Dan Mintz and China
The Western Easterner…or Vice Versa
In the last two decades, China has grown into one of the world’s most powerful economic, social and political forces. By 2014, it’s expected to become the world’s second largest media market and, by 2020, the world’s second largest economy, thanks to a burgeoning middle class that currently numbers 115 million and growing.
When New York native Dan Mintz arrived in China in 1990 to scout locations for a television commercial he was shooting, he was able to see the writing on the wall. After the commercial shoot wrapped, he stuck around. “I felt that if you were going to spend five years of your life anywhere in the world, this was the place to do it, because in five years, I saw thirty years of growth. I grew up in New York, one of the greatest cities in the world, but it was already finished. China in the early 90s had room for one thing: growth,” Mintz, who is now 45, remembers.
And grow he did. In 1993, Mintz formed DMG along with partners Wu Bing and Peter Xiao. They have grown the enterprise into one of China’s top advertising/media companies, with offices in all of China’s major cities, as well as Los Angeles. “It was tough going at first, but I knew that I was living in what would be China’s ‘good old days,’” Mintz says with a laugh. “We are living in the same climate now in China, as what the postwar generation, during the 1950s, got to experience in the U.S. Every generation seems to talk about, and idealize, a time past, instead of grabbing onto the present, and really living in it fully.”
It was 2004 that really brought DMG into its own, with a game-changing campaign for Volkswagen, in which Mintz and his team very cleverly incorporated ideas indigenous to Chinese values and culture into the campaign, instead of simply translating its Western campaign ideas into Chinese, which had been the rule of thumb before. “That campaign really helped galvanize the VW brand here,” Mintz says. “So the relevancy of what we were able to offer became very clear at that time.” And DMG’s momentum hasn’t stopped.
In addition to their advertising expertise, Dan has used DMG’s resources and his own filmmaking talents to direct and produce two films, one of which, entitled Cookers, won the2001 Milan Film Festival. “In 2009, a very significant financial trigger was pulled when China became one of the biggest box office draws in the world, rising to number one for 2012 and number two for Transformers 2. There are approximately 5,000 screens in China at the moment, but in five years, seven years, there is a big push to bring that number to 35,000. So the growth is phenomenal, and the potential is obviously there. It’s been very helpful being the one partner in the company who has a background in film,” Mintz explains. DMG also distributed in China such American hits as Knowing, Twilight, and this year’s Killers, setting up the latter as closing film of the Shanghai International Film Festival. DMG also produced two number-one box office hits last year, including the top-grossing Chinese film of 2009, The Founding of the Republic. “Having been here for so long and developing a feel for what people like and don’t like, that kind of mix between science and magic is really giving us a huge advantage,” Mintz asserts.
Now that DMG has become a force to be reckoned with in China, Mintz is next setting his sights on a broader field. “I feel that now it’s about taking what we’ve done to the next level, and bringing it onto an international platform,” he says. “Being able to take something that is very Chinese by definition but has an international element to it is definitely our next step.”
Keep a look out for some large footprints, to be sure.