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AnalogFolk opens office in Shanghai as clients ‘need to get smarter’ in China

Independent creative agency AnalogFolk has opened an office in Shanghai as it looks to help global clients navigate China’s “incredibly impressive media landscape”.

From left: Chris Ryan, Asia ECD Harry Llufrio, Wayne Fan and Tommy Liou

The London-founded agency, which has operated in Hong Kong for the past two years, will primarily service its global client Jacob’s Creek in China, with “aggressive growth” planned for the office next year.

Headed by managing director Wayne Fan and creative director Tommy Liou, the Shanghai office has already hired 10 people and will work with AnnalogFolk’s Hong Kong own roster of clients. Both Fan and Liou will become partners and shareholders in the Shanghai business.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia about why the agency was now moving into China, AnalogFolk Asia managing director and partner Chris Ryan said: “The IMF is forecasting good growth in China; six per cent, which while is not the double-digit growth they had in the past, it’s still good. That looks good for clients. The main thing is for us to be there to support their ambitions.

“The key channel is China’s incredibly impressive media landscape: it’s far more advanced than most digital landscapes out there. We tend to see 50 per cent of budgets or more allocated to digital, and that’s what we still see lagging behind in the West. However, the market is becoming more sophisticated and clients need to be smarter in China.”

Originally from Taiwan, Fan has 23 years of agency experience in China, working for WPP agencies Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, and Isobar.

Also from Taiwan, Liou has more than 18 years of creative experience in advertising and communications. He was previously the executive creative partner at Cheil Worldwide, Beijing, where he focused primarily on the Samsung business.

Speaking about the choices of Fan and Liou, plus talent generally in China, Ryan added: “Wayne and Tommy are among the best in the market. It’s important that we don’t just install Westerners in a fundamentally non-Western market. We had to ensure the people we found were the best in the market to give us an immediate overnight.

“I haven’t seen many examples of local leadership talent that have been able to create the kind of agency that would meet the kind of standards we would expect. I think in time that will come in China. The difference with Tommy and Wayne is that they are Taiwanese, so they have a very Western outlook, but also a very finely-tuned local outlook. They are quite inspiring leaders and they have already started attracting the right talent.”

Founded in London in 2008, AnalogFolk now has offices in Hong Kong, Sydney, New York, Portland, plus Shanghai. Ryan left his job as the CEO of Isobar Hong Kong to take over as AnalogFolk’s Asia MD when the agency expanded there in 2015.

Since opening in Hong Kong, the agency has won global accounts with Pernod Ricard, Steelcase and Swire.

Asked about whether Hong Kong still held promise for agencies, as brands increasingly move their Asia-Pacific hubs to Singapore, Ryan said: “There is a still a good deal of potential in Hong Kong. I do think people are right to express some concerns about it as a sustainable business environment, but certainly for the time being it holds some good potential. 

“Hong Kong has proved a great opportunity for us to grow, and there are big global HQs here: Dyson is here, Pernod Ricard is here, one of HSBC’s twin global hubs is here.”

Singapore, though it does have regional clients, has almost every agency under the sun, plus a lot of local shops. And the budgets in the digital space at least are not particularly generous. So you have hundreds and hundreds of agencies fighting over a small sliver of a very small pie.”

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