Whisky lover. Street dance enthusiast. Introvert with a hidden inner extrovert just waiting to burst out. A creative who loves to play with ideas and inspirations from the East and West. Yifan Wang thrives on the tension and surprises that arise from contradiction.
The associate creative director at Serviceplan Shanghai credits her open-minded, melting pot approach to a stint spent at the University of Leeds in the UK, where she earned a master’s degree in marketing and advertising.
“It showed me a different angle to live life and see the world,” she says. “Eastern culture background with life experience in the West. I admire both different cultures and can see the charming vibe for each one.”
Yifan was inspired to get into the advertising industry as a child – she recalls getting bored and frustrated with the ads he would watch on TV, telling her mum that he would be able to make much better commercials. As she grew older, Mad Men pushed him further towards a creative career – though when she first tried to break into the advertising industry, he ended up in the account department.
But she soon found her way to the copywriting department at Leo Burnett Shanghai.
“My main aim was to make what I want to communicate as simply as possible, always. Simple but profound. And I will keep pushing my works from literal to lateral.”
The first professional project he was involved in was a new product launch for Xiaoming, a cold tea drink brand owned by Uni-President. The campaign involved the creation of a unique character and drove 5m RMB in sales in its first five months.
But the campaign that really changed his career was an online film campaign for New Balance. That was when Yifan wrote a line of copy that was lauded within the advertising community in China. “跑下去天⾃⼰会亮 - “Don’t run for the dawn, just keep running, and the dawn will find its way to you”. “I tasted the power of words, which are the pegs to hang ideas upon,” he says, somewhat wistfully.
These days at Serviceplan, one of the main accounts on which she works is Budweiser, a very Western beer brand making its way in China, which brings a host of exciting challenges.
“Budweiser has a strong brand image as a party drink in China, it’s named ‘King of Beer.’ But now the brief is to meet a great challenge posed by several local beers that have lower price points and a competitive advantage that take market share from Bud. More and more consumers are also starting to choose advanced beers like craft beers, ales and stouts rather than lager. The most interesting part about working with them is, I think, a creative challenge of taking market share away from new competitors,” says Yifan.
One solution has been to cultivate behaviours around food, making Budweiser the beer to drink while eating. In order to realise this, Yifan and the team at Serviceplan created the Budweiser Food Slot Machine, which is built around ELEME, a huge Chinese food delivery platform. It’s designed to help people figure out what to eat day-to-day, by providing special Budweiser combinations. Through the app, the campaign allowed Budweiser to partner up with over 80,000 restaurants and in the first three days of launch it had generated 433,515 engagements.
The creative industry in China is full of possibility and there’s lots that inspires Yifan, including the potential offered by tech. “Technology is a wing that makes creative ideas fly high,” she says.
Ordinarily, Yifan is the kind of creative who loves to get out and about, filling his brain with experiences and encounters. She loves to travel; he loves to meet people outside of the industry and talk to experts in diverse fields – and he loves going to bars to absorb music and atmosphere. Of course, Covid-19 has somewhat curtailed this, though China has been quicker to re-assert a semblance of normal life than other places in the world. “Health is the most important, money and fame later. Life in China is getting back to normal. But somehow, humankind just needs to slow down. Restriction sometimes can bring out much more meaningful things from inside.”
Outside of the advertising world, Yifan loves music, film and art. He lists his favourite creators as French musician The Blaze, director Wong Karwai, and Chinese artist and writer Mu Xin. “They all have the sense of ‘extravagant stoic’,” he says, admiring the juxtaposition of these oppositional ideas.
In her personal life, he’s even created his own brand of fermented pu’er tea. It’s called Sha Jian (刹间). “It means ‘a moment can pass soon but last forever’. Tea drinking and whisky are my top two hobbies. It perfectly shows how, in certain forms, simplicity can be complicated,” says Yifan.
Simplicity and complexity in one – as true for tea as it is for advertising. And according to Yifan, it’s in the tension of contradiction where the most exciting creativity lies.