The Beauty of Shanghai and the Powerful Women in its Workforce

There’s something to be said about the powerful women that come from Shanghai’s workforce. One of those women happens to be the subject of today’s interview — the creative group head for TBWA Shanghai, known as Sherry S. Wang. Sherry is an art based creative director who focuses on offering marketing solutions and art direction to clients and companies who need help effectively communicating their ad campaigns. She’s worked with clients like Starbucks, Adidas, Michelin, and others.

Sherry embodies a combination of powerful business woman chic, and artistic passion. Read on to learn about Sherry’s favorite fashion items, as well as her journey through the creative advertising world, and how she wound up in Shanghai.

1. How is life in Shanghai different from other cities you’ve lived in?

Shanghai is an amazing city where you can find both “old” and “new” meaning that it is full of juxtaposition. I’ve noticed that in Shanghai, the growth and life there are typical of China – fast and open minded. Yet you are able to find gorgeous European architecture, opera houses and authentic international cuisines. I would say some of the major advantages to living Shanghai include the the ease of living: a superb public transit system, convenience shops at every corner, user friendly smartphone apps and the tech-savy locals. Besides that, there’s the safety of the city, the ability to roam the streets comfortably at any given hour. And the food! No matter which Chinese cuisine you crave, whatever type of food you wish to find: Asian, European, Middle Eastern, Russian, high-end Michelin Star restaurants to authentic street vendors, the city offers more choices than stars under the moon. So yes, juxtaposition: Shanghai truly is the melting pot of the East.

2. As a Creative Director, you handle a variety of projects including promotions, retail design, strategy and team management. How do you manage and prioritize each project? What helps you stay organized and free of stress?

When it comes to taking on a new project, some of the most important tasks for me, include defining the scope of work and planning the work. Detailing the amount of time that needs to be spent and then creating a preliminary plan really helps with creating a to-do List. From there on, depending on the timeline and urgency of the work, entrust and assign the appropriate talents to the appropriate tasks: efficiency is key. Keeping uninterrupted communication with the team and providing feedback is also key to preventing any work flow blockage. I’m very lucky to have been assigned such a solid, talented team. They keep my work manageable and pleasant.

3. What was one of the earliest professional challenges you faced? How did you handle and overcome?

In college, I decided to pursue my passion in drawing and art making, so naturally I chose to major in illustration, which seemed like the right decision, until I had to find a job. I would say the earliest professional challenge I faced was finding a suitable career path that accentuated my love for art while still enabling me to pay the rent. I dabbled in a variety of freelance jobs from working as an Editorial Designer for Ferrari Club of America to a Package Designer for Trader Joe’s. I was struck by a shooting star with the opportunity to move to Shanghai to work for the ad agency J. Walter Thompson in 2013. With a healthy sense of curiosity, I decided to move to China for a few months to see how things went. Luckily, my Chinese heritage as well as my knowledge of reading/speaking/writing in Mandarin eased the living transition and proved extremely beneficial when it came to career advancements. Et Voila! A few months turned into 5 years.

4. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends? Where do you look to for new energy and inspiration?

Staying up to date on the latest news and trends has become exponentially easier nowadays with the existence of social media. I have a preferred list of sources I get daily news from alongside a roster of design and tech blogs I follow. But I would have to say my favorite source of inspiration still comes from a more old-fashioned experience: traveling. In 2017, I solo traveled to 16 counties. Just a carry-on case and my good old passport. Clocking out from the mundane 9 to 5 really does re-calibrate you. There is nothing quite like enjoying your own company while discovering a new city, experiencing different cultures and being exposed to new events.

5. How has consumer behavior and lifestyle evolved in Shanghai?

Everything is done bigger and louder with the Chinese. A recent survey conducted by PwC showed that amongst 12,000 global online shoppers surveyed, 75% of Chinese shop online weekly, compared to a global average of 21%. However, there is a growing trend of the younger Gen Z population becoming less reliant on social media. The Chinese millennials, unlike the generations before them, are way more keen on expressing their individuality. And although they are into brands, they are not completely loyal to them. Instead, they seek out “different,” “tailored,” and “self-expressive” experiences.

6. Do you feel that trends in Shanghai and China take off in other parts of the world? Why do you think that is?

Only less than a decade ago, Chinese were the novices of the world consumption. This notion is swiftly changing thanks to e-payment (even Wechat pay and Alipay) in substitute of the traditional and archaic line-ups.

