What makes Chinese consumers tick? That’s the question Chris Reitermann, CEO of Ogilvy China, has been puzzling over for the last two decades. Reitermann began his career at advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather in the 1990s, moving to Beijing in 2000 to set up the digital agency OgilvyInteractive. Since then, he has risen to head up the company’s entire operations in China. In this interview, he discusses the dramatic changes that have taken place in Chinese advertising during his time here, why China has much to learn from India on running a great campaign, and what the industry may look like by 2027.
Are smartphones making us smarter? Bosses are especially concerned about this at the workplace because people check their phones as often as 150 times a day–meaning we may be distracted more than 50% of the time at work and have lower productivity. However, our devices are good for relationship building, and having a good friend at work tends to extend an employee’s stay at a job. In addition, smartphone use helps ensure that the workday never really ends and work time can extend into evenings and weekends. This could be both good and bad news because long hours can translate into lower productivity and, eventually, illness.
For foreigners, doing business in China is tempting but challenging. Aside from all the difficulties of language, culture and social conventions, the most difficult challenge is understanding local laws and regulations in order to proactively protect your company’s operations and assets. Dan Harris, an attorney at his Seattle-based law firm Harris Bricken, has been helping clients navigate China’s legal landscape for almost 15 years. Since 2006, he has co-authored the China Law Blog, which delivers practical knowledge of Chinese law as it impacts on business. In this interview, Harris discusses legal issues important to companies doing business in China, including compliance, corruption and IP protection.
Is it true that consumers nowadays need less stuff? Statistics show that in the West at least, the long shopping spree is ending—people are spending more of their disposable income on recreational activities like travel and dining in good restaurants, but less on buying things. Even in China, a country that many thought to have just entered a material era, people have shown less interest in buying new things. What on earth is “minimalism”? What are the reasons behind this trend? For business, minimalism undoubtedly presents a challenge. What can you sell to people who’ve decided they don’t want more?
Professional networking platforms have already changed the way people find and do work. Where do observers of the virtual working world think this functionality may be heading? What consequences might that have for professionals? Some observers think there will be both utopian and dystopian possibilities ahead for virtual networking because although virtual networking makes it easier to find job opportunities and reduce transaction costs, people or organizations may also misuse the online data or use it to entrench an elite, extract rents, or manipulate people. Others see more tailored networking services, such as using artificial intelligence in recruiting.
Online social networks are changing Chinese professional culture—simply sending out resumes to get a job is inadequate. Compared to Americans, young Chinese spend more time networking and leverage social sites to find jobs. Recruiters are active participants in this trend. As a Shanghai-based employer says: “I don’t even call people anymore.” Instead of waiting for resumes that may contain dull business mug-shots, employers look at applicants’ social profiles, chatting to ones they find interesting and learn about their business and leisure time and maybe, if lucky, get a rough idea of their personality.
Over the past couple decades, we have been told over and over again that the most important sources for job information are weak ties—in other words, acquaintances. But now we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the tools and platforms available to us. It’s more information than we can ever take in, and we have a vast number of connections with people—connections that are often very vague and shallow. So knowing how to make the most of online networks has become increasingly difficult, even as it has become more important.
China’s business world is littered with rags-to-riches entrepreneurs—Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, was an English teacher before starting Alibaba. Not all such magnates are equal, however, and joining Ma in the upper echelons of China’s rich list was Wang Wei, chairman of delivery and logistics company SF Express, who initially started out by lugging packages between Hong Kong and mainland China, operating in a legal gray zone as he did so. But now SF Express has grown to become the most successful logistics company in China. Listed in Shenzhen Stock Exchange in early 2017, the company has many competitive advantages over its counterparts.
Today, we pack more computing power in our pocket than it took to get to the moon, and we can send a message to anyone in the world in less than a second. We’re overloaded with information, and as a consequence, many of us feel more anxious, more distracted and less productive. Why? “Unlike computers, we do not have limitless storage nor do we have unlimited time”, writes Julia Hobsbawm in her book Fully Connected. As a social network analyst, she says that people today are struggling with over-connectedness and are searching for meaning. People need to look more closely at what she calls “social health”.
Some introverts dread small talk and trying to get to know strangers. But like it or not, networking is necessary. Research has found that regions with higher numbers of contacts per capita were more resilient to economic shocks during the Great Recession. Today, as we embrace all the advances in communication–with more online discussion and less face time–questions over the efficiency of online networking are being raised. Yet the trend is irreversible, and what we need to do is find out a useful role for this new way of networking .