Airlines and Carlsberg.
Mr. Yang began his advertising career in 1991, and has also worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, Bates and Ogilvy & Mather. He was hired as senior art director when Bartle Bogle Hegarty opened its regional Asia/Pacific office in Singapore in late 1996, and was transferred to that agency’s London headquarters in 1999, where he worked on Levi’s, Polaroid, One2One, Nationwide and Audi.
Oddly for a creative in a liberal industry, he’s also a great shot. While serving in the Singapore army, Mr. Yang was company commander of a combat engineers unit, and became a decorated marksman.
His favorite creative execution was a 3,337-square-foot ad placed on the floor of Hong Kong’s Airport Express station last year, called “Have America at your feet,” for United Airlines. Designed to highlight key American city destinations served by the U.S. airline, the agency decorated the floor of the high-traffic check-in concourse with illustrated floor-art stickers and elevator wraps.
The technique gave visitors to the concourse the sensation of flying over the U.S., “which was a very unusual way to get our message out, using 3D visuals,” said Mr. Yang, who flies below the radar compared to many of his contemporaries.
At Fallon, for example, “Calvin was the showman,” recalled Charles Edwards, executive producer of Media Village, a media consultant who earlier managed Fallon’s Hong Kong office.
“Yang was the solid, detail-oriented problem-solver who shunned the spotlight in favor of getting the job done. As a creative partner, he is always rooted in the client’s business, which makes him a pleasure to work with. He was a great coach, some [staff] used to refer to him as 'Uncle Yang.’”
He left Fallon this year largely because he was eager to work in mainland China, now one of the largest advertising markets in the world: “This is a great time to be in China. I really wanted to be a part of what’s happening here--the scale, the growth, the changes, the opportunities. This is an exciting time to be here, but Fallon wasn’t planning to open an office in China,” said Mr. Yang, even though the move has left him separated from his live-in girlfriend, Ching Ian, managing director of ZenithOptimedia, Tokyo.
At TBWA, he joins a relatively new team put into place over the past year by Gavin Heron, CEO of TBWA's China operation, including Nick Barham, planning director for China and an even more recent arrival, Carter Chow, who joined the agency in April as client-services director. The new hires are part of an effort to raise the Shanghai office to the level of TBWA’s esteemed hubs in New York and London.
“We were looking at someone with experience in the region and China but who had also worked internationally. Yang fitted with bill with experience across the region as well as in London. An added bonus was Yang's experience in running an agency,” said Mr. Heron.
Other appointment news in Greater China
[hong kong] David Morgan has resigned as CEO, Asia/Pacific, Mediaedge:cia ( MEC) to take on a new position as Universal McCann's president, Asia/Pacific in Singapore. His regional MEC role will be divided among three people. Shanghai-based Bertilla Teo, MEC's China CEO, will now run North Asia. Singapore-based Stephen Li, chief operating officer, global solutions, now has management responsibilities for South and Southeast Asia, and Singapore-based Chan Huang Yee, formerly deputy chief financial officer, Asia/Pacific for GroupM, will have a management role for MEC in Asia/Pacific.
[guangzhou] S.C. Low has been named creative director, Publicis Worldwide, Guangzhou, a new position, from creative partner at TBWA Worldwide, Singapore.
[shanghai] Tan Shufen has been appointed director-general manager, China at Upstream Asia, based in Shanghai. Previously, she was Greater China practice leader for digital business and the media service group at Ketchum. The communications company has also appointed Alex Wu as director for China, to lead the Upstream office in Beijing. Most recently, he was VP at Dynabond Inspiration PR in Beijing. Both are filling new positions.
[hong kong] Steve Garton, Hong Kong-based director, media research, Asia/Pacific at Aegis-owned research company Synovate, will relocate to London as global head of media research, a new position. He will be succeeded by Craig Harvey. Previously, he was regional director, consumer insights at Publicis Groupe Media, also based in Hong Kong.
[hong kong] Lawrence Wan has joined OMD, Hong Kong as digital director, Greater China. Previously, he was business manager at PCCW Directories (Yellow Pages), also in Hong Kong.
[taipei] Robert Hsieh is moved to ZenithOptimedia as managing director of its Taipei office, succeeding Susan Wang, who recently resigned. Previously, Mr. Hsieh was managing director of Initiative, Taipei.