Christine Song
May 14, 2015

Coping with digital’s moving goalposts

CREATIVE PROFILE: An atypical background coupled with an insatiable interest in ideas, storytelling and new technology has propelled Shanghai native Feiwei’s career.

Local pioneer: Feiwei’s digital background and local insight put FCB in strong position in China
Local pioneer: Feiwei’s digital background and local insight put FCB in strong position in China

When Feiwei joined FCB last year as chief creative officer, expectations were high. The former head of digital at Ogilvy brings with him an illustrious 18-year career making him a force to be reckoned with in the rarified world of creative technologists. 

But Feiwei is especially pleased that FCB was interested in more than his digital prowess. “There are lots of executives with digital backgrounds. I am a little different from purely digital professionals, since I have experience working for 4As (traditional advertising agencies) and that was key.”

The new CCO’s digital roots date back to 2001, when he was part of the founding team of an agency that was eventually acquired by Publicis to become Digitas China. As part of the first generation of digital advertising executives in China, Feiwei believes that ‘digital’ is often misunderstood to be a medium, when in fact it is an entirely new media environment.

“Technology has changed the way people receive information,” he says. “As a result, consumer behaviours have changed. Digital has become the new way of communicating with consumers.”

The definition of ‘digital’ has evolved through seven or eight iterations, muses Feiwei. “In 18 months, everything you know will be irrelevant.”

When asked how he keeps up with the change, he describes himself as someone who is “attracted to new ideas and technologies and as soon as I learn about them, I move on to the next one”. He may mock himself for lacking focus, but one could be led to believe this quality is the reason behind a thriving career in an ever-changing landscape.

His approach may also make him well-equipped for FCB’s media-neutral strategy. Since he took the helm as creative leader, the agency has won accounts with brands such as Skoda and Barbie.

The Shanghai native also proudly cites the successful and unconventional launch of Go Player, the spunky upstart energy drink competing against a highly recognised Red Bull. For that brand, Feiwei’s team designed a challenge in which target male consumers were invited to open custom-made, hard-to-open Go Player cans as a test of strength and, perhaps, their level of ‘coolness’. The campaign successfully created buzz and Go Player can now be found in 2,000 convenience stores across China.

“Digital or not, ultimately, I am a storyteller,” he says. “Technology gives us a lot of support,  but its just tools to tell a great story.” He also claims to be the first local professional to have been appointed to a top creative job by a multinational agency in China, but quickly downplays this. “Advertising needs to be local, and inevitably, local talent will take up senior positions. It has not happened before simply because advertising is a relatively young industry in China.” 

The challenges FCB faces aren’t unusual for its category, he commented. “We are working in a complicated environment where clients are demanding more and the pace is faster than before. The firm is currently set up for traditional advertising, but the team is adapting to the new pace.”

Feiwei credits his degree in industrial design from Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, that started him on the path to digital advertising when “everyone was talking about this thing that was going to change the world”.

So while his classmates designed car engines, Feiwei’s curiosity led him to the UK, where he earned a postgraduate degree in ‘time-based media’, a multidisciplinary multimedia and filmmaking course. “I wanted to find answers to questions I had about the internet and this was the closest that I could find.” 

Feiwei may have started with a head full of questions, but along the way, he became the one everyone else turns to for answers. 


CV: Feiwei

  • 2014 Chief creative officer, FCB Greater China
  • 2011 Head of digital, Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai
  • 2007 Senior creative director, JWT Shanghai
  • 2001 Head of creative communication Central Group (now Digitas China) 

 

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