The internal announcement from Richard Tan, vice chairman at DDB Greater China, was made last Thursday to staff in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing.
Lam will reportedly be leaving DDB at the end of this year and embarking on his own business venture in 2016.
His exit is the latest among a series of high-level departures: Anthony James (former chief innovation officer for Asia Pacific), Craig Lonnee (former chief development officer and regional director of talent management for Asia Pacific) and Karen See (former chief communications officer for Asia Pacific) have all left DDB in recent weeks. All three were hired during the tenure of John Zeigler, who became chairman emeritus upon his abrupt retirement
as regional head in September.
An internal memo written by Lam and obtained by Campaign revealed that Lam came to DDB after being approached in March 2012 by Dick Van Motman (former president and CEO of DDB Greater China Group, who stepped down in the same year to join Dentsu Aegis Network). Lam declined to comment about the circumstances surrounding his exit.
Sources who prefered to remain anonymous told Campaign Asia-Pacific all these people were hired "under previous regimes" and it is now "natural" that David Tang (CEO of DDB Group Asia since October) "wants his own team in this management restructure".
In an email response to questions from Campaign, Tang rebuked the notion, put forward by some, that expensive senior positions are being eliminated to cut costs, saying that it is "a new era of talent investing for DDB Asia". He did not respond to direct questions about Lam's departure. As for Zeigler, Tang said he "has been instrumental in building DDB Asia and will always have a special role amongst us".
"We never forget the good guys in DDB," Tang wrote. "We now have a new chapter ahead where we will bring on the practitioners, the creative stars and the action doers." It is understood Tang will provide information on new hires around the region at the end of January 2016.
Since Lam joined DDB
to fill Michael Dee's spot in August 2012, he has made "great contributions to DDB China Group in many areas," Tan
said in his memo. "Working alongside with me to develop local Chinese businesses, jumping in from time to time to mediate troubled accounts and steer them back on course, readily jumping into any business engagement when he was needed to add value."
Lam has also been instrumental in developing various initiatives with the 'Future Bernbachs' program, which served to draw in new blood to DDB's talent pool; and the 'Creative PowWow' program, which aimed at improving the agency's creative product.
Here's an excerpt of Lam's internal memo:
Since joining DDB in August 2012, I have gone through some ups and downs, recruited some damn good people, enjoyed working with many of you, feeling great about being a creative partner with Richard, got a kick out of initiating PowWow and Future Bernbach, and occasionally felt in love with a few not too bad clients.
But life is a journey. Somewhere, sometime, we must move on.
No, I am not retiring. For those of you who know me, I never get old and I am like nuclear power driven. I get high being a multi-task control freak.
Once again, I am going for my “second spring”. (No, I am not having a love affair. My domestic CEO will skin me alive.)
There are so many things I want to do, and I know I can do well. I simply need to move forward to the next chapter of my journey.
For now, do your best as a proud DDBer.
Author of three Chinese books Catch Phrase in Advertising, No Truth in Advertising and Dream Talk of an Advertising Maniac, Lam is one of the most well-known creatives in Greater China. With his initiation of the Longyin Review Magazine and the LongXi Awards, as well as his involvement in AdFest, many call him one of the 'godfathers' of modern Chinese advertising.
With nearly 40 years of experience, Lam has worked in agencies including Draft/FCB, McCann, Euro, Lowe, Lintas, D'Arcy, Dentsu and DDB (which gave him his second job in the industry as well as his most recent). He was also the first Hong Kong creative invited to judge at Cannes, in 1994.