Saatchi Labs is a digital specialist team that aims to significantly raise the standards of Saatchi & Saatchi's digital execution in China and represents a critical change in the digital capabilities of Saatchi & Saatchi in China, according to the agency.
Saatchi Labs Greater China will be primarily based in Beijing, Cheng said, as that it is where the agency has a critical mass of digital capabilities. But the unit will also have staff in each office across China, dependent on client and agency needs.
Cheng’s role will be to consolidate and expand on the digital talents of the existing five Saatchi & Saatchi offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, as well as Team One (a specialized team dedicated to the Lexus account in Saatchi's Beijing office).
Saatchi Labs will have senior staff embedded in these offices to oversee every area of functional expertise in terms of digital strategy, technologies and intelligence through data, as well as centralised project management.
"Many existing 4A agencies have a strong branding and advertising capacity with a specialized digital arm," Cheng said. "It often creates hurdles and silo effect to clients who are looking for integrated solutions, as there is often a disconnection from the process of branding and advertising to digital communication execution. The latter is more consumer-centric, and so far no agency group in China can really bridge this gap."
Cheng's first digital advertising role was with Saatchi & Saatchi Taiwan 13 years ago, and his earlier career has been focused on direct marketing and database marketing, he said.
Cheng has been working in the China market for 12 years and was one of first digital executives to enter into China market, which he did to run AdXplorer, a startup company in Shanghai that was later acquired by Publicis as Publicis Modem.
Cheng's digital agency career includes appointments with OgilvyOne Shanghai for three years as managing director, and head of CIB (CRM, interactive and direct marketing) for Draftfcb China.
"I believe our potential in China is very huge, and hope to expand this Saatchi Labs model to other parts of Asia in three to five years’ time," Cheng said.