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Wain Choi

Eye the number 2 guy: Brave work doesn’t always come from big brands

In a tech-driven world, we are all scrambling to find that next big thing or the new ground-breaking idea. Despite the availability of awe-inspiring technology, great creativity doesn’t always have to be hinged on tech. The most creative work can sometimes be the simplest.

Speaking at a session hosted by Singapore Advertisers Association, Wain Choi, SVP and chief creative officer of Cheil Worldwide, said great creative work can be inspired by mundane everyday life.

“That’s something we always undermine or overstep, because we think it is something we have seen every day – be it in the subway or taxi in your home or desk – so we need to create something new,” he said. This is perpetuated further as more CMOs and CEOs ask their creative partners to show something new.

“I think that’s the flaw. We don’t see the stuff to our left and right,” he said. He gave two examples of Burger King and Uniqlo which were very simple campaigns executed with the everyday in mind.

The budget woe

Often, the gripe he hears from creatives is that the lack of budget prohibited the team from creating something great.

“You don’t need a huge budget with film and huge media spend. It’s about finding what is necessary and finding a solution to advertisers. I would encourage finding answers through creativity not budget,” he added, giving examples of the campaigns above. He added that the creative industry is very subjective but true creatives need to make sure their work can provoke an emotion or ask a question.

“No one would tell a doctor what to do. But the business we are in is one where everyone is creative [and has an opinion]. That’s the nature of the business,” he said. “As such creatives need to create work that is fresh, original and relevant. The execution also need to be on point for the work to be amazing,” he said.

Choi added that in his view there are three main types of clients today:

  • Clients with lot of money to do great work, but you may not have the AOR title. (But money is good so you can hire great talent.)
  • Clients who are brave but unfortunately don’t have a lot of money.
  • Clients who have both the money and the courage.

“If I have a brave client without that much financial gain for the agency, I would take them on in a heartbeat because they let you create great ads and you attract new clients with their work. At the end of the day, the work is the bloodline for the agency,” Choi said.

He added that big brands are also more resistant to taking chances.

“Big brands have a rear view mirror [which they are always looking into]. It is really hard to persuade these advertisers to do something that hasn’t been done before. Being brave and courageous is something we hear about all the time. But being able to be it is a different thing,” he added. But this gets easier once you pass the first hurdle and the client sees the results from a business point of view. But the first time is always a challenge, he added.

“I just think you have to very honest with your client and without pissing them off. Also if the client is not a number one brand in their category but is a second or third, it’s a bit easier as they want do something courageous and out of the box,” he said.

Go for the number two guy.

Work AI can do

He added that technology has also allowed the industry to fail more and as such, have more options. This is where AI can come in

“About 10% of the work agencies do gets accolades and recognition of colleagues and competitors for bring great. But 90% of the work is very labour intensive and manual blue collar work. It is average work that the agencies get paid for. This is the type of work that AI can replace,” he added.

He added that at the end of the day, technology will save money for a company despite the initial investment being more.

“AI creatives don’t ask for raises or take sick leave so might be easier to handle because we as creatives we are tough to handle,” he joked. But the human element is still needed. With humanity there is gut and intuition and that is something the AI hasn’t learnt yet.

Choi added that how the big ad industries are structured today, will not make them ready for the future.

“In my view, it is structured too heavily at the top, and needs to be a lot linear. We need to be less hierarchical and have less long ladders and more round tables where there is no head of the table and everyone is a specialist. When we have that, we can survive it. The way it is right now, it will be very difficult,” he added.

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