Megan Gell
Jan 26, 2018

How event agencies survive in China

Liquid Impact founder, Jose Liang, on China's evolving agency landscape.

Jose Liang and team at a recent Adidas event
Jose Liang and team at a recent Adidas event

Jose Liang founded live communications agency Liquid Impact in Shanghai in 2003. After a decade in the aviation industry with Ansett and Virgin Atlantic, Liang was seconded to the British Consulate in Shanghai for a project that involved interviewing every agency in town. It was then he identified a gap in the market for agencies able to deliver creative, world-class events.

What were events like when you started in China?

In the late 90s, events in China were a lot of balloons and flowers with a flat backdrop always using the same font. At Virgin, Branson was very event-focused at that time so we took a lot of it in-house, but for most companies, events were left to PR agencies.

In a market where agencies come and go, what do you attribute Liquid Impact’s longevity to?

Having a strong operational background definitely helped, but mostly it’s our culture. We see ourselves as a local company, we don't have the luxury of abandoning ship when the market falters—we must ride through the waves. After the global financial crisis a lot of international agencies downsized or closed up shop. It’s natural—they’re profit-driven, so when profits move so do they.

We are focused on exactly what we want to do and who we want to work with. We don’t view events as a desk job, it is not easy and you must always come up with new ideas.

Today 40 per cent of our employees are from the team of those first two years. We have had a lot of young people through the door, but our core team stays.

Liquid Impact's Johnnie Walker activation at the F1 in Shanghai
 

What events do you work on?

We do a lot of brand events for clients such as Nike, Adidas, Emirates and Omega; we have also done a lot with David Beckham and the products he is involved with such as The Haig Club. We also do a lot around F1 autoracing for clients like Johnnie Walker.

We have done showcases for GSMA at Mobile World Congress Asia since it started in Shanghai, music festivals for 40,000 people and 1,000-people incentives.

We are also seeing tier-2 and tier-3 cities start to use events and attractions as a way to generate tourism. We built The Han Show by Franco Dragone in Wuhan and do a lot with the Dubai Chengdu International Cup horse racing.  

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