I came into the advertising business in the mid-1960s. It was the tail end of the larger-than-life advertising world we see depicted in ‘Mad Men’ TV series. And yes, there was a lot of smoking and drinking. Sadly, I was too junior (too low on the rung) to enjoy the other activities! However, unlike the ‘Mad Men’ on screen, we did work hard as well as play hard. There were some very bright and talented people in advertising in those days and some exceptional work was produced, like DDB’s Volkswagen campaign, for example. But I can’t help feeling you guys in the agencies today have a tougher time than we did. The bean counters control the agency groups and the death of the commission system took away the financial padding. Staff have been thin on the ground in recent years as management strives to stay in profit. Media buying is no longer simple. In the old days, a choice might be between a TV commercial or three pages in the national newspaper. The platforms nowadays are wide and the data to be analysed is huge. It is no easier ride for the clients. They have to make decisions, knowing that errors will soon come to light. And no longer can they tell the consumers what to buy, they have to ‘engage’ them. Drop the ball, and everyone in the world knows thanks to social media.

However, there is no point in wishing the world had stood still. That horse is dead. Fortunately, there are still many bright and talented people entering the industry. The ‘Year of the Horse’ in the Chinese calendar which we are entering should be a year of energy and speed. For those born under the sign of another animal, most personally will also enjoy a good year ahead, I am told.

If you move quickly and embrace the changes, your brand should continue to find success. The changes in our industry since the 1960s have brought new opportunities and I hope 2014 will open up new paths for you.

Gong Xi Fa Cai