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Agency Life

Fueling More Energy and Passion

Fueling More Energy and Passion

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

April 6, 2018

Because agency life is a people business.

"You need to be agile, committed, and versatile."

After spending two-thirds of his agency life in the Havas family, Managing Director Ricky Lam has a keen interest in youth culture. In this candid Q&A, he talks about connecting with millennials and explains why versatility fosters creative excellence.

 

Tell us a little about your background.

So far, two-thirds of my agency life has been within the Havas network. I joined Havas Hong Kong, formerly known as Euro RSCG Partnership Hong Kong, as an account manager in 2000. When I wanted a change, I moved to China and worked at Havas Beijing and TBWA/Shanghai for almost six years. In 2016, I was offered to take up the leadership role of Havas Hong Kong, so I made the move again and returned to start a new chapter of my career.

Describe your day-to-day as a managing director?

Honestly, quite intense but very fulfilling. When you are a small player in a mature and competitive market such as Hong Kong, you need to be agile, committed, and versatile. Thankfully, I have a great team and we all have these great, useful attributes.

What are some challenges you face and have to overcome while working in the Hong Kong market?

Hong Kong is a market that is increasingly localized and fragmented. Clients and brands choose to work with multiple partners who, oftentimes, are local startups and boutique agencies that can provide instant, cheaper solutions that respond to and leverage the newest in, say, social media.

Having said that, as the line between content and media becomes hazier, our Together strategy and Village model enable us to stay competitive. We have a good mix of expertise—all under the same roof—to predict trends, enrich our offerings, and drive creative excellence.

"I work hard to attract and retain young talent, make them love their work, and feel proud of making it happen."

In the 20 years you’ve worked in advertising, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

“Advertising isn’t just about any kind of idea; it’s about the idea that can sell, and it’s our job to find this idea.” This is what Jacques Séguéla, co-founder of RSCG, said in an interview.

How do you approach local versus international brands when trying to bring in new business?

This is a very interesting question. While we aren’t covered by global contracts, 90% of our clients are global brands. Actually, Hong Kong is a very mature and international market—we approach local and global brands in a similar way.

I also have noticed that global brands, regardless of their global alignment, choose to work with local shops or international agencies that have strong local teams that can activate their global brand ideas in a more nuanced, relevant, flexible, and timely way.

Do you have a favorite part of your job?
I enjoy working with young people who can tell me what they like, and what they hate, in their own language. Everyone is talking about millennials and youth culture, but honestly, this is something that’s abstract to me. So, why not work with them personally and trust their instincts and insights?

Where would you like to see the industry in the future?

For many, advertising is a long-hours but low-return job, especially in this expensive city. We need to fuel the industry with more positive energy and passion. After all, agency life is a people business. As the agency head, I work hard to attract and retain young talent, make them love their work, and feel proud of making it happen.

"You need to be agile, committed, and versatile."

After spending two-thirds of his agency life in the Havas family, Managing Director Ricky Lam has a keen interest in youth culture. In this candid Q&A, he talks about connecting with millennials and explains why versatility fosters creative excellence.

 

Tell us a little about your background.

So far, two-thirds of my agency life has been within the Havas network. I joined Havas Hong Kong, formerly known as Euro RSCG Partnership Hong Kong, as an account manager in 2000. When I wanted a change, I moved to China and worked at Havas Beijing and TBWA/Shanghai for almost six years. In 2016, I was offered to take up the leadership role of Havas Hong Kong, so I made the move again and returned to start a new chapter of my career.

Describe your day-to-day as a managing director?

Honestly, quite intense but very fulfilling. When you are a small player in a mature and competitive market such as Hong Kong, you need to be agile, committed, and versatile. Thankfully, I have a great team and we all have these great, useful attributes.

What are some challenges you face and have to overcome while working in the Hong Kong market?

Hong Kong is a market that is increasingly localized and fragmented. Clients and brands choose to work with multiple partners who, oftentimes, are local startups and boutique agencies that can provide instant, cheaper solutions that respond to and leverage the newest in, say, social media.

Having said that, as the line between content and media becomes hazier, our Together strategy and Village model enable us to stay competitive. We have a good mix of expertise—all under the same roof—to predict trends, enrich our offerings, and drive creative excellence.

"I work hard to attract and retain young talent, make them love their work, and feel proud of making it happen."

In the 20 years you’ve worked in advertising, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

“Advertising isn’t just about any kind of idea; it’s about the idea that can sell, and it’s our job to find this idea.” This is what Jacques Séguéla, co-founder of RSCG, said in an interview.

How do you approach local versus international brands when trying to bring in new business?

This is a very interesting question. While we aren’t covered by global contracts, 90% of our clients are global brands. Actually, Hong Kong is a very mature and international market—we approach local and global brands in a similar way.

I also have noticed that global brands, regardless of their global alignment, choose to work with local shops or international agencies that have strong local teams that can activate their global brand ideas in a more nuanced, relevant, flexible, and timely way.

Do you have a favorite part of your job?
I enjoy working with young people who can tell me what they like, and what they hate, in their own language. Everyone is talking about millennials and youth culture, but honestly, this is something that’s abstract to me. So, why not work with them personally and trust their instincts and insights?

Where would you like to see the industry in the future?

For many, advertising is a long-hours but low-return job, especially in this expensive city. We need to fuel the industry with more positive energy and passion. After all, agency life is a people business. As the agency head, I work hard to attract and retain young talent, make them love their work, and feel proud of making it happen.

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