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Creative Catch-Up: Havas Group HK's Kenneth Tung

Creative Catch-Up: Havas Group HK's Kenneth Tung

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Kenneth Tung (pictured), executive creative director, Havas Group Hong Kong, first dipped his toes into the creative industry as a part-time designer in a medium-sized advertising agency. As time passed by, he made it to various senior creative roles at reputable agencies such as DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi Hong Kong.  

Throughout his career, Tung gained extensive experience in various sectors, including banking and finance, FMCG, retail, entertainment, automotive, electronic products, theme parks, restaurants, and airports. He has witnessed the transformation of the creative industry, where crafting ads can be done by AI technologies instead of by hand back in the old days.  

Similar to football, Tung believes that teamwork in the workplace should embrace diversity in experience, working styles, and character. He is fully committed to nurturing the next generation of talents and driving the creative industry forward.  

Find out more about Tung's journey in creative thus far and who inspires him.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Tell us a little bit about your role. 

In my role at Havas, I have three key tasks: ensuring creative quality, assisting clients with their business needs, and guiding our team's creative pursuits. While I may not always have a hands-on role in every project, I ensure that I approach them head-on. I am fully engaged and committed to each one. Moreover, my vital duty is to support and inspire young creatives in our office, setting the stage for their unique ideas to thrive. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How long have you been with the agency?  

I have been with Havas for 15 years. Before that, I also spent another 15 years with other agencies such as DDB, Saatchi and Saatchi, Ogilvy, and Gallery.   

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How did you stumble into this industry?  

In the year 1993, during my second year of studying at art school, an opportunity arose. The demand for new talents was high among agencies at that time. One of my design teachers recommended me for a part-time job as a designer in a medium-sized advertising agency. Once I started working there, it became permanent.   

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first impression of the advertising industry?  

When I first entered my initial agency, I discovered that the people there were fun and even a bit crazy. There were individuals playing the guitar while working, books, artworks, and brief documents scattered everywhere (artworks and briefs were physical papers at that time), and there was no dress code. Some were dressed formally like grooms, while others opted to go barefoot.

People worked late into the night; someone even slept in the office, and the air was filled with a mix of body odour and perfume scents. Smoking was permitted, resulting in a consistently smoky atmosphere. It was a unique blend of hippies and yuppies under the same roof. At that moment, I felt like I had found my playground. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Creatively, what do you feel has been the biggest shift?  

When I first entered the industry, ads were crafted by hand. I remember some older folks being strongly against computers during those times. Now, 30 years later, we find ourselves discussing AI. From what I know, some ad professionals fear that technology will replace our work. However, I hold the opposite view. I believe that the essential nature of creating ads in advertising remains unchanged. Each piece of work still requires a core idea.

The difference lies in the expanded range of communication touchpoints, more ways to connect with people, faster methods to create ads, larger creative canvases, and a bigger platform to showcase our talents to the world.    

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What’s the most frustrating thing about being a creative?  

I love pitching. Every time I receive a new creative brief, it fills me with excitement. Of course, I don't enjoy losing pitches, but I always hope for a better creative outcome and appreciate seeing great work, even if it's not my own. However, the most frustrating aspect for me is when bad ideas end up winning. It's a shame for the industry to waste such an opportunity.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Proudest moment in your career?  

Twenty years ago, during a dinner with my mom at home, I proudly pointed at the television playing the supermarket TV commercial I had created, and I told her, 'That's my work.' My mom was filled with pride, and she declared that she would only shop at that supermarket from that moment on.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is one career mistake you won’t forget?  

There were numerous mistakes I made and learned from, and for the most part, I don't regret them. However, there was one mistake that I still regret. It happened during a TVC campaign for a supermarket 20 years ago, where everything went smoothly until the clients requested changes at the end. Due to the positive meeting atmosphere, I compromised and followed their thinking. While the TVC turned out well, I believe that sticking to our own ideas would have made it even better and potentially earned me awards. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Mentor you look up to most?  

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have met my mentor - Old Cheng(Benny Cheng), the founder of Gallery, who was also my first boss at the company. He trained me from the ground up and taught me the essence of idea generation. As an adman in the advertising industry, he became my role model and greatly influenced my approach to every piece of work.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your favourite piece of advertising?  

There was a TV commercial that I love the most, called "Surfer," which was launched in the UK from 1998 to 1999. It was directed by Jonathan Glazer and aimed to promote Guinness Beer. The commercial features a group of surfers in black and white, patiently waiting for the perfect wave. As the wave finally arrives, the crashing 'white horses' transform into actual horses. One by one, the surfers 'crash out,' except for one who successfully conquers the wave. The remaining surfers join him in celebration on the shore, following the tagline "Good things come to those who wait." I can't explain why or how good it is; I simply love it.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What do you dislike most in an ad?  

I haven't specifically considered the types of advertisements or specific ad works I dislike. In the industry, I believe that everyone strives to do their best with their own creations, and taste varies from person to person. While some ads may seem unappealing to me, others may find them memorable and impactful. Personally, I don't dwell on personal preferences. However, when it comes to my own company's work, I strongly discourage playing it safe and creating unnoticed, invisible advertisements. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your dream brand to work with?  

I wished that I had worked on Apple campaigns or been a part of the Nike team. There were many renowned brands I dreamt of being a part of. However, now that they have become what they are, it no longer holds the same meaning to work with them. My dream brands to work with are those that are yet unknown, allowing me the freedom to shape them into something impactful and significant for the world.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How do you get inspired when you aren’t?  

There are two things in life that I am passionate about: creativity and football. Not only do I enjoy being creative, but I also love observing, pondering, and not worrying too much about lacking inspiration.

Sometimes, overthinking can bring immense pressure and disrupt my sleep. Thankfully, my love for playing football helps me escape from the realm of creativity. It allows me to release and recharge, providing a fresh mind after a game.    

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your ritual/superstition before a big pitch?  

I had never thought about what rituals or what colour of underwear to wear before each Big Pitch Presentation. However, I always double-check the PPT deck for any spelling mistakes before the presentation. Next time, before a major pitch, I should consider what rituals can help the team present smoothly and increase our chances of winning.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What makes the difference between average ads and mind-blowing creativity?  

There is not a big difference between a mind-blowing idea and an average idea. Sometimes, the fundamental thinking behind them is the same. It all comes down to the amount of effort that the creative puts in and how they make it different, like never before. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What does your family think you do?  

Since I studied graphic design in art school, my parents have always told their friends and relatives that I work as a designer. Even after I shared my TV commercial works with them, they still refer to me as a designer.    

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: If you weren’t a creative, what would you be?  

I can't remember when I started drawing, but what I do remember is the first time I received recognition. It happened when I was eight years old, and I won a poster design competition. All my friends and teachers praised my drawing skills. That's when I realised I had a talent for it. I've always had a deep love for comic books, and I've spent countless hours creating my illustrations. If I hadn't pursued a career in advertising as creative, I believe I would have become a comic artist or a painter.  

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your guilty pleasure that you’ve kept hidden from the industry? 

Sometimes, after finishing a presentation, I do some online shopping. Similarly, upon completing a project, I go online shopping. When I'm busy and have a lot to do, taking a break means going online shopping. Winning a pitch always leads me to do some online shopping as a way to treat myself. Every time I look at my bank statement, a sense of guilt arises... but payday is coming soon. Sorry, I'm going to do some online shopping now. 

Join us this coming 26 June for Content360 Hong Kong, a one-day-two-streams extravaganza under the theme of "Content that captivates". Get together with our fellow marketers to learn about AI in content creation, integration of content with commerce and cross-border targeting, and find the recipe for success within the content marketing world!

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