Even though I am only 4 days in, this trip has already broadened my horizons and given me a true taste of international business - something that I am relishing.
Everyone at Wings Media is really friendly, and I feel really privileged to have been invited to so many meetings and to have met so many people. Although I am learning a lot about the entertainment market in China, I am starting to understand how little those outside China really understand about the market here. Exciting times – and an opportunity to gather a huge amount of knowledge for Feref and its clients in UK, Europe and Hollywood.
Having never experienced Asia, or more specifically China before, nothing can really prepare you for instant culture shock I experienced; comparable to the blast of heat when you step off the plane when you arrive for your holidays…
When I arrived, everything hit me in one go; the time difference, insane morning heat, a challenging language barrier, and an unrecognisable alphabet. As a digital “millennial”, my go-to solution would be to rely on the internet and social media to help navigate a new culture. However, many of my usual online sources can’t be accessed here – which I found both challenging (and worrying when I realise how much I rely on, and use these services in other countries). Week 1 has genuinely been a sensory overload; at times it has felt like I had basically landed on Mars!
From the beginning, you can start to appreciate just how large Shanghai is. It is a massive expanse of new builds, new roads and new cars. The city is definitely thriving! Despite my initial language struggles, you can instantly tell how much everything is streamlined and simplified for your convenience – much moreso than in the UK. I must say that it definitely helps that my host, Allen, who is a very capable English speaker, has always been quick to help explain things.
This simplification is widespread across all forms of consumption here in Shanghai; if you want to order food, order a taxi, hire a bicycle, buy groceries – you do this via WeChat.
WeChat is an open App platform that is effectively Whatsapp, but with everything built in. You can message, call, send photos, transfer money, make purchases online and in store, log into office Wi-Fi, access maps, browse menus at restaurants, hire a bike, order a taxi, and check into flights. It’s actually harder to find something that the app doesn’t cater for! This fully integrated, one-stop App is, in many ways, the opposite of applications back home, where each app seems to have a singular function. This is all made possible and accessible via QR scanning within WeChat, something that is still not widely used back in the UK.
Likewise, cinema-going is super easy; my first trip was to see Wolf Warrior 2, one of the most successful examples of Chinese cinema in recent times. You can tell that this film has been dialled up for international consumption as well as remaining domestically relevant here in China. An international feel is routed throughout the narrative, with global locations, and a diverse cast along with top Chinese talent. The film stars none other than Frank Grillo – a recognisable face from Marvel’s Captain America and of The Purge fame. The film itself is a good and proper action film – amazing stunts, physical effects, fight sequences, getting the girl, an avenging hero and a fist-pumping feel-good ending! The film truly relishes the opportunity to showcase modern day China.
Cinema-going is simplified here too. Interestingly there are two main Apps that represent all cinema chains here in Shanghai. Competition is welcomed here in China, though if it overcomplicates the user journey, then it is removed. You can browse times, pre-book seats, purchase snacks via the single App all across available cinema chains in your current location, which you then pay for via…. you guessed it via Wechat.
Just the beginning
As the first week passes I am starting to learn more about the Chinese consumer in general and in entertainment terms. This week’s huge amount of learning is, I feel, just the beginning!
Learnings so far… many! What’s next on the agenda…? I am looking forward to more introductions to the Wings, OPG and SMG teams, along with introductions to Wing’s online partners and venturing into central Shanghai (Oh and a company sports day I’ve been invited to attend!).
This is already an amazing experience for me and I cannot speak highly enough about the friendly and welcoming reception I’ve received from everyone here.