Charlene Ree is the CEO of EternityX, a Hong Kong-based specialist marketing technology company with a focus on affluent mainland Chinese consumers.
Born and raised largely in Taiwan, how did you ultimately end up in Hong Kong?
I was working in New York, but it had long been my plan to return to Asia so I could put what I had learned in the US to good use. When Yahoo made a local acquisition and sought to grow in the APAC market, it seemed the ideal opportunity. In 2008, I then secured the role of regional account manager which happened to be in Hong Kong. This suited me from a personal point of view as my husband – then my boyfriend – had relocated to Hong Kong in 2006, where he was working as a corporate lawyer. I followed him to Hong Kong and we made the relationship official. Two years of being in a long-distance relationship was hard, so moving here sealed the real deal basically.
How did EternityX come about and what is its USP?
EternityX was launched towards the end of 2018 as a marketing technology company that focuses on utilising big data to empower companies and brands to precisely connect with (and convert) their target audiences. We provide a direct connection for global brands to Chinese audiences. For our part, we always joke that there are two types of the internet in the world – one is global and the other is China-specific. More seriously, this is a recognition that the Chinese digital media landscape is very fragmented and complicated. It has evolved very quickly compared to the rest of the world, something that is reflected in the behaviour of Chinese audiences.
In recognition of this, we wanted to build a platform that helps demystify the complex Chinese digital landscape and assists the growing number of brands looking to promote their products and services to high-value affluent Chinese consumers.
In the relatively few years since we opened for business, thanks to our proprietary technology platform and clear proposition, we have worked with more than 500 well-known brands, including the Richemont group, LVMH, HSBC and Standard Chartered. During that time, we have grown from just three people to more than 80. We‘ve also expanded into eight offices and now have a presence in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, New York, Singapore, Sydney and London.
Has the business developed the way you expected?
Well, we always had a clear mission statement – to be a trusted partner that empowers brands to build meaningful connections with their target consumers. We are also confident that advertising and marketing are not only about selling products and services. In fact, we believe good, sustainable marketing can enable brands to establish long-term trust and enduring relationships with consumers.
To your mind, what makes EternityX unique?
I believe it’s the way we utilise technology. More specifically, we have the facility to offer highly effective, cross-border, cross culture one-stop customised programmatic solutions and systems. This might sound too technical, but bear with me. Our system has transformed more than 960 billion data points into some 1,000 unique audience profile categories, which delivers precise consumer targeting and insights into purchase intention and spending power, as well as information relating to travel preferences among others. In addition to that, our extensive connections to top-tier media platforms, including iQiyi, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, WeChat, and Bilibili, as well as hundreds of highly engaging, interest-focused media, enable agencies and brands to effectively reach 90% of Chinese netizens around the world.
What kind of support system do you have at work and outside work?
I consider myself extremely lucky to have my family and the entire EternityX crew as a support system. I also put into practice what I’ve learned from being a mother at home in the office and vice-versa. It’s taught me a lot about how crucial it is to provide the ideal environment and the appropriate opportunities. My kids have also helped me to become more patient, sympathetic and empathetic.
What have been the constants in your life?
Well, I am not afraid of making fun of myself in front of others and I always love to make people laugh and spread positive energy, so I would like to think that my sense of humour has been a constant. I am also a people person, so I enjoy the company of my family and those friends who have stuck with me through the ups and downs of my life. A love of shopping, too, has been something I’ve never got out of my system. But I can also get bored easily, so I’m not too sure about constant things. I always want to try new things and experiment with what else can be done.
Who would say has been your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration, undoubtedly, has been my mother. She is an outstanding female entrepreneur herself and a role model who has clearly demonstrated that women can be strong and successful. She has a real can-do attitude and always embraces challenges gracefully. She also had the confidence to take on any challenges even while she had to take care of her children and play a role within her wider family. Managing a traditional Taiwanese family isn’t easy, but she handled it all superbly. Above that, all along, she has supported and encouraged me when it came to following my dreams.
As a middle child, do you believe such children inevitably prove to be rebels?
While I was growing up, my parents definitely saw me as a little bit rebellious and as someone who was always keen to voice their opinions – attributes that I’d find hard to deny. I think I was always fighting for attention back then. Right now, though, I am very mindful of that as I, too, have three kids. As a result of my self-consciousness, I definitely find myself paying more attention to the middle one. I don’t worry too much though – after all, look what the rebellious middle kid is doing with her life right now….
(Interview by: Joseff Musa; Photographer: Jack Law; Art Direction and Styling: Jhoshwa Ledesma; Videographer: Jack Fontanilla; Venue: The Leicht)