Robert Sawatzky
Jun 29, 2017

FCB rejigs China leadership

CEO Edward Bell heads to Cathay Pacific.

Left to right: outgoing FCB Greater China CEO Ed Bell, newly appointed FCB Shanghai CEO Josephine Pan, FCB Greater China chief growth officer Dennis Lam
Left to right: outgoing FCB Greater China CEO Ed Bell, newly appointed FCB Shanghai CEO Josephine Pan, FCB Greater China chief growth officer Dennis Lam

FCB is changing its leadership structure following the upcoming departure of Greater China CEO Edward Bell in mid-July, who is moving brand-side to Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong.

At Cathay, Bell will be taking on the role of general manager, brand, insights and marketing communications, effective August 21. 

Rather than appoint a new CEO for Greater China, FCB has decided to promote its existing managing directors in the market to split up leadership duties. 

Effective immediately, Josephine Pan, former managing director of the Shanghai office now takes full control of the agency’s largest creative office in China as chief executive officer, FCB Shanghai. 

Dennis Lam, former managing director of South China operations in Hong Kong is now promoted to chief growth officer for Greater China, with responsibility for FCB offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Beijing office with its CRM-specialization.

FCB’s Greater China management team will continue to be rounded out by chief strategy officer Steve Xue, chief financial officer Norman Lo and chief creative officer Fei Wei.

“Cathay Pacific is one of the world’s great experience brands,” Bell told Campaign. “When those kinds of opportunities come along you have to take them seriously, and that’s what I did.”

“I really enjoyed my time at FCB tremendously,” said Bell, who joined the agency in March 2014 from Ogilvy. “I will miss the FCB people—they’re absolutely fantastic. And there’s a great sense of passion and purpose around what’s going on at FCB right now.”

Pan, who joined FCB in 2013, has proven herself as a strong and trusted leader, said FCB Worldwide CEO Carter Murray in a release. “Her strong performance—combined with her experience working closely with Ed and our Greater China leadership over the last few years—made her the perfect candidate for this job.”

Murray told Campaign that FCB’s recent momentum in China made a strong case for promoting in-house. Bell, Pan and Lam have been credited with helping to turn the China operations around over the past three years while growing profit.

The Chinese market, however, is becoming increasingly competitive. Brands are spending more selectively and many agencies are struggling to sustain revenue growth. 

Pan's priorities

“I think cost-efficiency will be everyone’s focus, especially from the client side,” Pan told Campaign. “Cost-efficiency also as an agency…will be something I want to improve on.”

Strong collaboration with various IPG partners in China, such as FCB's recent work with GolinMagic, is expected to help drive more synergies and efficiencies.

At the mid-sized boutique firm, Pan has been an account-driven leader, working with key global clients like Beiersdorf (NIVEA), Levis and Bosch. But increasingly, local brands are playing a larger role and Pan has shown flexibility in also catering to Chinese clients like Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPD) and WM Motor.

“You need to have leaders who have a great understanding about how to grow the local business,” said Murray, noting the differences of Chinese ecommerce platforms and their growing importance. “I want us to be ultra local…which is why Josephine who grew up in Shanghai has the potential to be an extraordinary leader in China.”

Challenges ahead at Cathay

Bell, meanwhile, will likely have both local and global brand challenges on his hands when he lands at Cathay next month.

The airline is undergoing a major restructuring with hundreds of jobs slashed this year. Some experts say that Cathay’s inability to fulfill passenger experience with its brand positioning has not helped the airline’s cause.

“It’s exciting. It’s going to be one hell of a ride,” Bell told Campaign.

“Cathay Pacific is a great brand with tremendous brand foundations. It’s widely respected and deeply loved… . But it’s a brand in an industry like many industries these days that’s being disrupted and the team at Cathay are working hard to find their way through that and to reposition back as a dominant premium experience brand. I’m looking forward to contributing to that project,” he said. 

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