PHD's Mark Heap embraces Chinese culture

Mark Heap is managing director of PHD China and is based in Shanghai.

Shanghai: rewarding experience
Shanghai: rewarding experience

Why did you choose China?
China presented an opportunity to immerse myself in a totally different culture. The language, the food, the people and the sheer scale of the challenge all motivated me.

How are you finding it?
The overall quality of work is not as high as in the UK, but the best work coming out of China is a match for anywhere else. People are very receptive to learning new skills.

Media environment?
The scale is bewildering, because each of China's 27 provinces has its own dialect, provincial TV network and social and cultural differences. Almost all media are state-owned and do not necessarily react to expected commercial principles.

How proactive are media agencies?
The emphasis has started to shift towards strategy, but media agencies are often ill-equipped to deliver on it, because most of the staff have gained their experience as account managers or implementation planners.

How developed is digital media?
More than 350 million people have internet access and time spent online now rivals time spent watching TV. Chinese websites are very cluttered. The principles around great digital campaigns are similar, but design and execution needs to be in a meaningful and relevant Chinese context.

Culture and social scene?
Shanghai and Beijing have an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants, but there are challenges to living here. There are no seatbelts in taxis, hygiene is not always what you would like it to be and opportunities to "get away from it all" are limited.

Main differences in media?
There is a lack of measurement and accountability. There are no credible measures for press or outdoor advertising and, until recently, third-party ad-serving was often refused
by site owners.

One thing we can learn from China?
Living and working here is a hugely rewarding and interesting experience. Everyone should live in China at some point in their lives.