Vivian Feng And Chivel Miao Discuss Ins And Outs Of Advertising In China
On June 5 and 6, hundreds of top-tier creative professionals convened for the New York iteration of an exclusive trade show held by Le Book, the authoritative international trade publication for fashion, photography, and advertising. The event, Connections, featured two participants hailing from the Shanghai offices of top global advertising agencies, and Jing Daily was on the scene to interview them about their experiences in China’s rapidly growing consumer landscape. Vivian Feng of Weiden+Kennedy and Chivel Miao of JWT discuss some of the hopes and challenges for the Chinese advertising industry, as well as why Le Book should bring Connections to the land of guanxi.
Chivel Miao, Art Buyer at JWT Shanghai
What is the main purpose of your trip this time?
I’m sourcing and finding opportunities to expand my talent pool. I believe in the future there will be suitable chances to work with agencies here.
Do you think Connections would be successful in China?
Connections has been a real eye opener. If Le Book can organize an event in China, we would be able to see and book top talent from around the world. China is a very unique market, not everyone can work in it.
What makes the China market unique?
For businesses, taxes are a major issue. There is a 21 percent withholding tax for overseas payments that furthermore, takes eight weeks to process. We usually have to present clients with three different bids so the tax creates a very uncompetitive base. We prefer talent with a representative office registered in China.
An event like Connections can bring people together, but the tax issue will still exist.
There’s no way around the taxation problem. The only way is to register a company in China or find a financial partner. This is government and our government is a dictator [laughs].
What advice would you give a foreign company trying to do business in China?
Register your company in China or find a local partner. Get connected.
JWT Shanghai went through some recent leadership changes. How will this effect business?
I don’t think there will be a lot of change, as long as the top leadership doesn’t change.
What is a recent campaign you’re proud of?
We won some awards for the toothpaste campaign. [“Civilization-Egypt” was part of a campaign for Maxam Toiletries depicting ancient ruins in the context of molar teeth with the tagline: “Don’t let germs settle down.” The campaign won Gold Outdoor and Gold Press Lions at Cannes International Festival of Creativity.]
What is your dream production?
I like music, EDM. A crossover like what Guess does with Tiësto is my dream production.
What do you think about Connections promoting Chinese talent abroad?
I’ve met so many agencies here that could promote Chinese artists to the world. China has so much tradition and culture that would be interesting to Westerners. Connections could serve as a cultural bridge.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I enjoy seeing peoples’ reactions when I tell them I am from JWT Shanghai. They think I’m from the New York office. They don’t expect someone to fly 14 hours for the event.
Vivian Feng, Content Producer at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai
Does W+K Shanghai use Le Book?
We like Le Book, there is a lot of information there. During our work however, we prefer to approach talent directly.
What percentage of the talent used by W+K Shanghai is local?
There is no fixed percentage; it depends on the creative brief and client’s budget. We are always looking for the most suitable talent, regardless of whether they are local or from abroad.
Do you think an event like Connections would be successful in China?
I guess it depends on Le Book’s expectations and what they want to achieve. It’s definitely a good event regardless of location. If they want to bring Connections to China, they will need to be more accommodating to the Chinese market. For example, some people may not speak English, so they will need someone to help them. Connections needs to attract people who want to participate and are curious about the talent. Because there are a lot of restrictions on doing business in China, you need to be more patient and flexible.
Closing thoughts on Connections?
There is a growing number of young Chinese who have studied abroad and returned with overseas exposure and experience. This group will be highly influential in the future. I hope an event like Connections would provide international exposure to them in addition to linking foreign talent with local agencies.
I think Chinese people are very open to finding the best way to work together now. You need to find middle ground where everybody feels comfortable and confident. That’s how business can last.