Yu Lin is a planning director at Saatchi & Saatchi Beijing and, having worked and studied in both the West and China he’s part of a new generation of Chinese admen and women combining the best of the East and West to tap in the ever-expanding market of the Middle Kingdom. We caught up with Yu Lin to talk about how logical thinking and a love of communication led him to advertising.
LBB> What attracted you to advertising? And how has the reality compared with your expectations?
YL> I like communicating with people. When I am with others, I get inspired and I feel that I am connected to the world. Communication is the easiest way to find out what’s happening in the world and what’s next. Advertising is the industry where you can have the power to influence people, to make an impact and to create something that is beneficial to people.
The reality is, most of time, what we do is not what we should do. Advertising agencies are perceived by a lot of clients to be solution providers, not a business partners. It really makes me frustrated sometimes.
LBB> I see you've got two MSc degrees in Statistics (from the University of Singapore and University of Alberta) - how did you go from statistics to advertising? And what does your statistical knowledge bring to your work in advertising?
YL> I knew my career wouldn’t be based around statistics a long time ago! It simply is not my interest. Statistics, to me, is a tool. What I have learned from statistics is logical thinking and analytical skills. It trained me to look at data and information from a different perspective. This is really helpful in terms of identifying deep insights from surface information.
LBB> What's the most unusual advertising job you've ever worked on?
YL> The Smucker’s project. Smucker’s is a leading American food brand. However, it has no presence in the rapidly growing Chinese market, which is really a pity. Our role was to help Smucker’s successful launch in China. I personally went to visit the headquarters in Orrville. The job involves not only communication strategy but also business related issues such as category entry strategy, naming strategy, etc. It is quite challenging but also very interesting.
LBB> What has been your favourite piece of work that you've been involved in in the last 12 months?
YL> The Kraft Ritz brand re-launch. I have a theory: if you feel very excited during the process of your work, it is a success already. Ritz is a cracker brand with a very long history in the world. However, in China, the brand was declining with less product innovation and support. What we did is to help Ritz enter a new potato snack category targeted to teenagers. We talked to a lot of students and new office workers. When suddenly I found something that really made them think and appreciate, BANG! That made me very excited and I know I am on the right way.
LBB> What are the biggest challenges facing Chinese brands today?
YL> The power has been shifted from brands to people. In the old days, people did what they were told to do. Today, they have the power to decide what to listen to, what to learn and what to buy. The scandals of Chinese brands further accelerate the shift. Chinese brands need to quickly re-build the trust among consumers.
LBB> What trends are you seeing in Chinese advertising in 2012?
YL> I am seeing two trends: digital and globalized Chinese brands. About digital, the new medial has totally changed the way people think and act. Digital advertising has the advantages of interaction and precision that traditional advertising are lacking. New technology will aggregate the integration of TV, print and digital media. The second trend is about Chinese brands globalization. One of our clients is Lenovo, who is originally from China, but targeting to build an international premium brand. In the future, with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, we are going to see more and more Chinese brands going abroad. So how an advertising agency is going to face this challenge is obviously very important to the success of these brands.
LBB> You've got experience working in the West and in the Chinese markets - how do your experiences compare?
YL> In the Western market, you have a lot of existing experience to follow. However in China, the market changes so dramatically. The Chinese market will probably reach the same level of maturity in only a third of the time of western markets. In this situation, it requires more originality and creativity. Sometime you just don’t have enough time to think before you act! So you have to keep up with the speed of change.
LBB> What’s next for you in 2012?
YL> I was recently assigned as the head of planning, Beijing office. The challenge in front of me is to quickly build a strong planning team, working closely with creative and accounts to grow the Beijing business. That means more aggression, more efficiency and more passion.
LBB> When you're not at work, what is your passion? What do you get up to?
YL> I love travelling. When I am not at work, I’d like to spend my time at a quiet beach, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful sea. Oh, I am also a big sports fan. I am very much looking forward to the coming London Olympics. (I am going to take 10 days leave to celebrate it!)