Meet Our New Facer – Andrew Ho, Managing Director of Face Asia

We’re excited to welcome Andrew Ho to our Hong Kong office. Andrew will be joining us as the new Managing Director of Face Asia. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having worked as a client, inventor, entrepreneur, consultant and advertising planner. He’s worked for such companies as P&G, McCann-Erickson, Saatchi & Saatchi, and was the Head of Planning for DDB Hong Kong. He joins Face from Clear after heading up their Hong Kong office.

But rather than tell you about him, we thought it best to let him introduce himself in this interview. Much more fun that way.

Andrew Ho

You’ve spent time as a client, consultant and most recently advertising – what has brought you back to consultancy & research?

My career has certainly offered me some very cool opportunities, however the consistent theme throughout has been a hunger and commitment to insight and creative problem solving. So regardless of the title, the roles have been pretty similar. The consulting environment is like no other however – you tackle the big issues with the right people and are exposed to talent and a diversity of challenges that is hard to beat.

Coming to Face represents a chance to learn from the most emergent thinking in the industry and work with remarkable technology. Throughout my career, I’ve let my curiosity lead me to where the most stimulating opportunities are – whether they be commercial, cultural or personal.

What excites you about working in Asia?

For me, it’s the ability to work with people who are hungry and grateful. People, clients and colleagues alike. It’s something I find less pervasive in the West. For the vast majority of people in the region, they have grown up in a climate of constant change. Seismic political, economic & cultural changes are everywhere. Change is thoroughly unsettling for most people but most Asians are impressively adept at turning their lemons into lemonade. It inspires hunger that leads to extraordinary acts of creativity & entrepreneurialism. And nothing get’s taken for granted. The village one’s parents grew up in may only be just down the road – which makes for a sobering and beautiful reminder to live and live well.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the marketing & insight industry, both globally and specifically in Asia?

Honestly, I don’t think the challenges have changed much. Summoning the foresight, ability and courage to do something about them is the issue. In Asia the same old challenges are merely amplified but are no different in nature. How do you encourage environments where fearless creativity can take hold? When will the brand community more consistently embrace a better class of insight? How will big companies act smaller and behave like they stand for something? There are some cultural tenets that make these challenges even harder for some marketing professionals in the region.

What do you think the next big trends are in research?

Happily I’d like to think that Face is leading the way with a select few marketers – embracing the authenticity of dialogue and brand interaction that’s taking place in the social environment. You would hope that people’s frustrations with traditional research and half-hearted innovation will give way to common sense. We generally work with colleagues and clients that are hungrier.

What will be interesting is how well advertising agencies embrace and execute world-class insight and strategy. As more and more clients seem to out-source their marketing responsibilities to their agency partners, ad agencies are burden by an extraordinary new role. There are a few strategic magicians out there, but generally speaking the planning pool is shallow in Asia and full of slap-dash gun slingers, let alone those capable of adopting the discipline to crack both creative, consumer & business strategy.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing clients who want to be successful in Asian markets?

For local businesses, the key challenge is not forgetting the imagination and entrepreneurialism that made them successful. To walk away from a merchant mentality, keep listening and continue to innovate from a singular brand purpose.

For foreign brands, most tend to massage their products and services by “localising” them – but I question how meaningful these innovations are. They too have a grand opportunity to stop and ask themselves “What business am I really in?” Multinationals are all reliant on the emerging regions to prop up their short-falls in America and Europe, and come to Asia with a dusty playbook and a false sense of scales of economy rather than reboot their research, strategy and business models

What attracted you to working at Face?

For anyone who has worked agency-side, we all know how much any agency preaches innovation, insight and good marketing for clients but are terrible at doing it themselves. Face’s attention to growing their own offering and culture is something I haven’t seen anywhere else. The investment we make into our own technology, intelligence and people means a better product – but more importantly, sustainable innovation.

What are your top 3 things to do in Hong Kong for visitors?

1. Get fit: Beyond the sky-line & urban pollution, every visitor is stunned by the abundance of nature. I’ve never been healthier

2. Get native: personally I believe it is much easier to properly immerse yourself in local culture vs. other Asian countries

3. Get creative: HK is going through an awkward rebirth of its creative culture. There are hits and misses, but it’s an exciting time to participate.

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