Chris Chen joins Cannes Lions Chairman Terry Savage in Live TV Interview


Chris Chen joins Cannes Lions Chairman Terry Savage in Live TV Interview

Live from Cannes Lions Festival this morning, Chris Chen Isobar China Group CCO was joined by Terry Savage, the Chairman of the festival to discuss China’s post-consumer culture. The pair also discussed change, creativity, and why we don’t see more award wins from China, as well as innovation and bravery.

Chris opened with sharing his approach to brand building in China - “Understanding the cultural context is the most important thing... It’s no secret. China has the biggest population in the world and is a great opportunity for brands,” he continued, “Creative innovation, with big ideas, and not just product innovation is key.”

The societal and consumer shift in China has come along side the emergence of the digital economy. Consumerism in China has encouraged brands to engage with people in different ways. As Terry explained, “Communicate and they will come will no longer be enough.

Chris provided insights into where brands are targeting their approaches to best fit this new landscape, “The young generation have more confidence because they were born into a great economy. They are creating a new culture of patriotism and sharing via social online and engaging people through innovative experiences.

Once-popular western legacy brands are also being disrupted, where Chinese consumers increasingly want to buy Chinese brands. Terry shared an insight, “Chinese consumers want to dress and use Chinese brands, and are moving away from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Burberry.

So have Chinese brands and marketing teams caught up? Terry explained, “The rate of change today is so fast. Think about how China jumped landline straight to mobile. They will jump over the lessons built by creatives of the past in the west.

There is certainly a resurgence in interest in creativity from China, with Chinese delegates and entries into Cannes Lions up year on year. Chinese-focussed sessions in the Palais – such as Isobar’s with YUM! China – exemplify how much global brands can learn from this distinct market.

If you go back in Cannes there was this idea that Chinese delegates learn from the West... now it is leading innovation at a global level... It’s not long before it’s going to crack the creative code.” said Terry.

Brands in China are increasingly recognising that creativity is important to the commercial success of businesses. But China is yet to win big in international creative awards – even for disciplines that they have a strong heritage in, like mobile, commerce and product innovation

Chis shared his view, “It’s a different cultural landscape. The rest of the world don’t need to explain cultural context in their entries. You don’t need to explain Christmas or Halloween in a two minute video. You do need to explain Chinese cultural moments to help the jury.

He also suggested that some agencies “Chase innovation via technology. But creativity is about being human. They need to learn to tell human stories.

Terry also suggested that Chinese brands also have a responsibility to drive creativity, “The key is marketers giving brands the opportunity to use creativity.” and Chris agreed, and used KFC as an example of a brand that is embracing technology but creating brave ideas, by partnering with Isobar and accepting pro-active briefs.

Chris explained, “The clients don’t care what agency you are. Digital. Social. Brand. All they care about is whether you can provide the solution for them. For KFC we used technology, social, and cultural solutions to ensure relevance. We say that KFC is a tech company disguised as a fried chicken business. 

Chris also shared what he saw as the marketing formula, “Connecting brand, culture and the ecosystem. It’s not just an idea. China has many opportunities. But if you want to enter a new market you have to respect the place and its differences. It’s very open to change and people. Everyone is welcome.

You can watch the interview live through a Cannes Lions Digital Pass, available here.


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