Stephen Li has a well-defined belief system regarding the business of media and marketing and long international experience that continually tests and refines the validity of those beliefs. He continually looks at ways an agency leader can better encourage teams to be more focused, more agile, and more future-ready. And he has a lot of thoughts on the subject of innovation.
“Often times in our industry today,” he says, “innovation is purely defined through the lenses of technology and so—called ‘new media.’ We are in a people-business, and innovation should also be viewed through how we as leaders empower and enable our people to be the best that they can be.”
During his first year at OMD, he has been working closely with senior marketers to literally codifying the “anatomy of fear” within the agency/client relationship. “My goal is to engender a greater sense of fearlessness in our people, and how this would translate into fearlessly creative and world class work. To do this though, we do of course have to arm our people with the best technology, practices, training and culture.” And he’s been doing just that through technology and partnerships, new practices, compulsory digital training, and instilling a fearless culture.
Stephen Li is continuously defining and redefining the role of the agency in the eyes of both clients and the industry. He describes the process as “being able to know when to pivot, and utilize the right combination of factors to maximize knowledge gain and ‘learning up’ for our people.” He believes that by standing still, one is actually moving backward, so he always aspires to forward movement.
As a result, he believes that in the business today, there are more excuses than there are challenges. He says, “International projects will mean dealing with more and less sophisticated markets and target audiences, differing spend levels, and cultural anomalies, but these are not challenges. They are a fact of life for global agencies working on global clients. In the socially and professionally connected world in which we now live, audiences are becoming more tribal, and our ability to target them becoming more sophisticated – and rather than being a hindrance, these factors demand that we both continue to focus on contemporaneous insights that can translate into engaging ideas which can be delivered with both innovation and invention.”
Stephen Li is Chinese and a UK citizen. “When I speak, I can both sound like I am from the home counties of England; or from the ‘dai pai dongs’ of Kowloon. I play both cricket and mahjong. I love single malt whiskey and soju; steak & kidney pie and tofu… I am a true internationalist.”