China - Sky High Bar Edition


Welcome to another chaotic Shanghai morning!

Today's the first time we visit three companies in the same day. They got for at least two hours each, with a David Debrief in the bus after, so you can kind of think of it has having least eight hours' solid lecturing. And the kind you have to pay attention to and write down every word they say, not the play Bejewelled/sleep though kind. Ahem.

It all meant basically that the day quickly descended from a kind of 

to a

kind of thing. 

But, alas, no time on this trip for whatever sleep is supposed to be, so onward ho.

First company is DDB, the massive multinational advertising agency. Some of us were pretty excited. 
Nina, in a nutshell. 

I can definitely confirm that after this visit, everyone wanted to work there. Which is good, I suppose, because it's their job to be all inspirational and get people to buy things, so nice work, DDB. 
DDB is cool. In the purest definition of the word. Everyone who's in advertising knows about them and probably wants to be them. They win all the awards. My mother knows who they are, for God's sake (hi mum). 

Had a cool sitting/presenting area, but with cushions and no actual seats with backs, so that wasn't very fun. 

Our presenters were Jit Ng, Managing Director of DDB Shanghai (the one with the cool hair) and Tim Cheng, Creative Director (the one with the cool glasses). They were really cool. 

A few important take away points:-
  • DDB's values are about the belief that "creativity is the most powerful force in business" (quote from one of the founders, Bernbach. Advertising for them is about instigating conversations, not talking at people. It's about understanding and respecting human nature and developing an insight into the problems a client faces, not just doing what they're told to do.
  • They really pioneered the modern advertising agency. They were the first to pair an art director and copy writer together and the first to develop that modern idea of advertising, with its thinking outside the box and different kinds of appeals and thinking, à la VW's Think Small campaign from the 60s. It was called the best advertising of the 20th century, and successfully answered the question, "how does one sell a Nazi cars to a bunch of Americans from a group of Jews?"

  • Jit and Tim emphasised the importance of digital media and the power of word of mouth in China today - you really don't understand the extent to which the smartphone age can infiltrate a society until you've been to China. But I'll wait until the visit to the company who basically owns all of China's biggest websites before I get into that one.

There's a lot more to say about this place, but it's not for here. They did write a blog post about us though, which is pretty shiny. 

Wai Sin + Isabella, Tim + Jit.

Next company was AdSmith China, a small PR firm run by Mike Golden, an American. He also spoke about social and digital media in China, and it was interesting to compare what he had to say with DDB's more large scale side of things. 

Things about running a PR firm in China:
  • We asked what PR is exactly, because it's always been a bit of a vague concept for the Average Joe; basically about reaching out to the media, opinion leaders and journalists and getting them to write nice things about the client. Kinda sounds like marketing in its most basic, manipulative and  non-technical form.
  • Like in the West, social media is often used as a source of news. For us, this means that the actual news outlets need to be on their game with their fierce Twitter competition, but in Communist, censored China it means that things can get very interesting; sometimes events the government tries to hide gets online and spreads so fast they can't do anything about it.
  • Journalism in China has very low standards; you pay them to come to events, doesn't mean they'll write anything. 
  • Crisis management is "ugly and stupid". Balancing some Western clients' pride and integrity with some good old fashioned corruption and blackmail is interesting.

Look at me being all concise and laconic. Sort of.

Sam + Chester. 

Quick lunch at the cafe under AdSmith.

Actually delicious. 

Studious Mr Tim.

Plus mango frappe because still so damn hot. 

Look! A bus!

The third and final company for the day was Sandvik, a 150 year old Swedish firm which manufactures mining machinery and vehicles. We got a tour around some of the finished products, featuring hard hats and reflective vests. This is an industry that doesn't f**k around - cone crushers! Deep drilling! Bomb shelters! This is some hi-tech, multi-million dollar serious stuff, with only one really true appropriate adjective: badass.

The presenter was an Australian bloke, Christopher Wright; he was a man who knew his stuff. He was one of those people who had a significant presence in the room, commanded your attention and made you want to listen to everything he said; partly because you felt there would be some sort of adverse consequences if you didn't, and partly because you sensed he had seen and experienced a lot in his life and damned if you were going to miss what he had to say.

After a day like this you kind of want to 

but, this is night time in Shanghai! You don't miss this kind of thing. Adios, sanity!

This night was a lot about George being the epitome of that lovely Asian gentleman I was telling you about. Due to an innocent miscommunication, the girls I had planned to go out with left me behind at the hotel (tsss) and George, knowing this when I didn't, made sure I came out with everyone else. 

Banquet time. 

Whenever we get together and eat like this, Chester orders for us all. He likes to show us the range of his home country's culinary expertise, which is great, but means a vast array of questionable and apparently edible creatures are brought out. And if it's not questionable, it comes out whole with all its claws and hairs and heads and wings and legs all attached. 

Which was fine for me, but some just don't appreciate having claws thrown at them. Partypoopers. 

Chilli chicken, plus what was dubbed "fried husband". I actually don't remember the in joke about that, but I know that it was frakking hilarious. 

I now bring you a brief intermission in the form of the boys being silly.

Pure class.

Pure sass.

Pure...I'm not sure. 

After, most went back to the hotel, but as I mentioned don't miss Shanghai at night. So time to meet up with the girls who left me behind (tss).

Sam was always willing to go anywhere that wasn't the hotel, and George came with us too. 

Attempt to catch the Shanghai subway system. Here we go.

Thos arrows on the floor there are so civilised! Except when no one actually follows them. So disappointing, Shanghai. 

Look, carriage-less trains like the Toronto ones!

Successfully got to the People's Square, but time to catch a cab to whatever club the others were at.

Sam getting suckered into the street market. 

After a collective inability to read Google maps and catch a cab in what would be considered a civilised fashion - 

 - we turn to desperate measures. Which kind of consists of half running in front of a cab and throwing yourself in before either it can drive off or the people already in there can get out. 


Eventually found the others. Took a stroll along the river, with a full view of Shanghai's fantastic skyline.
SURPRISE! they turn off all the lights after about 8pm. For residential reasons, which I find unsatisfactory. Does NYC turn their shit off? I think not. 

Became popular and asked to get a photo.

They're so sweet.

That white light is an ad on the side of the building. How come that gets to run all night. Bloody marketers.

Here, others left us, the only ones ready to do more things being Whitney, good old Sam, and I. 

Where do 3 curious people go on a lazy Thursday Shanghai evening?

In true Whitney fashion, to the tallest bar in the world, of course. 

It's at the top of the Grand Hilton, on the 94th floor. It's in the shape of a bottle opener, and you can kinda try to see it if you like in the photos above but all the bloody lights are out, so not really. 


So long and fast, your ears pop with the altitude. 

Take corny pictures with all the fancy hotel things.

Probably the most expensive bar in Shanghai, and cocktails are still only average Australian prices. After all these travels, am never buying anything at home ever again. 

And they were so, so good.

See? Why sleep when you can Shanghai bar. I rest my case. 

Until next time...

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