Terry Savage, chairman of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, announced that Lau, senior executive vice president of Tencent and president of its Online Media Group (OMG) has been selected to receive the Cannes Lions 2015 Media Person of the Year award.
This award has been presented in the past to leaders including Google's Eric Schmidt, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, HBO's Richard Plepler and YouTube's Salar Kamangar.
Lau has been selected for his leadership in overseeing the emergence of Tencent’s OMG as China's leading online communications, social and entertainment service company. Lau's vision and direction have transformed OMG from a provider of a single Internet portal service into China’s "largest and most admired integrated media service matrix", according to Cannes Lions. OMG’s success is derived from a mix of powerful platforms, unwavering focus on quality content and innovative products, the organisation added.
Lau will receive the award on 23 June during Cannes Lions, which takes place from 21-27 June in Cannes, France.
“I am humbled and delighted to receive the prestigious Cannes Lions Media Person of the Year Award,” said Lau. “This award not only demonstrates the success of Tencent OMG, but also highlights the rise of China as a global force for online innovation, creativity and for the highest quality content.
Pony Ma, core founder and CEO of Tencent said, “We are pleased that SY Lau is awarded as the Cannes Lions Media Person of the Year, which underscores the success of Tencent Online Media Group and how it transforms people in China consuming online information and entertainment content."
Tencent OMG manages and owns the video streaming service Tencent Video (v.qq.com), Internet access and news portal qq.com and the Tencent microblogging platform and related services.
One of the immediate reactions from the industry right after the announcement broke was: why not Pony Ma instead? The unofficial word is that Ma is seen as a technologist, while Lau is more media-oriented. Being the “key man who made things happen over the last nine years” and “the public face for Tencent” also helped. In fact, when the top honchos at Tencent learned of the impending accolade, Lau asked Ma, as all respectful Chinese employees would, if it was appropriate for him to receive this award. Ma, without concern about 'the boss being outshone' answered,“Of course. It will put China on the world map.”
We also spoke with Terry Savage about the honour.
Lau is now equal to global names in internet innovation like Zuckerberg. Can you help us to understand what the selection process is like? How has the criteria for Media Person Of The Year evolved over the last decade considering how much change there is to the definition of media?
It's a balance between what difference the individual makes to his country and to his company. SY has shown thought leadership not only within his company, but for China since he was on stage with Maurice Levy during Cannes last year. This wasn't that hard a decision. You are either blind or stupid if you don't realise the energy, the commitment, the scale of what Tencent has achieved in China, and they will operate on the world stage; it's just a time issue before they do. Watch out, world. Slowly, the rest of the world will start to get it.
Is there a possibility for the next Media Person of the Year to come from outside the technology/internet world?
I don't think the evolution of technology reflects the sort of person selected. Is there a name that we haven't recognised? I'm sure there is, but the reality is the power is where the power is. You don't have to give a lot of deeper meaning to it, but it comes back to the definition of old and new technology, and how old technology is morphing itself to bring new developments to the forefront. But it's highly impossible that the digital dominance doesn't continue, or that we go back to the traditional media unless there is a very good reason to do so.
What does this mean for our industry when media owners such as Tencent are trumping traditional media agencies in terms of media buying scale and ad production capability?
We do not know what is going to come around the corner. Whether it's the advertising agencies or companies like SY's have to continue to innovate to be creative in their thinking. The world never stands still. The innovators are pushing the boundaries to which the existing world responds and reacts to, or not. If they don't, the conclusion is inevitable. If they do, I don't think it's a significant problem. There has a long debate in the West about the threat of Google to the media industry, but the world has to learn to live in co-existence. And ultimately, there are definitely differentiators. And I'm a champion of creativity. Creativity will be a great differentiator. Muscle is muscle in media, but creativity gives you more impact. It doesn't matter how big you are. For many years there has been talk about media agencies getting creative — that really hasn't evolved. What will happen is how they respond to real market conditions.