Retail in Asia

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INTERVIEW with F5 Shanghai, a Chinese creative agency

Adams Fan

In partnership with MarketingPulse 2021, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Adams Fan, Founder & Chief Creative Officer of F5 Shanghai.

Adams named his agency F5, inspired by the keyboard button that refreshes and breathes new life into dated ideas. Adams believes that global vision, technology, and exploring different mediums and processes are effective ways to communicate in a disrupted era.

SEE ALSO : MarketingPulse: Marketing for good amid the pandemic

Adams’ foresight paid off with F5 now being recognized in China and overseas as one of the hottest creative shops in the industry. As of date, F5 works for technology giants, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, all at the same time. Its rich knowledge and strong capabilities in the field of e-commerce and AI lend to its capability to produce engaging digital growth and experiential marketing.

F5 also helps Midea air conditioners and Alipay conquer overseas markets, such as Europe and North America. It also helps international brands, such as Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and German brand Finish, create a sensation in the local market. 70% of F5 members have overseas backgrounds, and English is one of the working languages.

Adams is a keynote speaker, having spoken at 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and AdFest 2018. Adams also judged at The One Show 2020 and is a frequent award winner of Cannes Lions, One Show, Spikes Asia, and Busan Advertising Festival, and more.

RiA: You have been working with international companies targeting Chinese consumers, what have been the main challenges in your experience?

Adams: China is an economic powerhouse, its economy is growing very fast. Many local brands have even replaced international ones that used to dominate the local market.

The first reason is because the new generation is composed of numerous local entrepreneurs who are great at not only creating good products, but also in marketing their goods and services. They are well-versed at using modern and innovative ways of marketing to reach out to consumers. They are also more in touch with consumers’ behavior and demands compared to international competitors. This helps them better
communicate and satiate customer needs and wants.

The second reason is the result of the pandemic. China was the first country to put Covid-19 under control, which enhanced national pride and patriotism. At the same time, many Western countries accused China of the pandemic, which pushed customers away from patronizing international brands, and instead veered them towards local substitutes.

RiA: What campaigns have been received in a positive way and why?

Adams: The campaign F5 Shanghai created for Pfizer received pretty positive response. In August 2020, Pfizer was speeding up vaccine research and testing to ensure that we will win the fight against Covid-19. To bring hope to a fear-stricken world during a global pandemic, Pfizer collaborated with us to come up with a groundbreaking experience that showed how when you save lives, you also preserve possibilities.

Pfizer poster
Source: F5 Shanghai

F5 Shanghai developed the “Mozart 80 Concert”, AI-generated pieces that were performed for the very first time in a live concert. AI learned all the works of Mozart who died at 35 years old, combined his styles, and predicted the musical characteristics of his work if he were 80-years old. On the evening of 22nd September, 2020, the pieces were performed by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra at the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall. This campaign ended up with great success because it was able to bring back light into the world and also helped Pfizer earn the Best Employer Award in 2020.

RiA: What would be your advice to companies willing to target the Chinese market post-pandemic? 

Adams: The company should show its vision and should try to make this full-of-problems world a better place. The company should also try to draw people’s attention through fresh, entertaining ways, instead of disturbing or cliché methods. Bold ideas told in fresh ways are always better appreciated compared to mediocre ideas and safe executions.

The Chinese market is bombarded with constant innovation, so the company is not just competing with their competitors – they are competing with all kinds of new and cool

RiA: You also supported Chinese companies targeting international audiences, what have been the main challenges in this case?

Adams: The cultural gap. Good thing that 70% of F5’s employees have overseas study or working backgrounds. We know what is happening all over the world even if we are just located in Shanghai at present. We have contacts from all the top suppliers in Europe, the States, Middle East, and even South America. By combining these global resources, we are able to help Chinese companies, such as Midea, Alipay, and more to explore overseas markets.

RiA: What campaigns have been received in a positive way and why?

Midea AC poster
Source: F5 Shanghai

Adams: The commercial we produced for Midea AC (a Chinese electrical appliance manufacturer) for North America market is a good example. Similar to a musical, the story revolved around a delivery man who was on his way to delivering the AC unit. Along the way, Brooklyn city building windows around him broke into song, singing about how they could easily “open and shut” – a product feature that this U-shaped product wanted to highlight.

The campaign was a result from addressing consumers’ demand in New York where many pre-1960s residential buildings make the installation of split AC units or central AC units too expensive and complicated. So to avoid high labour costs, the Midea U was invented. Thanks to the innovative product and the entertaining commercial, the AC got 70X fund in Indiegogo, sales soared, and the commercial was featured by various international leading advertising medias, like SHOTS based in the UK.

RiA: There is a lot of talk about e-commerce, what is your view on brick-and-mortar in China?

Adams: China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, propelled by e-commerce subsidiaries of the Alibaba Group — Taobao, Alibaba, and Tmall — plus competitors and Pinduoduo. Research firm eMarketer estimates that all Alibaba marketplaces plus and Pinduoduo will take a hefty 83.6 percent of the retail ecommerce market in 2020. None of the brands can ignore e-commerce. A good brand image is still needed. Those brands who perform well in e-commerce like Apple, Estée Lauder, Dyson, P&G are all investing a lot to become the top choice in online shopping.

e-commerce delivery
Source: F5 Shanghai

RiA: AI is a hot topic, how can marketing professionals leverage on it to boost digital growth of their brands?

Adams: Normally there are 2 ways that AI can be used. The first is that it can be used to create unforgettable experience. AI can generate a unique tailor-made experience for the individual. The second is that it can be used to make your content only target the
audience that you want, which is much more cost effective.

RiA: What are the untapped platforms in China we should keep an eye on?

Adams: There is no secret under the sun, so there is no so-called untapped platform. But some new way of marketing you should keep an eye on are live commerce in Douyin (Tik Tok’s Chinese version) and Kuaishou. Also, an emerging platform where the Gen-Z gather, which is a channel that many famous brands do not ignore to connect with young consumers.

SEE ALSO : Do you know your Gen Z?

RiA: What to expect from you at MarketingPulse and from the Festival?

Adams: I will share about how global brands can get LIKES across the country, and how Chinese brands can win more percentage in overseas markets, from the perspective of someone in the marketing and communication industry. Hopefully it will give some inspiration on how to win in China and global market.

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