Chan spent the intervening year in some project-based consulting for startups. In his new role, he will spearhead Havas’ creative offering with a special focus on Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. He will report directly to Mason Lin (林名正), chairman of Havas Creative Group Greater China.
The China CEO role was empty (with Lin running the whole operation) since Edward Su (苏立) vacated his position in March 2015 to work for Youku Tudou.
In addition to managing Havas Worldwide China, Chan will also be responsible for leading key agency brands including Field Force, Havas Life Healthcare, Havas Worldwide Digital and Arnold Worldwide.
“Donald is a critical hire," Lin said. "He is an experienced leader with a track record of leading large agencies and a constant advocate of digital evolution in the industry."
Chan told Campaign Asia-Pacific that when he left Leo Burnett over a year ago, he "did look away from advertising" and "tried to do something new".
He spent a fair amount of time consulting for a couple of undisclosed startups, shuttling between Hong Kong and China.
Chan said he could have seen himself doing such work for a good while, but when Lin started talking to him about Havas, he became "quite inspired by the vision of the Havas global management about how they want to move things forward".
"Maybe there’re still things I can do in advertising," he said. "I have no shame to say this [Havas] is not the biggest creative network, but it is completing its integrated structure in terms of digital and traditional. It also has a simpler and singular management system in place that has the mentality of trying to think and behave like an entrepreneurial company, and wanting to be more agile like a startup".
This structure can deliver truly innovative solutions demanded by today’s clients, he added.