• Interview with POSSIBLE CSO Paul Lin: Communication and Digital talent in the industry

Interview with POSSIBLE CSO Paul Lin: Communication and Digital talent in the industry



Paul Lin Introduction


Speaking with us today is Paul Lin, Chief Strategy Officer at POSSIBLE, a full-service digital marketing agency based in the US with offices around the world, focused on bringing digital and technological solutions to some of the world’s largest and most dynamic brands, including Unilever, Bacardi, Nike and Converse.


Born in Canada, Paul has lived and worked both in Canada and the United States, and has called Shanghai home for the past four years. He has worked for a wide variety of agencies across multiple categories, developing a rigorous understanding of the creative industry and the digital ecosystem.






Question 1: Can you give a brief description of the Digital talent landscape and some of the main roles within the industry?


Within a creative branding agency, I like to break it down to three main roles, Thinkers, Creatives, and Data Analysis. The Thinkers work on high-level strategy and are required to analyze a lot of research to stay up to date with the most current trends and technology. The Creatives focus on developing dynamic and creative content that can be presented to a client. Data analysis requires a deep understanding of the data collection and analysis techniques needed to develop a complete picture of the effectiveness of digital strategy solutions.



Question 2: What skills and attributes do you look for in your employees?


Currently I have a team of 7 employees and they are all very new to the industry, so I feel an element of my job is to nurture them and help them grow. Although Digital Marketing is complicated and complex, it is something you can learn. I can teach it to you. When I’m interviewing people, especially junior level staff, I look for attitude and motivation. If you are in it for the team, or to develop your knowledge of the industry, then I will hire you, even if you have zero relevant skills in marketing. I can teach you marketing, but I can’t teach you dedication, or how to go the extra mile, and it’s always very easy for me to figure that out in an interview.


When you’re being interviewed, never ask questions like, “Am I going to have to work overtime?” or “How much money will I make?”  Those questions show me you’re not in it for the right reasons. I look for the intrinsic things that can’t be taught, such as teamwork, flexibility, and the ability to have a positive attitude.



Question 3: Any positions or skills you believe are difficult to find when looking for new employees?


I am in the Strategy department and I find that it is always difficult to find people with analytical skills. The ability to take thousands of pages of research, process it, then compile a 5 page report that summarize the information in clear and concise manner is still very difficult to find in Asia.



Question 4: Any tips for people who are just starting their careers and are looking to enter the advertising industry?


From my perspective, I think it’s very important when you’re first starting off in your career to build your resume. When I look at your resume, I honestly only spend about 10 seconds reading it, so I want it to be as concise and clear as possible. Big name companies are also very important. When the HR department is looking for candidates, they are more likely to have a strong impression of someone who has previously worked for a big name company, so it’s important to keep that in mind when applying for your first or second job.  Most importantly, you need to remember that your resume gets your foot in the door, not the job. Doing well in the interview will get you the job. So don’t spend too much time making your CV perfect. Spend more time on soft skills and your attitude.



Question 5: What are the main differences you have experienced working on both the Agency side and the Brand side?


I like to use a simple analogy of a waiter and a customer at a restaurant, where the waiter is the Agency and the customer is the Brand. The Brand is the customer, they pay the bills, which means they have full control and authority over the image and direction of their brand. They typically operate in more rigid corporate environments and employees are usually segregated into one department focusing on one task. The Agency is the waiter, they are the service provider, and are expected to deliver a consistent level of service and a high-quality product.  However, at an Agency, employees will receive a wide breadth of experience over the course of their careers, which I find keeps people fresh and more youthful.


For students who are just graduating and are deciding whether or not to join the Agency or Branding side, it’s important to examine your personality and also your long-term goals. If you prefer a more rigid work environment and a consistent work-life balance, then the Branding side might be a right fit. They also provide very good training programs and invest a lot of time and money into junior staff members with the goal of promoting them through the organization. However, if you prefer a fast-paced dynamic work environment that gives you a wide range of career experiences, an Agency is definitely the right fit. While the work hours tend to be more demanding and people often jump around to different firms more frequently, the breath of involvement and the dynamic work environment makes it a truly rewarding experience.



Question 6: Where do you see the Digital space in China in the next 5 years?


That’s a very difficult question to answer. The Digital space in China has changed so much in the last 5 years, so it’s very difficult to predict what the landscape of the next 5 years would be. Take WeChat for example, a few years ago it was still relatively unknown, fast forward to today, consumers can now use WeChat do perform hundreds of different functions.


There is a buzzword going around the advertising industry right now called O2O (Online to Offline). The ability to scan a 2D object and bring it to life through technology gives consumers a much richer experience. Innovation on this space will be an untapped opportunity for brands, and it’s where I see China going in the next few years.  


In regards to the fashion and luxury industry, many brands are still reluctant to spearhead large digital campaigns due to legacy issues. In their opinion, if TV or media has worked so successfully in the past, why focus on digital when there is still so little research on its effectiveness.


The driver of growth in luxury will ultimately be the customer. As fashion consumers become more tech savvy, brands will have to adjust their existing strategy and layer technology on top to create a much more engaging and enriching experience.