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China Speaks, London Listens at the Shanghai London Advertising Forum 2015


Whilst Advertising Association Chief Executive Tim Lefroy’s quip that it was the AA that had orchestrated Xi Jinping’s current UK tour may have been stretching things, the Shanghai London Advertising Forum 2015 did indeed represent another significant step forward for China-UK communication and potential cooperation.

With the increasing importance of interactive, experiential and digital work, China based agencies are looking to the UK to provide much-needed expertise. It goes without saying that high-end CG/post companies Glassworks, Rushes and The Mill produce remarkable output and all three put forward the argument that working together need not be any different to working with a domestic post house, that the fundamental nature of the business is the same. Though each has enjoyed some success with Chinese clients, it’s unclear whether this will expand to more widespread and regular cooperation without a permanent China presence.


Tom Gibson (The Mill), Joce Capper (Rushes), Hector MacLeod (Glassworks)

Some UK companies have already made the move into China. MPC, the only British post house currently established in China, used the stage to showcase cutting-edge digital projects from London and announcing that these types of projects were within reach for local clients via their Shanghai studio. Happy Finish is one of the leaders in the VR industry, and as such it seems likely that their push into China will yield some interesting results. Meanwhile, the interactive work that Media Monks produces feels truly cutting edge. Their intention to open a Shanghai studio next year feels like yet another major stride forward in China’s exciting digital evolution.

Besides the illuminating industry overview from Tim Lefroy, the UK delegation’s main objective wasn’t so much about offering insight as dazzling with successful case studies, reassuring prospective partners that working with London companies needn’t live up to the expensive preconceptions, and making face-to-face connections.

The real education came from the China-based speakers. After all, China is the emerging market, the ‘New New York,’ the unregulated ‘Wild East’ where creativity is exploding in an environment steeped in unique Chinese characteristics. Companies need to know what lies ahead if they want a taste of the lucrative China pie.


On this front, the local speakers largely delivered with a varied spread of presentations by local ECDs and CCOs. Heavyweight British ECDs Graham Fink (Ogilvy) and Nils Andersson (TBWA) kept it broad and breezy, extolling the vibrant Chinese creative environment. Fink kicked of the forum by highlighting the differences with the West, telling delegates ‘everything I knew was of no use to me whatsoever,’ concluding that China was now the greatest place on Earth to be in his line of work. Andersson agrees that there has ‘never been a better time to take a risk in China,’ dispelling any preconceived notions of government interference or numbing of edgy campaigns.

Screen-Shot-2015-10-25-at-20.42.31Graham Fink (Ogilvy)

DDB’s Jimmy Lam showcased some of the best recent and long-standing work from Chinese agencies, while Leagas Delaney CCO Kevin Lee demonstrated what his agencies have achieved under limited budgets, and shattered any tired clichés that all work from China merely apes that of the West.

M&C Saatchi Aeiou’s Tony Liu delivered an engaging history lesson, “Everything You Know About China is Wrong” explaining, crucially, why clients in China can be so challenging, untrusting and insecure. London production companies may have heard the general stereotypes, but here they were displayed in all their unenticing glory.

BBH ECD Johnny Tan followed up with his “Transforming BBH Shanghai and How UK Production Companies Can be Great Partners-In-Crime” talk in which he warned that UK production companies must be willing to shed blood and enter the Chinese brotherhood – if you’re not ready to bleed, you won’t survive.


FCB ECD Andy Chan delivered perhaps the most workable, direct insight with a practical presentation “Working with UK Production Houses.  The Good Stuff, and How We Can Work Better Together” which cut through the hype to the issues that need to be addressed if there can be genuine, collaborative partnerships between the UK and China going forward.

Chan’s two key takeaways for UK delegates were ‘Flexibility’ and ‘Reactivity.’   Too often in the past have foreign companies across all forms of business venture met serious issues having entered China believing that the market must be educated to the ‘correct’ way of doing things. Certain values are ingrained and, while some aspects may be improving, coming round to a more international mentality, companies must be adaptable. More than a few of the UK delegation will be heading home today with some unexpectedly difficult to swallow but vital food for thought.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 20.42.38

In the concluding panel session, Gwantsi EP Jacqueline Zhang passionately implored Chinese and UK companies to open their minds and initiate a bold new phase of cooperation. Only through this could the Chinese industry, in which she and the local representatives are so deeply invested, really start to fulfill it’s immense potential. It was rousing stuff, capturing the pioneering spirit of Sino-British collaboration, before one audience member doused the flames by inviting the panel to explain the ‘truth’ about payment in China, such as year-long waits for payment from big clients. As a solution, JWT’s Norman Tan suggested working with local ‘mafia’ like Jacqueline who could handle this inevitable situation. The conclusion of the two-day forum couldn’t have been more appropriate if it had been scripted.

