Staff Writer
Mar 15, 2018

LEO Digital Network welcomes the winds of change

From big-picture strategists to content producers, agencies are now expected to shapeshift. LEO Digital Network is leading the charge.

LDN Shanghai headquarters
LDN Shanghai headquarters

LEO Digital Network’s (LDN) recent history has been fruitful to say the least. In 2017, the company centred its ambitious expansion plans on a digital strategy called “Reshape Communications”, wherein LDN leveraged off the extreme complexity and fast-paced nature of China’s marketing environment to grow its expertise in the region.

At the heart of “Reshape Communications” is a consumer-centric, data-enabled and content-targeted business transformation ecosystem. It effectively combines digital strategy, data, creative, media, internet traffic, smart TV, ecommerce, social and entertainment content to provide a closed-loop, holistic solution.

LDN CAPITAL, the agency’s investment arm, has staked their claim in interactive entertainment; internet services and smart city services; and mobile internet technologies. In line with these investments are large-scale acquisitions including Uhouzz, an online marketplace for overseas student living, and Chehejia, an internet electric car manufacturer and smart city mobility service provider.

Externally, the company has worked with a large, diverse roster of businesses following the opening of its hot shop, MATCH, last April. Notable clients include China’s Ministry of Public Security, China Eastern Airlines, Supor and Mobike. LDN has helped these established businesses make noise in their respective industries through innovation, cost-effective project management and meaningful, forward-thinking branded content.

MATCH relies on its ‘+A’ incubator platform to make this happen, which takes shape in three values: +Autonomous, +Equality and +Distribution. On one hand the platform dreams big; it attracted Tomaz Mok, long-time chairman at McCann, to co-found the hot shop. On the other hand MATCH focuses on supporting local brands, reinventing communication methods, and producing work that shows the growing, innovative spirit of China.

On the awards front, LDN has been making headlines as of late. The company, as “the only local agency network”, landed on the shortlist for the Greater China Integrated Agency of the Year Award at Campaign Asia’s Agency of the Year (AOY) 2017. Meanwhile, the LDN subsidary Amber China won bronze for China Digital Agency of the Year at AOY 2016, and arkr GROUP won gold for Greater China Social Media Agency of the Year at AOY 2017. On the commercial side, they clocked more than RMB 8 billion (US$1.26 billion) in revenue in 2017. 

Dalton Zheng, CEO at LDN

New problems, better solutions

Much of this progress has been accompanied by technological advances. The agency established the LDN Technology Asgard in 2017, which puts technology and data at the core of the company’s future work. “If you do not attach importance to technology and do not attach importance to data, you will certainly be eliminated by this era”, said Dalton Zheng, CEO at LDN.

The field is especially demanding in China, where the digital arena is jam-packed with new content, and game-changing consumer upgrades seem to happen on a daily basis. In the past, LDN has pointed out the lack of creative flavour to accommodate these strides in communication and technology. But Zheng is hopeful this is changing. “There is just a massive amount of information, and countless people are creating their own content, but if professional teams can maintain rapid progress and keep looking forward I think originality and creativity will reign supreme.” He goes on, “Meanwhile at LDN, we maintain a real thirst for creativity across the entire team.”

Embracing dual roles

Along with shifts in business and technology, LDN is well aware the traditional ad agency model has been also reassembled into something much more dynamic. Zheng sees this new, exciting identity taking shape through collaboration, rather than through streamlined, delegated, point A to point B work. “Solving problems is going to be more integrated, more flat, and advertising companies may not necessarily be leading anymore,” Zheng admits. “They may instead be cooperating with content creators, with the media, with new platforms, and with clients to together solve problems.”

When it comes to the company’s own role in content development, LDN has chosen to work both upstream and downstream, existing on both ends of the marketing spectrum. “From an upstream point of view, we energise organisations through business strategy and digital creative” says Zheng. To attest, in 2018 LDN is launching an upstream platform serving as both a comprehensive service model and a hub for brand experience, incorporating both products and content.

If these goals seem to be large-scale, it’s because LDN balances the big fish with the small, also working downstream to make projects a reality on the ground. “I think the existing environment for agencies doesn’t need to be limited to big production and promotion. We’ve seen a lot of success these last two years with short video, for example, and more and more good content is actually being created by users themselves. These are both opportunities and pain points for our industry.”

Practicing what they preach, LDN is launching a downstream platform that melds media, social gateways, creative content and data tech through the group’s internal resources and outside partnerships. The service model offers a full suite of tools for providing multi-channel, always-on, real-time content, and meets the demands of an ever-changing communication environment.

Further forays in content are expected in 2018. “We hope that as the new era of mobile social networking and video socialisation approaches, we can do more from the original marketing and content building perspective. We want to cover the breadth of the social arena, and change the agency role altogether.” 

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