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Meet the CEOs: Publicis China’s ChengHua Yang

Originally from Taiwan, ChengHua Yang came to China 12 years ago and now heads of one of the leading creative agencies in the Greater China region.

With an MBA degree, the 28-year industry veteran has a deep enthusiasm for his job and says real advertising is communication that reflects people’s true self – and only real advertising can touch people’s heart and change their mind.

His journey with Publicis has been blessing. In December 2007, Yang took over the role of general manager of Publicis Shanghai and turned the situation around. With proven capabilities, he took over an additional responsibility to lead the Guangzhou office in 2010.

Now as Greater China new business director & Shanghai/Guangzhou CEO, Yang oversees more than 400 people spread across Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and has successfully consolidated the agency’s reputation across the region.

Let’s take a ride to see how Yang climbed up to such respectable and enviable position.

How would you describe your management style?  

My management style – I will say: I hope my people can grow by themselves; I hope them can involve and take the lead.

But we are in advertising industry, a service industry, we cannot let mistakes happen. I still need to check details from time to time. But I try not to do too many things but advise them to pay attention on potential issues.

I see myself as a mentor, but in China, many people like to be followers. They prefer you to give clear instructions instead of “guessing” what you want. So, I need to switch between commander and mentor role.

Who was the mentor who most influenced you and why?

Many good leaders in this industry, like T.B. Song, Shenan Chuang, or my boss, Sheena Jeng. They show me good examples to be a leader.

I was working in O&M Taiwan during Year 1988-1989, 1992-1994. I learned a lot from TB and Shenan. No matter their passion of advertising or leadership.

Sheena is my mentor always.

To me, management is not a job; it is a reflection of yourself – how you see the world and how you like the world to be. So, Sheena gives me more on personal advises.

What was the proudest moment in your career?

If my people win – no matter awards, or good works. As a manager, you should be proud of your team, not yourself – at least, this is how I feel of myself. If without them, you would not achieve it.

In 2010, I took over GZ office. At the moment, the office was downside to 18 heads; and I grew it by more than 65% in 2011 and 35% in 2012. I did not fire anyone. I feel proud of my teams. They made a dramatic difference by themselves. For a very traditional business, we were rather good.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

I guess I am too sensitive to people – so, I am thinking too much of people’s feeling instead of “what’s right or what’s the thing should do”. Maybe sentimental is not the right personality for management – sorry, I am too sentimental, I guess. I need to overcome this.

What keeps you inspired?

Reading. Reading. Learning, learning. Go to seminars, and press pause button if needed. Sometimes, doing more – cross categories learning can inspire me. I learn from the beauty industry to apply to the car industry.

When you’re not at work, where could we find you?

Home. GYM. And bookstores (especially when I am in Taiwan).

What’s the craziest thing you have encountered working in the ad business?

Well, advertising industry reflects the real life – so, madness happens. Maybe, the whole advertising business is crazy. OK, I make an example.

In 1999, I was in Taiwan. When the 921 earthquake happened at 1:47AM, we were still working on a proposal to present to clients on the next day at 9AM. Suddenly, all electronic power went off and earthquake shook. We lost everything in the computer and re-did everything in the coming few hours.

However, clients did not work since the earthquake. The next day, September 22, we were asked to prepare three front page ads – including newspaper booking and creative works within eight hours time.

We worked until 2:30am to send the creative (finish art work) to newspaper printing factory in person… many interesting experience.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

If you do not like advertising or communications, DO NOT waste your time. But DO SEE YOUR JOB as a FUN GAME and go for it!

What’s the best thing about living in China?

Fast growing, changing everyday. I need to learn to keep up with others. However, it is a place for the young hearted. I see new things here. A big construction field, a big experimental field. Exciting, keep moving!

What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2015?

Integrate media agencies with creative agencies – integration is a must. Of course, it might not happen this year, but, hey, big bosses, move fast.

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