7. What do you enjoy most about your life in Shanghai? Where do you like to spend your down time?

I would still say the ease of living in Shanghai has to be my favorite aspect about this city. Especially with the combination of service apps and affordable labor price, I can order a car service to pick me up from JingAn downtown to Pudong Airport (~50km) for 30 USD, order a 2-hour cleaning service to tidy up after a weekend house party for 8 USD, or simply just to satisfy my late night munchies and order a full course meal with drinks for around 15 USD.​In China’s highly digitized world today, consumer’s expectations are also on the rise. Expectations of “Convenience” are far greater than being able to grab a quick snack at the corner store. As e-commerce, fast shipping, ease of mobile payment/transfers, and food delivery become more engrained in people’s daily lives, brands and companies that are lacking on the end-to-end service front will quickly become irrelevant. Throughout my international travels, I’ve seem more and more companies adopting kiosk order placements. I also have to mention that Shanghai’s nightlife is still one of the best in the world. Totally a guilty pleasure, but I love making early morning hot pot runs with my girlfriends after a night of intense partying 😉

8. What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. I’ve always been a fan of Musk, he is a true modern day visionary. The man not only has brains but guts too. And in reading this biography, I’ve gotten unique insights into his personal relationships, how he’s coped and managed through both successes and failures. The book also talks about his childhood and formative years, which explains why he is the way he is, and how those relationships developed. By the way, did I mention I have a crush on Elon Musk?

9. Do you see advertising trends emerge from China?

Marketing and advertising in China aren’t just about Wechat posts, Youku videos and metro ads anymore. Now more than ever, brands are expected to take consumers along for the ride, both on and off line. We are likely to see more brands offering digitally-integrated offline experiences to set themselves apart from their competitors. A good example would be Starbucks Reserve Roastery that opened in Shanghai in December of 2017. ​”China is going to be larger than Starbucks in the U.S.,” said Howard Schultz, executive chairman of the company. “China is going to have more impact and grow faster than anything we’ve done in our history. And what we have seen in Shanghai with the Roastery not only gives us confidence but demonstrates the opportunity to be even larger than we once realized just a year ago.” This Reserve location has even enlisted the help of e-commerce giant ​Alibaba​ to create an augmented reality experience within the Roastery. Customers can use their mobile phones to scan, engage and learn about the different types of coffee and the various roasteries.

10. What are three items of fashion that you can’t imagine living without?

Why can’t all the questions be this easy? Number 1: LBD (Little Black Dress), it’s one piece I wear with the highest frequency and take with me on most trips. Whether you need to dress up or dress down, it’s the perfect piece to fall back on, super versatile. Number 2: my Louis Vuitton Speedy 30, I have it in the brown color as well as the beige. It’s lightweight, low maintenance and stuffs like no other. Number 3: Good ol’ booty hugging skinny jeans.

11. How would you describe your professional style? What inspires this look for you?

I always go for the chic, smart-casual look. I like to keep things professional but still versatile enough to go grab dinner with my friends straight from the office after work. I would say my biggest style inspiration comes from my Mom. Even now, I still think of her as one of the best dressed and most elegant women I’ve ever seen. Thanks for relaying all your secrets, Mom!

12. How do you see women’s roles in advertising evolving or growing?

China is no stranger to women holding powerful positions in the workforce​. Advertising in China didn’t take off until the late 80s, which meant it never went through the Madmen era of the West where the industry was heavily dominated by men. “We are all so lucky that we take it for granted that we have a higher number of women in senior roles in this part of the world,” admits Carol Lam, chief creative officer and president of Leo Burnett Greater China. Globally, a lot has been done to address the issue of gender inequality. ​In June 2015, TBWA global launched a network-wide campaign 20/20 that stressed the importance of recognizing women’s issues as an issue for everyone, especially in the workforce. A series of workshops, events, and a new way of hiring were organized in support for gender equality. Campaigns like 20/20 are happening more and more, and it’s thanks to these advocates that people are now listening. We are far from reaching the ideal fair scale, but recognizing the issue and placing it under a
spotlight will continue to bring about positive change. Looking forwards, I am optimistic.

Images of Shanghai by Shutterstock!

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