Delegates unanimously agreed that SLAF 2015 was a well-organised event that inspired, raised eyebrows and provided valuable insights to ambitious UK companies. With such enthusiasm from all sides, it does beg the question, why aren’t there more industry events like this? Let’s not wait another eight years for the next one, please.

尽管广告协会首席执行官Tim Lefroy戏言“习近平英国之行是由广告协会精心策划”,2015上海伦敦广告论坛确实在中英两国交流及潜在合作中起了巨大的作用。

随着互动式,体验式和数字化工作的重要性日益增加,中国急需英国提供专业力量。毫无疑问,Glassworks,Rushes和The Mill这三家高端特技制作公司的成就大家已经有目共睹了。他们都同意,与中国的公司合作所需要做的事情跟与英国本土的公司合作时相差无几。这三家公司均已开展了一些中国的业务,但是目前还不清楚是否会与中国客户建立更为广泛且稳定的合作关系,包括那些中国尚未涉及的领域。


有些英国公司已经迈出了进驻中国的步伐。MPC,目前唯一一家已在中国立足的英国特技公司,展示了伦敦尖端的数字化项目,并宣布中国的客户可直接接洽其上海工作室。Happy Finish,虚拟现实技术的领头羊之一,他们进军中国将会带来有益的收获。而拥有先锋性互动产品的Media Monk也计划明年在上海设立一个工作室,看来中国数字技术革命又要迎来一个重要的篇章。

除了Tim Lefroy富有深意的行业概述外,英国代表们并没有放太多精力在阐述令人眼花缭乱的成功案例,安抚潜在的合作伙伴收费不贵,或者安排面对面的交流。反而是中国代表们给他们上了一课。在英国代表们眼里,中国是一个新兴的市场,是新纽约,是不受管控的“疯狂东方”,创造力在有中国特色的环境里急剧增长。想要在利润丰厚的中国市场分一杯羹,那么这些英国公司就需要了解要面对的是什么。

大部分的中国的执行创意总监和首席创意官通过演示文件传达相关讯息。英国的重量级执行创意总监,来自Ogilvy的Graham Fink 和TBWA的Nils Andersson以其一贯的通俗活泼,大加称赞了中国的创意环境充满活力。Fink通过强调东西方差异,在论坛上告诉代表们“过去我所知的现在已全都没用了”,与此同时他亦总结出目前中国是最适合他工作的地方。Andersson也赞同该观点,呼吁大家消除诸如政府干预这些先入为主的观念,“现在是开拓中国的最佳时机”。

Screen-Shot-2015-10-25-at-20.45.20Nils Andersson (TBWA)

DDB的Jimmy Lam播放了一些中国近期出产或者之前就有的优秀作品。Leagas Delaney首席创意官Kevin Lee展示了其中国办事处在经费受限的情况下的成果,粉碎了那些鼓吹中国只会模仿西方国家作品的陈词滥调。

M&C Saatchi Aeiou的Tony Liu通过讲述生动的历史故事,告诉代表们“中国并非你想的那样”,并让大家了解为什么中国的客户会比较有挑战性,缺乏信任跟安全感。伦敦代表们对此已经有所耳闻,但在这里他们真正接触到了这些并不可爱的现实。


紧接着是BBH的执行创意总监Johnny Tan。在他的“改革BBH上海及英国制作公司如何与中国伙伴成为天作之合”中,他提醒英国制作公司要敢于流血,并且融入中国式的兄弟情谊,没有付出就不会有收获。

FCB的执行创意总监Andy Chan的分享也许最可行,老道并且接地气。他的“与英国公司的合作——好事,我们如何让它更好”直切重点,提出中英公司若要发展成为友好可信赖的合作伙伴关系,需特别注意哪些要点。Andy Chan建议英国人着重注意“灵活”和“反应能力”这两点。过去很多外国公司本着要教会中国市场正确做事的想法来到了中国,他们也因此遇见了很多问题。中国人有些观念是根深蒂固的,有些观念也是与时俱进的,这是外国公司必须要面对的。不少英国代表需要更多的时间来接受并消化这些信息。

在总结阶段,Gwantsi的EP Jacqueline Zhang热情洋溢得号召中英两国的公司要解放思想,共同积极推动中英两国合作进入到新的一个阶段。只有这样,这个她和当地伙伴们积极投身的领域,才会真正开始兑现其巨大的潜力。这篇反映中英合作先锋精神的演讲鼓舞人心,直到有位观众浇了冷水,要求解释中国支付的“真相”,譬如大客户们迟迟不付款。作为回应,JWT的Norman Tan建议要与Jacqueline这样的“地头蛇”合作以应对此类问题。若没有这段插曲,最后的总结几乎可以为为期两天的论坛划下圆满句号。

Screen-Shot-2015-10-25-at-20.45.58Steve Davies (APA), Jacqueline Zhang (Gwantsi), Tim Stephens (Interactive Media Consultant), Norman Tan (JWT, Shanghai), Jonathan Lim (Grey Group, Shanghai)


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