From an upstart helping his agency find a marketing footing in the e-sports category to a veteran who was a contributing architect to the industry’s inception, this year’s just published China Digital A-List represents the leaders of China’s digital scene from past to present.
This members of the cohort share a collective memory of the birth of new industries, the introduction and survival of the country’s freshest and most useful ideas and, last but not least, the ability to reach, touch and impact communities and cultures through their mastery of emerging and emerged technology.
While the world reeled from Japan’s overbilling scandal and other industry crises, the most-read headline on Campaign China in 2016 were largely focused on what it means to be a ‘full-service digital agency’.
If 2015 was a year for ‘expertise’, 2016 was about ‘refinement’ for digital practitioners—where players pruned their own products to perfection and converged services to better serve their clients.
As the market heads into a period of refinement, we saw the skill sets of our nominees sharpen to a level never seen before. We saw the pathfinders break away from the pack, and distinguish themselves not just as disrupters but as artisanal practitioners.
Perhaps most strikingly, we saw leading lights become guiding lights: pioneers training, coaching and mentoring the next generation of A-listers.
This year’s list drew almost 500 nominations, all with long lists of achievements, highlights and results. We included a new question: “What challenges did you overcome?” The answers given to the adversity question were in many instances illuminating, as candidates battled volatile conditions, shrinking budgets or ingrained mindsets—all signs of an industry recolouring itself for the future.
We then categorised the top performers of the industry into three equally weighted categories: Enablers, Dreamers and Doers.
Modelled after an ecosystem, there is no category superior to the others. There can be no doers without enablers to pave the way; no enablers without the reveries of dreamers; no dreamers without the foundations laid by doers.
We have named 11 Enablers, 12 Dreamers and 27 Doers. Click below to see who they are and understand why they stood out.
Many of our A-Listers head new specialisations, new departments, new functions in their companies, or wholly new companies that have filled gaps in the current marketing ecosystem. This signifies sensitivity to market demands and understanding of what the future may entail.
We can’t say there were no headwinds in the process of curating this list. Most significantly, one candidate for the list told us he defined himself as a technologist even though he held a marketing role. This is a clear signal that these worlds—digital and marketing—are converging, and soon we may have transformed so essentially that we ourselves cannot tell the difference.
The final 50 selected have a blend of digital savviness, business acumen and market vision. Or perhaps, they show just enough courage to break the mould.