Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Mar 22, 2018

Spencer Wong tipped to exit via door that bears his name

McCann & Spencer, named after Wong in 2015, will be "reincorporated back" into McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong.

Wong at an agency party in 2015 celebrating the renaming to McCann & Spencer
Wong at an agency party in 2015 celebrating the renaming to McCann & Spencer

Spencer Wong, CEO and creative chairman for McCann & Spencer, will press pause on his career in advertising and leave McCann Worldgroup to pursue other interests, effective this August.

It is understood that McCann will install a leadership team consisting of Brandon Cheung, Jaslin Goh and Florence Kong, all part of existing management under Wong, and reincorporate what it calls the "division" back into McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong.

Stepping into the creative leadership role will be Wen-Hsiu Louie, previously from Isobar Shanghai, who joins McCann as executive creative director, according to sources. It is expected that McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong will focus more on servicing MNCs.

McCann renamed its Hong Kong operation McCann & Spencer in recognition of its veteran CEO/CCO in 2015. It was the first and only time in Hong Kong that a creative has received such acknowledgement. Examples in other markets include BBDO Guerrero and Dentsu JaymeSyfu in the Philippines and FCB Garfinkel in New York. The first two still exist, but the latter was rechristened as FCB New York in 2016 after Lee Garfinkel stepped down from his position as CEO.

Wong is unable to reveal his next move publicly until after August, but told Campaign Asia-Pacific he intends to pursue a different direction, riding on the trend of Chinese brands going global.

The advertising agency business in Hong Kong has always been tough, Wong said, due to the small market size, but starting from early this year, the tide has turned. Opportunities are increasing now that Hong Kong is seen as the indispensable first stop in China's belt and road infrastructure initiative—a hub of investment, financing and marketing support.

The days of China-bound MNCs going through Hong Kong are over, Wong added, but on the flip side, outgoing Chinese companies still need to rely on Hong Kong for their overseas ambitions. Low taxes in the city are one advantage, but as many leaders of Chinese clients tend to lack international experience, Hong Kong-based agencies can come into the frame.

Major agency networks understand this, but are shackled by a lack of local talent that is adequately exposed to the China market and able to see the bigger management picture, Wong told Campaign Asia-Pacific

"The trend is here, but we have no good people to jump on that trend," he said in Cantonese. "I want to find a new way to solve the talent issue, learning from platform companies that are less closed-minded and more flexible, and the 'slash culture' among the newer generation who are having multi-faceted career paths."

After joining McCann Hong Kong in early 2006 as executive creative director for Greater China, Wong subsequently rose to managing director for Hong Kong and then CEO and chief creative officer of McCann Hong Kong. He has held the position of CEO and creative chairman for the soon-to-be historical entity, McCann & Spencer, since 2015.

McCann Worldgroup did not respond to requests for official comment in time for this story.

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