Cannes Lions 2019: How to Innovate a 5,000-Year-Old Culture Through China’s Tech Revolution with F5 Shanghai Founder, Adams Fan


Words by Jamie Tolentino-Deludet

There’s the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, but have you heard of the Tech Revolution? It’s happening now, in China and around the world. Adams Fan, Founder and CCO of F5 Shanghai told an auditorium full of eager minds about the cultural nuances of advertising in China at the Cannes Lions Festival 2019.

China’s 5000 years of history has changed its people. In Chinese culture, Home, GuanXi, Face and Children are the pillars of societal existence.


Guangzhou has a crowded train station that annually plays host to massive droves of people coming home during the Chinese New Year, a 7-day celebration. People go through this hassle because Confucius said “While his parents are alive, the son may not travel far”. It is an obligation to their parents. However, Shanghai grew from a small city to a mega city so the fast development of Shanghai attracted workers from all over the country. As a result, many people left their parents.

To honor this, Baidu made ‘The Journey Home” campaign so that you can simulate the journey home for Chinese New Year. The AI system generates the images from the most scenic routes.


Guanxi means relationships or connections. Chinese people are hesitant to deal with strangers. However, once the trust is established, Chinese people are extremely loyal. There is a concept of reciprocation so Guanxi is a never ending circle of favours. To capitalize on this, they used WeChat to be able to send something to a friend, e.g. Starbucks coupons. It was so successful that WeChat made it a permanent application.


In China, if you are over 30 and single, your parents lose face. If you drive a fancy car or achieve something prestigious, you have face. If you greet someone at a party and that person ignores you, you lose face. To play on this cultural norm, Alipay presents the Facevalue campaign game. You take a selfie and it tries to match you to the closest bank note available in the world. The closest match to each note face wins the value of the money. The value of the money can be used instantly in the currency of the corresponding country.


There is a saying that you “Hope your children will grow up to be like glorious dragons.” However, if the parents migrate to a better city to get a job, they cannot bring their children because the free education only exists in their home city. So, how do the parents communicate with their kids? In collaboration with Tencent, they created a device that can tell bedtime stories in their parents’ voice. Around 7 million Chinese people have left their families behind to pursue better careers, so this device has a massive impact.

Why did China suddenly have the power to do play the technology game? There are 4 components to this: Technology, talent, capital and market. Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are the technology giants in China. They build data centers and invest a lot of money into groundbreaking technology.


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