Born in Taiwan, Kwei-Fen Lee received her advanced education in the United States. She earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Tunghai University in Taiwan, master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Notre Dame in 1981, and shortly after, earned her master’s degree in advertising at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lee is a highly reputable media and advertising veteran in the Greater China region, is best known for her strategic thinking, agency service model innovation, and her unique ability to bring about rapid business growth. Lee is currently an independent consultant for new types of media and advertising companies. She shared her insights with current students about the global advertising industry.
Why did you choose Illinois?
Illinois was my only choice because of the reputation [of the Department of] Advertising.
How has the advertising industry changed for the invidivudals who work in it?
For people in advertising, it is more globalized now, so people can move around. [People] are encouraged to work in different markets, which is good for young people. Different markets have different media environments and commerce environments. It encourages people in advertising to become more mobile.
What are some attributes that make someone successful in advertising?
I think people who want to get into advertising need to have the interest and patience of all people, and be curious of other people’s behavior. [A person] needs to have a very good sense about business and the economic environment. In advertising, you need to have exposure. Your knowledge needs to be beyond advertising to be successful.
What are some of the characteristics needed to be in charge of larger corporations or to work with companies on a large scale?
I trained myself very well to be able to motivate the creative so that they could produce good work. To be a leader, I would say there are three principles: be good at building a team, be close to your kind, have a good financial result. I needed to be very good at building a team because in advertising, you need so many different kinds of skills, so you need to be able to build and help a team to be able to perform well. [A leader] needs to be very close to [its] kind. Whatever you do, you need to solve all kinds of problems in the marketplace and help your kind become more competitive by using all your resources and capabilities to get over a crisis. Lastly, there needs to be a good financial result. [Businesses] are looking for high growth and high efficiency. (Lee pictured speaking with students.)
Do you have any strategies for companies managing a crisis?
I would say the company needs to invest in a team that closely monitors what is happening. I think for the long run, you still need to build your brand, not just on social media, to get the [public’s] trust in case a fake or real crisis happens. I think [a company] will be stronger if it recovers from the situation. I think that’s why continuing to build brand trust among the consumer is very important.
What are some things you can do to empower people to be creative?
Try to find the uniqueness of the product against the competitor. You also need to tell the creative about the consumer behavior, to help the creative people step in the customer’s shoes and use imagination. Also have a simple focus on the product you want to sell. The creative people can’t focus on solving your problem, but they can be creative. The better you are at doing your job, the better the creative people will be at doing their work.
More about Kwei-Fen Lee
Kwei-Fen started her career in 1983 at United Advertising as the first media planner in Taiwan. Subsequently, she joined Saatchi & Saatchi Taiwan in 1988 to head up the company’s Account Planning Department. In 1992, Kwei-Fen went over to Dentsu, Young & Rubicam Taiwan as Managing Director, where she turned the agency from a late comer into one of the five leading full-service agencies in Taiwan. In 2000, Kwei-Fen was asked by Aegis Plc. to create Carat Media, a JV company partnered with United Advertising, in Taiwan. Within four years, Carat, at first the fourth-ranking media company in the country, was catapulted to Number One.
Kwei-Fen didn’t stop there but went on to expand Aegis’ operations by launching Digital and OOH specialist services. In 2004 Kwei-Fen, then CEO of Carat Media, was promoted to CEO of Aegis Media Taiwan, and then to CEO of Greater China
in 2006, overseeing Aegis Group’s service brands in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, including Carat Media, isobar Digital, iProspect Performance Marketing, Vizeum Media, and Posterscope OOH. The combined revenue of China and Taiwan operations in the 2008 – 2011 period grew by a staggering 825%. In recognition of her outstanding service, Aegis honored her with the “Global Star Performer of the Year” award in 2010.
In 2013 Kwei-Fen was named the Chairwoman of Dentsu Aegis Network China soon after the global merger of Dentsu and Aegis. In her new position, Kwei-Fen spearheaded organization integration, key clients development and corporate image and visibility enhancement. In 2015 and 2016, the newly formed Dentsu Aegis Network was recognized as the Best Communication Group in China by ROI, one of the most influential advertising and business awards in China, for its integrated innovative solutions.
Kwei-Fen, a highly reputable media and advertising veteran in the Greater China region, is best known for her strategic thinking, agency service model innovation, and her unique ability to bring about rapid business growth.
After her retirement from Dentsu Aegis Network China in 2017, Kwei-Fen was immediately appointed Special Advisor for Dentsu’s Global Business Center till 2018. Kwei-Fen now is an independent consultant for new types of media and advertising companies.