Special Report: China - China life

Smelly taxis and not being paid fees are some of the worst things about living in China for two ad men from the West, but the exciting market and grounded people more than compensate.

DIRK ESCHENBACHER - Creative director, OgilvyOne Worldwide, Beijing

When and why did you move to It's been four years this month. I was

China? asked to freelance on a couple of

projects for OgilvyOne Beijing. During

my visit, I was offered the position

of creative director. At the time, the

dotcom rush was still on and business

was good, so I accepted the challenge

and dived into Chinese culture and a

super-fast-paced market.

What's the best thing about The people. I have met some of the

living and working in most amazing personalities here and

China? have made some of my best friends.

People in Beijing are very grounded.

There's nothing artificial about them.

They're genuine and very open.

... and the worst? Public spitting, although it's got

much better since Sars, which put an

end to a bad habit. Second-worst is

taking a taxi. They are small and

dirty. In the summer the air-

conditioning doesn't work, and in the

winter drivers tend to sleep in their

cab and it smells awful. Thank God I

have a car.

What is the big cultural That there's no pop culture in China.

difference you need to be most While the West listened to Elvis and

sensitive to? The Beatles, people in China went on

marches. China closed its intellectual

borders in such a rigorous way that it

wasn't worth risking having a music

tape from Taiwan, let alone the West.

Now you get a sense of a culture

freshly exposed to sex, drugs and rock

'n' roll after more than 30 years of

isolation. My ideas have always come

from personal experiences. Many of

them suddenly didn't match the

collective experience of my Chinese

target audience, which was hard to

accept.

Where else have you worked? In Thailand. I moved during a January,

How does it compare with away from sunshine and palm-trees to

China? grey, cold Beijing. The biggest

difference, though, is the pace of

life. China wants to catch up with the

rest of the world and you can feel it

in every project timeline. Working

doubly as fast as in Europe means

organising your life in a more

efficient way. As a German, this

doesn't cause me too many problems.

Which Chinese proverb do you None. But there is one I absolutely

live by? hate: "Cha bu duo." It means "should

be ok" and whenever someone uses it

you can assume that it's far from

OK.

Which Chinese advertising There are many brilliantly creative

figure do you most admire? people in China, each with their

unique style. But China's

communication industry is still too

new to have produced true

legends ... yet.

What's China's latest consumer Small wrinkly dogs. The government

fad? recently dropped a registration tax on

them, and it seems that every urban

family gets one to make up for the

not-allowed second child. The pet-food

and accessories industries are going

to explode here over the next few

years.

Which Chinese brands should I guess Chinese electronics, and

the world watch out for? especially consumer electronic

products, will play a bigger and

bigger role in foreign markets. My

favourite brand in this sector is Bu

Bu Gao. It used Arnold Schwarzenegger

for its brand campaign a few years

ago. Rumour has it that he never got

paid.

GAVIN HERON - Managing director, TBWA\Shanghai

When and why did you move to In 1997, I realised that China would

China? become the focus for the world's great

brands. But it still took me five

years to get there after working in

TBWA's Hong Kong office.

What's the best thing about The best thing is being able to go to

living and working in a Jean-Paul Gaultier after-party and

China? ending the evening drinking cold beer

on the sidewalk while eating freshly

grilled Xinjiang lamb kebabs...or that

this is the most exciting market in

the world, where anything is

possible.

... and the worst? The look of terror on passengers'

faces when I attempt to squeeze my 90

kilogramme body into an overfilled

metro ... or one of our clients asking

for a 20 per cent discount after not

paying fees for six months (and then

offering, after we had renegotiated

the discount to 15 per cent, to pay

the difference with product instead of

cash!).

What is the big cultural "Ego" or "face". While "face" leads to

difference you need to be most better relationships, it does often

sensitive to? mean neither side will back down

because neither wants to lose

face.

Where else have you worked? South Africa, London and Hong Kong.

How does it compare with Other than Hong Kong, which tends to

China? think small, South Africa and London

are all about big advertising ideas.

They also tend to have much more

internal competition within the

creative department. China develops

creative ideas collaboratively. These

ideas are more likely to be media

neutral than in South Africa or

London.

But this avoidance of internal

competition - and therefore "face" -

tends to restrict the quality of

ideas. The big challenge is to build a

culture of internal debate to replace

competition.

Which Chinese proverb do you "Respect comes before affection."

live by?

Which Chinese advertising Tom Doctoroff. He built China's

figure do you most admire? leading agency, JWT, and does a superb

PR job for both himself and his

agency. He's built a company which, I

would think, is one of the better JWT

agencies in the network.

What's China's latest consumer The fusion of Western and Chinese

fad? culture in fashion and design.

Which Chinese brands should None. Unlike Japanese and Korean

the world watch out for? brands, Chinese brands do not have the

luxury of time to develop without

international competition. The global

players are simply too deep-pocketed,

experienced and attract the best local

people. They are also buying the more

successful Chinese brands while

developing their own.

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