Who are you?
I am Chenyin Pan, I lead Fireworks, a creative digital agency in Shanghai. We research on how brands behave on social media. In what discussions they are involved. Based on that we do digital content ideation. We help Western brands to get involved in Chinese social media. Our financer is Italian, so our business model is asking for a strong connection between Europe and China. We work for some of the leading European luxury brands. Stella McCartney I am proud to mention. For Lancel we created their city app. Also Johnnie Walker is a client.
We started as a creative industry agency. Imagining fresh ideas and concepts for our clients. We have evolved into the digital technology business. Still cherishing our creative roots we now embrace AI as an ultimate tool for successful communication. But we are not an AI agency like so many in Shanghai. Our creativity is our unique selling proposition. We are less a tech-company. We are less hardware. We are a creative powerhouse. For us it is crucial to fully understand what the people want: than being a tech company is not enough. Data can help you only so much. It is really about interpreting the data as only humans can. Interpreting the data for the brands we work for. Helping them to see through what is going on — and what it means for them. We are their emotional partners.
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When it comes to commercial communication AI is the new focus?
For sure & everywhere. You don’t have people working in car plants anymore; 97% is automated. The delivery business is going down the same road. Alibaba does smart hotels. Handmade designs are over — unless you are in upscale haute couture. Even human are becoming AI-improved. It is inevitable that AI also brings dramatic changes to advertising and marketing.
The ICT landscape is quite different in China than in the West. Here the consumer journey is all in one eco-system. Shops, celebrities, local newspapers, financial transactions, entertainment are all in one and the same online space. At WeChat you buy both your sneakers and vegetables. They are brought to your doorsteps as well — still WeChat empowered. Fireworks is fully committed to the Chinese super eco-systems. We help European brands, mainly luxury, fashion, lifestyle and F&B brands, to find successful places in it.
Traditionally we are serving Western brands with high budgets and high expectations. Thanks to our AI investments, work that had to be done by five people five years ago, now can be realized by only one. Which makes it possible for us to help brands with more limited budgets.
Within marketing communication, we focus on customer relationship management. Two different persons are visiting the same website as one of our clients. We have studied their data, their past, their location and as a consequence, they watch very different opening screens. In itself, this doesn’t sound too new. When one opens a company website in Shanghai or Amsterdam, it will look quite different as well, changing with the weather type for instance. But we take this personalization to much more refined next levels. AI is the key factor in this.
Also at Amazon, each website visitor gets a personalized opening shot? What is so different?
Amazon is like a huge market place. They have all the traffic data diverted to them. Our role is fully focused on benefitting our brand client. We are building their CRM ecosystem. Based on where their clients and visitors have shopped before, what they watched and clicked and where they are located, past, present en predictively: future. Amazon can be the ultimate market space in the West, but we are building online ecosystems for our brand clients in China. And mind you, Amazon doesn’t know much about how people behave in the offline world. We know! Since the Chinese pay mobile, the distinction between online and offline has stopped to count here.
Where is advertising industry more advanced: China or the West?
The most fundamental research on AI still happens in Silicon Valley. China is very, very good at implementing everything though. We have more data to feed AI with. We are less privacy-sensitive. We combine online data about people’s behavior much better with their offline data behavior. Simply because we can and are allowed in China. You wrote about it in your article on the book of Kai-Fu Lee: “AI Superpowers. China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.”
Western companies often don’t have clue.
Thanks to this all, we are very excited to be in the forefronts of China’s digital revolution. We are in all the playing fields. We live and breathe digital. We get our hands on everything that is new and Cool in China.
What is new and Cool?
Everyone lives on their mobile phones. E-commerce comes to your real offline door. No cash in China anymore. Pay With Your Face. Which is also more environmentally friendly as we are leaving the printing industry behind. Electric cars are adapted faster in China than anywhere else. Also more generally, things are going faster here than in the West. We go less structured, leaving more space for powerful creativity and entrepreneurship. There is no need to fit into any format — which creates maximal room for disruptive endeavors. China is an action-prone nation actively grabbing chances and perfecting them by hard work into even harder cash. Last but not least, we are getting rich faster than anywhere else. There is a huge impatient hunger to get wealthy. We combine it with a perseverant ambition to get things done. Shanghai with its loads of entrepreneurial young people is in the heart of it all.
When it comes to your work practices: What surprises you most?
How hard it is to overcome inter-cultural obstacles are and how lightly people and companies think about this. Chinese brands don’t know the West. And vice versa. The West often doesn’t bother to pronounce Chinese brand names properly. Supposing that doesn’t matter is neither smart nor helpful. In order to be successful in business, there should be more mutual inter-cultural sensitivity. Our core ambition is being the AI-empowered creative powerhouse for Western brands in China. But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it is good to ‘educate’ about intercultural differences and sensitivities.
So we have decided to come to Europe twice a year on a road show, preparing prospects for the soft spots and peculiarities of their potential future Chinese markets. It is better for them to learn about that while still in Europe than receiving a shock when they are already visiting China. We are happy to go this extra mile making it easier for them. As Chinese entrepreneurs, we consider it a good investment. As part of the road show, we surely will focus on what’s digitally possible in China — and actually happening. Western companies often don’t have a clue.
Interested in Fireworks European Roadshow? Email: email@example.com
About the author:
Prof. Dr. Carl Rohde is an international keynote speaker about ‘Future forecasting & Innovation’ — with academic depth and practical realism. During the last decade, he worked with 50 universities and over 10,000 students. Aim: to make all involve more trends- and innovation sensitive. Rohde has research positions in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Shanghai. Carl Rohde also leads www.scienceofthetime.com, a virtual network of market and trend researchers worldwide.
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