Enterprising Hong Kong Brand Awards

M&C Saatchi returns to Hong Kong after a five-year hiatus to lure Chinese clients with global ambitions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 11:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 11:49am

M&C Saatchi Worldwide, the advertising heavyweight, is returning to Hong Kong as it sees the city as the gateway to international promotional success for many Chinese brands, particularly tech firms.

Bowing out of Hong Kong in 2013, M&C Saatchi is opening a new office in Sheung Wan, just outside Central, in a move its top officials say is squarely aimed at attracting ambitious mainland clients looking to market themselves and their goods around the world. The firm first arrived in the city in 1995, just after it was formed.

Its early flagship clients such as British Airways and Qantas Airways demanded it had a presence in five key cities to handle their accounts: Hong Kong, New York, London, Sydney and Singapore.

The new operation, M&C Saatchi Spencer Hong Kong, includes the name of its well-known Hong Kong CEO and chief creative director, industry veteran Spencer Wong, and will initially have 22 staff operating out of a 3,000 square foot office.

The agency’s resurrected presence in the city also has a lot to do with a growing number of international brands beefing up their own Asian and mainland operations based out of Hong Kong compared with five years ago.

“When we withdrew, Hong Kong was largely an internal market focused on the property market. There were few global clients based here, so we weren’t desperate to be here,” MacLennan said.

“But with Shanghai and Singapore now more in the picture, Hong Kong’s position as an Asian advertising hub has lessened.”

The company started drafting a fresh geographical expansion shortlist two years ago, and Hong Kong has now found its way back onto the company’s prime target market list as Chinese brands increasingly gaining success at home, turn their attention to global growth.

Richard Morewood, the firm’s CEO for Asia, expects the digital and tech sectors to be key battlegrounds for internationally ambitious Chinese companies.

“[International] consumers are ready and waiting for products and services from China,” he said.

Without revealing any names the company is currently courting, Morewood said brand building on a global scale is now more important than ever, and firmly believes Hong Kong will continue to be a burgeoning launch pad for Chinese brands looking for worldwide exposure.

Both MacLennan and Morewood feel, however, that many Chinese brands still have a lot to prove when it comes to convincing western markets of the quality of their goods, and that is what many are looking for in their advertising and marketing campaigns.

“There’s still a prejudice that Chinese products are cheaper, but lower quality,” MacLennan said.