Oscar Zhao | The Innovator 25 2016
Oscar ZhaoThe Innovator 25:

Oscar Zhao

Chairman & CEO

BlueFocus Communication Group

"Stay curious about new things and explore the potential of technology to enable efficiency"



After founding one of China's first homegrown PR agencies in 1996, Zhao has turned BlueFocus into a genuine marketing communications behemoth, with revenues of $1.5bn forecast for 2016. Much of this is down to the 47-year-old's willingness to innovate, whether by investing deeply in digital marketing and data analytics, or in making BlueFocus the first Chinese marketing service group to expand beyond its home market. Indeed, the confluence of factors leading to BlueFocus’ rise amount to a perfect storm of modern geopolitical and social trends: A local Chinese PR firm invests heavily in digital and technology, expanding beyond its home market in a bid to challenge the dominant holding group hegemony. It is a narrative that has sparked plenty of speculation about how far Zhao can take his outfit, but it would take a brave person to bet against him.

How do you define innovation?
As a marketing communications agency, innovation doesn't have to be always revolutionary transformation, innovation is where we combine creative idea, quality content and effective execution based on deep insight of brands and customers, in order to help brands better engage with their customers and enhance efficiency of marketing activities.

Most innovative comms/marketing campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
'See You Again, Kathmandu!' campaign sponsored by Baidu, it's a global initiative to virtually restore the historic buildings of Nepal, following the April 2015 earthquake. In this campaign, BlueFocus helped Baidu to enable the innovative integration of social responsibility and technology, and consequently enhanced public perception of the brand and strengthened its industry leadership.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?

China — Chrysler, Durex, Uber. Global — Samsung, Coca-Cola, Nike.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Being bold enough to transform a PR-driven business into intelligent and integrated marketing communication group, which is enabled by determined digitization and globalization strategies.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Leverage technology to produce high quality content to tell better stories.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?

They innovate from different angles. Communications / PR innovates by building good content and telling the story, other marketing disciplines such as media innovates by smartly reaching target audiences by leveraging data or technology.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Content & creative.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

Who is your mentor and why?

How do you find inspiration?
We always stay connected. We keep a close watch on the industry where we are, network with peers and brands to learn, share and inspire. In the meanwhile, we have a company consisting of young talents with an average age of 27, young minds usually bring lots of creative ideas. Furthermore, we are open-minded and also find inspiration from people outside of our industry, entrepreneurs in tech / TMT industry for instance.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?

Think out of the box. Stay curious about new things and explore the potential of technology to enable efficiency.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?

Silicon Valley, that's why BlueFocus opened its overseas HQ in the heart of Silicon Valley, standing close to the latest innovations, leading edge technology and top talents which are the enablers of evolution. In China, the most innovative places coming to my mind are Beijing and Shenzhen. In Beijing, the booming market of internet /TMT has significantly reshaped the macro business environment. Shenzhen is well-known for the intelligence of manufacturing industry and the Internet of Things (IoT) which is the driving force behind the more digital and connected world to transform and enrich people’s lives.

What’s your favourite time of day and why?
Night. It’s good timing for combing the thoughts and clearing my minds.

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