With China tentatively wearing the crown as the world's art-market leader, it is not surprising that big brands want to utilise the wealth of design and art-based creative talent in the region.
It is within this energy that Adam Schokora founded Shanghai-based creative agency NeochaEDGE (edge.neocha.com). What started in 2007 as a creative social networking site has grown into one of the leading sources of information for design- and art-based innovation within China.
'The current climate for creatives in China is better than ever. From the client-side, over the past couple years, we've noticed a dramatic shift in demand for increasingly creative, art-driven content from brands of all kinds,' says Schokora. 'A few years ago, there were probably only a handful of brands interested in or willing to push the envelope with content in their campaigns or around their products. Now everyone's doing it.'
The title 'creative agency' allows sites like NeochaEDGE to cover visual arts, design, fashion and music in one place. Under the banner, Schokora and his team incorporate the artistic group Edge Creative Collective, an online magazine that is a platform for contributors and collaborators, and their primary function as an agency that provides creative business solutions.
Everything from highlighting the curved chairs of Shanghai-based designer Peter Lam, to promoting events like their collaborations with Volcom, IdleBeats and Source, to curating a series of screen-printing events in Beijing and Shanghai. The potential is massive, but it wasn't always such an easy endeavour.
'At the time we started the site, the team had been seeing all sorts of inspiring creative content from all over China, but it was painfully difficult to find,' says Schokora. 'It was fragmented both online and off, mostly hidden from view, and given little attention in local media.'
That the landscape has so drastically changed in just a few years highlights the rate at which Asian creative sources and projects are being embraced by the larger public. For Detroit-native Schokora, Shanghai is now home.
'I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else in the world,' he says. He fell in love with Chinese culture and language after a trip to Hong Kong and moved to Shanghai once he had finished his studies in Chinese and American political relations and Mandarin. Before starting NeochaEDGE, he was working in digital media at a major agency, but kept encountering brands that needed compelling creative content that was China-market relevant.
It was this realisation that highlighted the value in what a singularly focused creative agency could bring to the changing climate, and led him to abandon his original idea of a social networking site to focus on its creative potential. And so far, it's working.
Both Asian and Western brands have undeniably woken up to the enormous potential of the Chinese market and are looking to every available resource in engaging the public. NeochaEDGE has collaborated with major fashion brands, creating viral videos and animations for Nike, an in-store 3D installation for Puma, and key visual designs for Adidas' advertising campaigns, among others. What better way to capture the attention of the Chinese consumer then consulting the homegrown best and brightest?
However the creative community in China is still relatively niche and brands are looking for guidance in finding and capturing that ever illusive 'next big thing'. This is where NeochaEDGE has found its purpose: a new consumer frontier has been discovered and them and others are reaping the spoils of uncharted creative territory.