Understanding and connecting with subcultures, especially in China, is a complicated practice. Yet this is the overarching goal of MATCH, LEO Digital Network’s (LDN) in-house creative hot shop, which opened in April. MATCH harnesses an outlook that kicks the traditional agency model to the curb.
LDN vice-president and MATCH co-founder Amber Liu describes their subculture research methodology as such, “We are moving from piece by piece work, to [analysing] mobile and digital, and soon to [connecting with their] consciousness.” He goes on, “In order to make this transition, we need to respond quickly to hot topics and hone in on specific markets. These are the keys to success.”
For Mobike, a station-less bicycle-sharing system adopted by China’s cities, MATCH took the operational problems that many communters face in big cities, and joined it with an environmentally-minded initiative. The work is fresh, useful, and speaks to the demographics most likely to use bicycles as transportation — students and young professionals.
On the other hand, for China’s Ministry of Public Security, the hot shop took a decidedly dramatic turn to tug on viewers’ heartstrings, featuring the police force, firefighters, and various everyday heroes hoisting their community up on their shoulders. The ad took the classic PSA announcement so often passed over by viewers, and gave it new life and real relevance.
Tomaz Mok, co-founder of MATCH and one of the hot shop’s five partners, says of his team’s goals, “We support young people and creative talents, dreamers who want to communicate in a different way, who want to manage their company and creative process in a different light.”
Developing a reputation
Diversification has been at the core of LEO Digital Network’s ethos throughout its quick evolution as China’s leading digital agency network, expanding and adopting a client-centric approach to each and every project.
The MATCH headquarters greets visitors with a colossal wooden match, taller than anyone who comes through the front doors. And it is this flourish that best describes the microcosm of creativity within the organisation — inspiring innovation and staving off stagnation, monotony, business as usual. “It’s in our DNA” says Mok, “we don’t just want to promote creativity, we want to show it.”
The MATCH etymology itself is a creative undertaking: an acronym for the five partners of the hot shop team: Tomaz Mok, Amber Liu, Sun Tao, Cheng Cheng and Guo Hong, as well as the company’s commitments to marketing, advertising, technology, creativity and happiness.
MATCH’s headquarters in Shanghai
The name also more broadly refers to the matching of creative ideas with campaigns, an important tenent of their work, “We want to keep our ideas and relationships unique to each client. Every individual has their own personality, just like every brand has their own story to tell. We focus on each client as an individual.”
A match is the perfect representation of the hot shop’s goals. It’s a catalyst for something much larger — you could use it to light a campfire, warm a home, or heat up a family dinner. “It’s almost like advertising, you decide how you want your match to work.”
For Supor, the largest cookware and small appliance company in China, MATCH took the viral route, producing a series of light-hearted videos featuring the company’s cookware reenacting classic cinema scenes. The spots are short and sweet, memorable, and come with impressive CGI work. The project is a prime example of MATCH taking a simple idea, meshing it with a brand’s identity, and making it stand out.
With 42 years of experience in the industry, Mok sees room to improve the appreciation of creativity on a national scale, “China just hasn’t stood out enough at international creative events. Companies have enjoyed business growth and they’ve enjoyed new platforms to communicate their brand, but the real opportunity and room for improvement lies in creativity and expression.”
At a time when the Chinese central government is supporting established brands and young companies alike to build, build, build, LDN has their work cut out for them. According to Mok and Liu, it’s the right time to support local brands, rethink communication, and produce work that ignites the innovative spirit of China. Mok summed it up best, “Brand value hasn’t changed; the importance of brand image hasn’t changed, but we’ve changed.”
Co-founders Tomaz Mok and Amber Liu
Give the people what they want
As home to one of the fastest-developing Internet landscapes in the world, the country’s population has been quick to adapt to social and commercial changes brought about by technological advancements. This upgrade in consumption has divided the market into more nuanced demographics, but advertisers haven’t kept pace.
In response to these issues, the hot shop leans on its ‘+A’ initiative which takes shape in three values. ‘+Autonomous’ gives team members the freedom to develop their own creative work. ‘+Equality’ encourages a flat communication platform within MATCH. And ‘+Distribution’, giving the team the right motivation and incentives to drive business growth effectively. “This allows every team to integrate, to maximise our synergistic effect,” says Liu, “We have a very positive attitude towards this new development, and its future.”
Liu details the road to redemption for creatives, “It’s up to us to better communicate with specific cultures, with target audiences. Our creative masters, our methods, require a more personalised and diversified approach.”