Raahil Chopra
Nov 11, 2016

‘Automobile advertising needs a bit of a shake-up’: Innocean’s Jeremy Craigen

The global CCO tells us about his first 15 month on the job, and the challenges ahead for the Korea-headquartered agency

‘Automobile advertising needs a bit of a shake-up’: Innocean’s Jeremy Craigen
It’s been a little over a year since Jeremy Craigen joined Innocean Worldwide as global chief creative officer. His first self-assigned task was to change Innocean’s perception as a 'Korean company with outposts over the world', to an international firm with its roots in Korea. He has been working on that by hiring creative leaders across its 24 offices worldwide and he says he’s 95 per cent done. Talha Nazem was recently hired to lead creative in India as CCO.
As with most global CCOs he’s been travelling the world over. We caught up with him during his recent visit to India.
Edited excerpts:
Soon after you took over as global CCO, you mentioned that your goal is to change the perception of the agency from that of a Korean company with outposts around the world to that of an international firm with roots in Korea. How much of this has been achieved in the last 15 months?
JC: I want to make the agency relevant in its own markets and not just for Hyundai. I also want to make Hyundai relevant in their particular markets. 
It’s very important for the brand (Innocean) to be culturally relevant in each market. It’s obviously very culturally relevant in Korea. We can do an even better job of keeping the brand culturally relevant in this market (compared to what it is now). We are looking to be a little more consistent in the kind of work we are doing, not only in this market, but in some markets across the world. We’re not ‘hit and miss’, but it does feel like the brand doesn’t have a particular tone-of-voice yet, and I am trying to get that going around the world. This office is no exception.
You've got 24 offices in 21 countries around the world. Where is India placed among these offices? How is this changing?
JC: I can’t answer that question in terms of revenue. It’s healthy in terms of revenue and voice. I’m looking at six or seven offices that I’m really putting some pressure on and India is one of those. Talha is going to be on our global creative council. I’m making this very inclusive into our new family which is growing. We are looking at putting someone new into our Australian office. We have hired in America and Europe too. These are very exciting times. It’s taking a little longer than I hoped, but it’s more important to take some time and then ensure you get the right people. I’m well on my way to doing that.
By pressure, I mean I want them to get to work better. I want to achieve local goals first, then regional and then global.
So, it’s Goafest, Adfest and then Cannes in that order. I would honestly much rather have popular work, and then the awards will come. India would be in our top 10 offices.
Should awards be a parameter to rate creative strength of an office? What is your view?
JC: When I was at DDB London, and we were successful in terms of awards, I always said it’s a by-product of what we did. We are not in the business of winning awards; we are in the business of moving our clients’ brands forward. However, I do think they are important and they are a nice currency for creative teams and it’s a nice goal. It needs to be put into perspective though. I’d much rather get work that the people love. The best work in the world does both – people and awards shows love it.
The agency currently works with eight clients in India. How much of your revenue comes from work on Hyundai? How does this compare to other offices?
JC: 83 per cent of the revenue last year came from Hyundai, of Rs 350 crores of total billings. In Seoul, I think the revenue from non-Hyundai (and Kia), is around 35 to 40 per cent. In the US, we have a lot of other clients, but are smaller, so it’s around 80 per cent there too.
For me, in all our offices, we want to concentrate on getting the work for Hyundai (and Kia) better. Once we get this better, we’ll automatically see other businesses come in. We are definitely about growth. I think that the problem is that, for other clients to come here we need to prove we have good work on our existing clients. I was talking to Talha about this too. TimesJobs is a really great opportunity. It’s a very, very relevant brand to Indian people. That is another piece of business that is already here that we can increase the creative work on. I’ve seen some nice insightful work that has been done in the last six months, but I want to push the standards even higher.  
Do you agree that automobile advertising, on average, is ordinary today? 
JC:  I can’t disagree with that. Automobile advertising needs a bit of a shake up. You could see it at some of the recent advertising awards shows. The automotive section is not as busy as telecommunications or the likes. I’d like to think it is a hiccup. It’s my goal to make sure we come back as an industry. A lot of it currently is looking the same, particularly in a media like print. I think there are some exciting opportunities coming up.
Coming onto this brand (Hyundai); it’s getting the reality and perception of the product closer together. They make great cars and I don’t think the world knows that yet. There’s still something back in the mind for people where people thought it’s a cheap brand and a very good brand to get into for your first car. Now, it’s actually delivering a quality product.
The most recent is an office in Berlin. The agency had an office in Frankfurt already. What was the thinking behind a second office in the country?
JC: I just opened a new hub in Berlin. We have an office in Frankfurt, but it’s quite difficult to get creative people to move to Frankfurt, which is more of a financial centre. So, amazingly, I got the support from our senior management in Korea to open another office in Germany. It’s basically a creative hub that works in conjunction with Frankfurt, London, Paris and Turkey too.  
I wanted to make it (Berlin office) international. It’s not too German, which was a danger when we were in Frankfurt. So I’ve actually got an Australian running it and we have a Danish girl there, and a German planner.
You worked with DDB previously, on the VW account. How different has this year been handling a Korean brand versus a German one?
JC: It’s very different and that's the reason why I took the shift. It’s a completely different challenge. Working on Volkswagen was more about maintaining creative standards and there was something like a brand book to adhere to. Here, for Hyundai and Kia it’s pretty much a blank sheet of paper. What I first wanted to do was to pretty much really work on getting the right people around the world. I’m sort of 95 per cent done with that. Once that’s done, I want all of us to get together and talk about the brand, and what can we do on it. It’s not about having one ad for the whole world, but one tone of voice. I would not want to make it like a Volkswagen, but get a human brand side to it. There are wonderful stories about the brand that haven’t been spoken about yet.
Do you see Cheil's as a model to follow? Are there parts of the agency's evolution you'd like to emulate?
JC: Malcolm Poynton (global CCO, Cheil) is a good friend of mine. I’m very respectful of the agency.
Cheil went into acquisition mode around 10 years ago, and grew quite quickly from there. I’m not ruling out or saying that we won’t acquire another agency to achieve growth, but I’d rather sort it out in-house first.
We don’t have plans in India though, for acquisition.
Is being perceived as 'the Hyundai agency' a disadvantage in drawing talent?
JC: It’s a bit of both, an advantage and disadvantage. Talha took some persuading. I talked to a lot of people too. I’m absolutely delighted I got Talha. It’s about getting people who can share my vision to create something new and see if that’s an exciting thing to do rather than continuing in the bigger networks.
It’s not that these bigger networks don’t do well. They do come up with great work, especially in this country. But, from my experience at DDB –and I have the utmost respect for the agency – smaller network allows you to be a bit more nimble, more aligned.  My ECDS and CCOs buy into the fact that they have support to increase creative standards. If Frankfurt couldn’t get as good as it could be, we’ll find another way of doing our work in Europe, and that’s what we saw with Berlin.
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