Saatchi & Saatchi’s Fan Ng on China’s ad boom, creativity and the New Director’s Showcase tour

We all know that China is booming and, along with it, its ad market. So what’s it like to work there for a native Chinese rather than a UK or US import? We asked Fan Ng, executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai for his perspective.

1/China is set to become the second-biggest advertising market after the US. Will this produce more and better opportunities for creatives or will bigger budgets restrict your freedom?

Sure, such a change creates more opportunities for creatives. We may have encountered budget restriction problems three years ago, but nowadays China’s advertising market is much more mature than it was two years ago; we are no longer limited to smaller budgets.

On one hand, there is a trend towards clients asking for more creative, more outstanding ideas. They should be aware that local agencies are not able to provide them high quality products and strong creative services, and that it is hard to compete with some international 4A agencies. Clients are eager to see outstanding campaigns bring them greater sales performance.

On the other hand, we do have more choices since the types of new media are growing, that definitely gives us more room for creativity.

2/The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase recently came to China for the first time. What impact do you think this will have and who will you show it to?

The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase can be the most avant-garde showreel in China, not as popular and easy-to-understand as “Micro Movie”, but the visual impact it brings people is stirring, it’s far more than ads, as it helps us to view things from a fresh new perspective and open up our minds, it’s more likely to be inspirational. I would recommend the New Directors’ Showcase to the people who are working in marketing, those students who major in adverting and other relevant advertising creative teams.

3/Which directors do you most admire?

Lernert & Sander
Neil Dowling & Nils Clauss
Tomi D@Punga

4/What, in your view, are the best campaigns in China currently? (One from Saatchi & Saatchi, one or more from elsewhere).
Ariel Big Stain (Saatchi & Saatchi Ghaungzhou): it ingeniously combines the new digital media with audience participation. The laundry category is becoming funny because of such exciting interactive games.

David Tsui for Wrigley’s Extra Chewing Gun: it starts with traditional TVC media, and then spins off to many different mediums such as online network media.

Heaven and Hell for Samsonite: this impressive campaign won several Grand Prix in 2011 and attracted everyone’s attention.

5/In China there are a number of dialects, almost separate languages. How do you deal with this? Do you make an English version of all your ads?

We barely extend Chinese version campaigns to English, because even if there are a number of dialects, Mandarin is still the universal language in China. Sometimes we do translation jobs, and add English subtitles to campaigns for those native English speakers in Shanghai and Beijing.

But I personally hope we can do some ads in different dialects in the near future, as many dialects have profound cultural significance.  Just like advertising language is a special art form, which has and can be influenced by the tendency of the times, I wish I could do something to document or retain the culture and share the culture with people from different cities, different countries.

6/ Do awards play a big part in your life? Which ones do you prioritise?

Awards don’t play a very important role at present. We have to admit that they do affect us in a positive way, and we are happy to win, but more importantly we want more people to participate in our campaigns, and we want to create greater influence.  We are not working for awards, but the impact awards bring us is what is really worth effort.

7/Which agencies, individuals and campaigns have had the biggest impact on your career?

Firstly, I think I should mention a special thanks to Ogilvy. I worked at Ogilvy for over 11 years.  And Saatchi & Saatchi without any doubt
Ogilvy is just like China’s ShaolinTemple, it is the place where I have grown up; it is were I learnt and practised.

Now, Saatchi & Saatchi provides me a real platform to showcase my talents. Our slogan is; Nothing is Impossible, and I truly feel that.
Also, I have to thank those colleagues, partners and friends I have been working with. Success depends on my wonderful team, not on any single person.

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