Reporting to global CEO Carter Murray, Bell will start work in March and will continue to be based in Shanghai.
In an exclusive interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific this morning, Murray explained that the change in the agency's senior leadership in China, and the decision to hire an experienced planner to lead the office, indicates a new strategic direction in the market.
"A good creative agency in China, of which hopefully we are one, is something most clients can find," Murray said. "What most major clients always ask is how to crack their brand strategy for real growth in China. Ed [Bell] has an iron-clad track record for having done that."
Bell brings with him more than 20 years of industry experience and has been in China for over a decade. He speaks fluent Mandarin and conversational Cantonese and has worked on several personal-care brands including Dove—experience that will benefit one of Draftfcb China's major clients, Beiersdorf. Bell has also worked on Nikon, Chanel, Philips and has led WPP's 'Team Dell' global planning account.
“I’ve completely absorbed myself in the China market for the large majority of my career," Bell said. "I find the brands, clients and cultures fascinating and invigorating. I’m looking forward to getting started with Draftfcb and helping the agency’s clients and business prosper in Greater China.”
The agency chose to close Draftfcb's Hong Kong office in order to place greater focus on the Shanghai and Beijing offices in the near term, Murray said, adding that the office's client relationships have been consolidated into the agency's other offices in Greater China.
Since he was appointed global CEO last March, Murray has been overhauling the agency's senior leadership positions, starting with global and North American roles.
"Strengthening Draftfcb's talent has been a priority for me since day one and now, getting Greater China right is my priority," he said. "We're in the talent business, and Ed is a rare talent. He is absolutely the right leader to transform our agency offering and future."
Part of that new future could be the rebranding of Draftfcb to just 'FCB', as reported in the international press. Murray, however, was not willing to comment on the agency's possible return to its Foote, Cone & Belding roots. He would only say: "Expect me to look at every part of the company."
Editor's note: After publication, Ogilvy contacted us with the following comments:
"Ed Bell has been with Ogilvy since 1999 and with us in China since 2004," said Shenan Chuang, Group CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Greater China. "During this time he helped us to build very strong planning departments in Beijing and then Shanghai. We will certainly miss him very much and we wish him nothing but the best in his new venture. We are currently conducting a global search for the best talent. In the interim period we will be deploying our best planning resources including Mickey Chak (chief planning officer at O&M China), Saurabh Sharma (planning partner at O&M Beijing) and other senior Asia Pacific planners to ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted strategic services to our clients across China."