SHENAN CHUANG HER PASSION BEHIND MODERN ADVERTISING IN CHINA
BY ANN WANG
Shenan Chuang is a name that you may not have heard before, but it seems you should have Ranked 23rd in Fortune China Magazine’s ranking of the Top Businesswomen in China in 2010 and named Greater China Agency Head of the Year by Campaign Asia Pacific in the same year, Chuang is a renowned and influential business leader in China’s red hot creative industry.
Behind Chuang’s name is the agency that laid the foundations of modern advertising in China — the “academy” where countless talents have developed over the past 20 years since its entry to the mainland.
As CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Greater China, Chuang oversees more than 2,400 staff across 29 offices in 18 markets spanning first to third tier Chinese cities. With more than 35 senior management level executives reporting to her on new business opportunities and client brand strategies, Chuang is also directly responsible for developing company resources, directing business processes and managing talent and training initiatives. Despite her packed schedule Chuang still finds time daily to share her thoughts, inspirations and photos with her loyal fol- lowing of more than 1.2 million fans on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
You have to wonder, how does she manage it all? Answering this question, Chuang mentions one of her favorite quotes by Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
A 26-year veteran of Ogilvy & Mather, Chuang began her career in the agency’s Taipei office in 1985 where she eventually rose to be Chairman of Ogilvy Taiwan Group. In 2003 she arrived in Beijing to help lead the Group’s operations in the mainland.
Steering one of the world’s big- gest and most iconic advertising agencies in a market as large, fast-paced and fragmented as China is certainly not an easy task. “While Ogilvy is an international brand we work hard to tailor it to the local culture and market while maintaining the brand’s essence. One of the things I’m most proud of is that some of our largest and most loyal clients are Chinese companies that we’ve been working with for several years,” said Chuang.
Speaking about the future of the industry, Chuang says, “At Ogilvy we have a new way of thinking about brands for the new age of marketing that we live in. We call it ‘the big ideaL.’ Essentially the big ideaLTM refers to a way of connecting brands with the broader agenda that consumers and societies are looking for. It reshapes what the brand stands for, and in some cases, even what the company does around a mission, belief or point of view. Ideals require authenticity, and we believe this is the most important thing that brands must remember as they navigate the new digital world.”
Chuang is restless; she never stops looking for more things that can be done. “In advertising, you need to keep moving because there is always more to learn and there are always challenges to overcome,” she says.
Chuang defines her management style in three words: people, knowledge and creativity. Having recently hired London’s number one Creative Director, Graham Fink, as Chief Creative Officer in China, Chuang is a visionary with a passion for nurturing talent and cultivating a culture focused on creativity.
“Training is a fundamental part of the Ogilvy culture and it’s something that we have always invested in and prioritized. In China there are so many so- called ‘Ogilvy Babies’ in the industry — people that started their careers in our agency — even I am one of them.” To keep Ogilvy continuously at the top of its game, Chuang leads by example and inspires her team to take a pioneering attitude towards innovation. “Learn by doing. This is how we lead.”
One of Chuang’s first major accomplishments after moving to Beijing was to transform the agency’s office into a workplace where the physical space is infused with creativity to match her vision for Ogilvy’s culture and work. Under her direc- tion, a “Creative Floor” was built that integrated creative teams from the different disciplines which included Advertising, PR, OgilvyAction and OgilvyOne.
In 2011 Ogilvy China hosted its inaugural OgilvyForum which brought together clients, Ogilvyers, industry peers and media to explore the case for cul- tivating business growth with softpower. Chuang said, “I recently searched for the word creativity on Baidu [China’s answer to Google] and it turned up more than 78,400,000 articles. This shows that creativity is indeed gathering widespread attention in China. As a creative business we understand that creativity is at the heart of soft power.”
Inspired by her passion for art Chuang conceived of the O Gallery, an in-house art gallery which welcomes visitors to Ogilvy’s Beijing office. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, avant- garde furniture and 3D installations fill the walls and spaces of the O Gallery. As part of recent celebrations for agency founder David Ogilvy’s centennial birthday, 100 pieces of artwork created by 100 employees were selected for exhibition in the O Gallery which typically exhibits works by emerging artists from around Greater China.
Chuang was also a strong advocate of setting up a state-of-the- art digital lab. “It’s been said that advertising is the surprising blend of art and commerce. The Ogilvy Digital Lab is a fusion of these and technology and it’s symbolic of how we view the future of advertising and marketing com- munications,” Chuang said.
Located in the agency’s Beijing office, with another set to launch soon in Shanghai, Ogilvy’s Digital Lab is an experience center and digital showroom where clients, staff and visitors can learn about and experience first-hand advanced and emerging technologies such as augmented reality, mobile applications, interactive windows, digital tables, 3D wall projections and more.
As a role model for many pursuing a future in the creative industries or aspiring to be successful businesswomen, Chuang is often asked how she balances work and life. “You know it’s never been an issue for me,” Chuang says with a genuine smile. “Because my work is what I’m passionate about and what I always wanted to do. I didn’t just choose the job I chose the lifestyle,” she adds. ”