Hans China is a creative agency which in its 18 years of existence has shaped a remarkable place in China’s advertising landscape. Nevertheless, SHP+ felt this company does not entirely get enough credit that it deserves, neither abroad nor in its homeland China. This should be no surprise, because Hans does not officially put itself known behind its various successful activities and those are not just a few: TVCBOOK, Golden Lions Awards, 灵感 (Inspiration) mobile App, and dozen other projects. Meeting with the company’s president Wang Siyuan (River Wang), based at his headquarters in Guangzhou, SHP+ tried to get a closer look into how all these businesses are inter-connected and how this visionary adman built his ever growing “Empire”.
Wang Siyuan clarifies right away : “A lot of companies and individuals misunderstand who we are. First of all, Hans is not a production company, but people think we are because 10+ years ago we started focusing on commercial films. It’s nearly 90% of our business”. He adds: “Sometimes Hans produces commercial films, but at the core we are an agency, and our strength is creative and strategy. This has to do with me, my background has influenced the company’s DNA”. Wang Siyuan’s career developed at the time when the advertising industry was greatly emerging in China.
So, he condenses more than three decades of experience into several impressive milestones. He started working in some of the first foreign advertising agencies arriving into China in the early 90th, like Ogilvy and Y&R. During the same period, he participated in the establishment of Guangzhou 4A Association, the earliest in China, on behalf of the company. In 2003, Wang Siyuan established Hans Creative Agency. In 2015 he launched TVCBOOK platform and started the Golden Lion Awards in 2017. What comes next, we only guess, because instead of recounting his numerous endeavors with humble confidence, Wang Siyuan takes more pride in speaking about his wife’s accomplishments. “Liu Miao(刘妙) is a renowned copy-base creative who has held the title of the Chinese creative with the most international awards”,- he proudly shares. She joined Hans a year after the company’s establishment. Still today with Wang Siyuan, together they hold 75% of the company’s shares, although the company has grown and has other shareholders and partners, operating in Guangzhou, as well as Shanghai and Beijing.
采访一开始，王思远便开门见山地说：“很多外边的公司对我们都有比较错误的认知。首先，汉狮不是一家影视制作公司，但很多人认为我们是，因为十几年前我们把所有的代理业务聚焦在影视广告，所以影视广告方面是我们最重要的业务，而这几乎占了我们业务的90%。”他随后又补充道：“有时汉狮会制作广告影片，但我们的核心是一家代理公司，我们公司最大的特点是策略和创意。这个是跟我有关系，我的工作经历是影响到公司真正的DNA。” 王思远的职业生涯始于中国广告业蓬勃兴起的时期。他30多年的行业经验，可以浓缩为几个令人印象深刻的里程碑。90年代初，他进入一些外国广告公司，如奥美(Ogilvy)和扬罗必凯 (Y&R)。在同一时期代表公司，参与创建了国内最早的广州4A协会。2003年，王思远才成立了汉狮。他在2015年推出了TVCBOOK平台，并在2017年启动了金狮奖。而我们只能猜测，接下来的他还会有什么新成就，因为王思远并没有在谦虚中带着一丝自信地去讲述他的无数努力，而是满怀自豪地讲起了他妻子的成就：“刘妙以前她是 copy base，她曾经是在国内的国际奖最多的。” 她在2004年汉狮成立一年后加入公司。如今她仍在王思远的左右，虽然公司已经壮大了很多，北上广均有分部，也加入了很多合伙人和股东，夫妇两人仍然共同持有75%的公司股份。
Hans is a creative agency in its classic sense but with a focus on television advertising films. For their TVC projects, they receive briefs directly from clients, even though some brands are attached with other agencies for other category of campaigns. The company sometimes takes part in producing the spots themselves but via their production partners. As to the question about a list of production houses Hans collaborates with, Wang Siyuan’s reply is simple: “TVCBOOK is basically our list”.
“TVCBOOK is often compared to Xinpianchang, but I don’t think it’s correct. Xinpianchang has all kinds of categories, and that’s why we see it as large public platform. TVCBOOK is more focused on commercial films, and we target professionals from the ad industry— agencies, production houses, creatives, and brands”, Wang Siyuan shares. Like many similar technology based services, TVCBOOK started as internal tool gathering the resources of Hans and 15 other companies’ – members of advertisement association in Guangzhou, as well as foreign production companies they’ve established close relationships with.
