Vice president, MW Advisory, APAC; Head of strategy, McCann Worldgroup
Suzanne Zhang has had a bird’s eye view of the industry since 2006, where she joined JWT as a planner. Since then, she has witnessed the transformation of China’s advertising industry from being 4As-dominated to seeing local firms proliferate. And upon joining McCann Worldgroup in 2017, Zhang wasted no time in climbing the ranks and asserting her influence on the firm.
This year, she was promoted to VP of MW Advisory where she built a new strategic advisory and consulting service to help Chinese brands expand their outbound business and assist international brands entering China. These included projects for the likes of Xiaomi, Tecno, PatPat, and ExxonMobil—leading to China being the third market in the MW global market to offer this service. On Tecno’s project, for instance, Zhang’s team carried out in-depth research on markets including India, Malaysia, Turkey and Russia leading to a win against many strong competitors such as Ogilvy India.
On top of that, Zhang and her strategy team joined heads to win pitches with a conversion rate of over 75%—this is said to be double the average rate in China on strategy-led pitches. Plus, this August, the strategy team developed a Chinese Metaverse Truth Report that was shared and adapted by global MW offices. Leveraging insights from the report, McCann China partnered with The North Face to release its digital collection in China, a trial for the retailer.
In recruiting her team—nicknamed the Avengers—Zhang cleverly combined planners with a knack for social community work with traditional branding experts. This proved lucrative in integrated campaigns partly resulting in double the number of shared clients in 2022 with high client satisfaction scores all around. Naturally, this dynamic leadership Zhang displays has resulted in a low turnover rate in her team. In fact, this rate went down to zero in 2019 and 2020.
Outside of the workplace, Zhang has given lectures on the importance of strategic thinking in advertising and marketing at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Shanghai International Studies University; she is a frequent judge at industry awards including Warc and Effies; and regularly engages interns to work on meaningful projects and have facetime with clients. Zhang is also a film buff and is trying to develop an original screenplay in her leisure time.