Ad man relies on strategic planning
Ethan Law Kai-kong is a walking advertisement in career management. Three years after graduating, he has moved up to the management of an online advertising firm. Crediting his vision, Law says he is always looking to move forwards.
I have wanted to be in the field since high school, when I would collect posters of print ads because they looked so cool. Back then, I only looked at advertising from an artistic point of view, which led me to do a course in design. Later, I found that I was more of a strategic planner than a designer.
Marketing and advertising are closely related, so I tried to work with my strength by choosing to major in marketing at the City University of Hong Kong as I heard they had a good advertising course in the marketing programme.
I interned at a 4A company for a year, and with this experience, I joined a 4A company after graduation. I am lucky to have caught the boom of online advertising which is not just about being creative, but also involves a huge amount of data and analysis.
In television advertising, advertisers only know how many people have viewed the ad – they are not able to track if any action is then taken. In online marketing, you can track consumer behaviour – what they have bought online, which websites they have visited, and which channel can create the most sales. My job is to make use of this data to bring in sales.
You have to be proactive and an independent thinker. Unlike the case for professionals such as lawyers and doctors, who have a well-structured training system, there is little guidance for online advertisers due to its newness. There are no standards and everything must be built from scratch. It’s very challenging.
Hong Kong is one of the most advanced markets for online advertising, just behind the US. But it is small. E-commerce and online advertising go together. On the mainland, e-commerce is booming, but the concept is not so well-accepted here – so the future is on the mainland and overseas. I worked in China for two years, and still constantly travel between the two places.
Mainland staff work very hard. Most come from small villages and are focused on making money. In contrast, local staff are less aggressive. But when it comes to having an international vision, they are more open. In the future, foreign countries will have to rely on Hong Kong to expand their businesses on the mainland, and to help mainland firms enter the international market.
As I move up, I think that EQ [emotional quotient] is more important than IQ. Top management positions in all industries are about knowing how to work with people. I have also learned to be less goal-oriented, and to treasure the process of reaching the goal more than having the goal itself.
Learn the fundamentals of advertising at school. Be keen to attend industry seminars. Seek internship opportunities, as you may learn way more than you would by reading a book.