In 2015 the platform became open and entirely free for the first couple of years. Now while registering on TVCBOOK and uploading of videos to the account is free, access to other functions is not. For a yearly price of 2,999CNY for individual, or 8,999CNY for enterprise with multiple accounts, users enjoy full access to TVCBOOK, including its most prized function—search. While Wang Siyuan comments positively on Xinpianchang’s broad user base and learning aspect, he distinguishes TVCBOOK as an “advertising search engine and social network for professionals”. He shares that at the pitches he often hears a question if a certain director or production house is on TVCBOOK. In other words, an account on the platform is viewed as a seal of credibility, marking creatives and companies trustworthy. As to individual users’ registrations of famous Hollywood directors like Guy Ritchie or Spike Jonze, that obviously peaked our attention, Wang Siyuan does not have a detailed explanation but assumes those were created by TVCBOOK’s international production partners.
To date, and in total there are over 230K registered users, among which 5,300 paid members. Counting that one third of users are corporate, which can have several users, this number can be multiplied.
In Wang Siyuan’s words, everything changes so fast in China, that it’s hard to predict the lifecycle of the platform. But they constantly search for new ways to keep bringing value to the industry. Expanding on TVCBOOK’s functions, they’ve created an app called Linggan 灵感 (Inspiration). In a nutshell, the app expands the core audience of advertising professionals, including other areas like design, and provides a wide search base for reference works, both in China and most importantly globally.
Throughout our conversation, one theme repeatedly reemerges — how Hans is a very different and special company. To simplify, Hans leadership was the early advocate of the idea that “the era of sharing” has arrived, and they accelerated its arrival. Wang Siyuan elaborates: “You know, the very first advertising industry association, the first 4A companies appeared not in Beijing or Shanghai. When Chinese advertising industry was emerging in the 90s, Guangzhou was the leading city. Because our company started in Guangzhou, I think this influenced our attitude. From early days to now, we often unified competitors. The rules of the game we abide by is to share resources and grow together”. Moreover, through such association of industry players as united front, Wang Siyuan believes it is possible to work with government-affiliated organizations in the direction of deeper unification. And of course, with a more official and driven goal of common interests for the benefit of all.
在我们的谈话中，一个主题反复出现，即汉狮是一家非常与众不同的公司。总的来说，汉狮是“共享时代已到来”的早期倡导者，他们的努力也让这个时代的到来得更早更快。王思远解释道：“全中国最早有广告行业协会、最早有 4A 公司的城市，既不是北京，也不是上海，而是广州。90年代的中国广告行业正初具规模，而当时的广州才是走在时代前沿的城市。因为我们公司是在广州成立的，我觉得这一点影响了我们的态度从我们早期到现在发展来讲，我们更多的是融合很多的合作伙伴，有很多的时候我们把多竞争伙伴放到了一起。我们秉承这样的一个原则，我们的游戏规则是可以大家共同来成长，共同来分享一些资源。” 此外，王思远认为，通过统一战线成立的行业协会，有可能还会有机会与政府的下属机构合作，因此朝着更深层次的统一方向发展。当然，这样还能拥有一个更官方的、更有动力的目标：共同制定行业规则，把市场做大，大家都赚到钱。
Today, Wang Siyuan continues to work as a creative director. But in his mind, creative and the business leader are his two inseparable identities. As an ambitious owner of Hans, he is on a track to the most wanted IPO, although Wang Siyuan modestly says that final goal is still far away. As to other projects and the overall direction of the industry, he dreams of a bright future: “I don’t have a single dream, it’s multi-component. First, I hope to continue creating good work that can move the audience. Second, I hope Hans continues being profitable. I’m not just talking about myself, as a boss I carry a lot of other people’s dreams on my shoulders. Will there be more companies under Hans, and other projects? It’s hard to say now, we’ll adjust according to the market. Thirdly, I hope when I retire from the industry, with TVCBOOK and other projects, I would contribute to making it more professional, healthier, and unified”.