Campaign India Team
Jul 04, 2013

‘The 30-second spot remains important’: Thomas Kim

The executive creative director at Cheil HQ tells Raahil Chopra about the future of 30-second spots, technology, Samsung, acquisitions and more.

‘The 30-second spot remains important’: Thomas Kim

Everyone’s talking about technology. Where does this leave the regular 30-second TV spot and its creators?

The 30-second TV spot is still a very popular tool to deliver messages to the consumer. It helps us reach a mass audience. But with the growth of technology, the environment of communication is totally changing. The role of the TV commercial is also changing according to the trend. The big idea remains important but now you have to try to have a holistic approach. In that integrated campaign, there can be a role of a TVC. So, the TVC remains important, but now it is the power of the entire campaign.

There’s a view that quality of work in press, outdoor, TV and design has gone up after the advent of digital. Do you agree? What explains this?

Yes, I agree. (Quality of) Outdoor, press, TV and design work has gone up with the advent of digital. Nowadays, we can do so much more in the field of traditional media thanks to technology. For example, outdoor is traditional media, but these days we can have an experiment of a more interactive way of communication, with technology.

How is creating video content for the internet any different from creating TV commercials?

It is very different. For online content, the key is how we can interact with the users. If there’s no interaction, it’s not an online campaign.

When I make a TV ad, I work with a director and production company, but in case of the online from the start point I work with a digital guy, developer and engineer. Our approach is totally different for films on both the mediums.

The creative idea and technology are equally important. But in terms of prioritising in agencies, has technology become more important than the creative idea - and the creative person?

Sometimes, we come up with an idea first and then find the technology to be applied to the idea. In other instances, we have information and technology available and then look for the creative idea. So I would say both are very important right now. The creative idea and the creative person, both remain assets for the company.

In 2009, you said ‘digital storytelling is the best weapon for creatives’. How have things evolved since then?

It is still very effective. In this space, every kind of communication is based on storytelling – whether it’s digital or not. We have an abundance of communication environment already and storytelling is more efficient to show our ideas.

How is the talent issue in Asia currently? How good are they when it comes to adopting technology?

The important thing is how to accept the new wave of communication. It’s about the attitude and not just the talent. We are more focused on the technology aspect, because it can change the world more swiftly. That’s why we are looking for more people who have an interest in technology.
What I am interested in, is how to make people feel warm with technology. People say technology is very cold and what I want to do is figure how to change that. My technique of modern communication is creating an emotional bond with technology.

On awards: There have been questions raised on some of the winning work being seen only in Cannes. What role do awards play today?

The number of awards is not important. It’s the ideas that matter. What I’m looking to do, is create an idea that has never been seen before and one that can change the world. Awards don’t really matter then.

Can you elaborate more on the ‘Lifeshare’ and ‘Every company is a media company’ concept?

We believe that every company in this day and age is a media company, because of their several interactions.

Lifeshare means we should always try to find what the real problem is. Usually, the client asks to just highlight product features, but that’s not the real problem. We try to find the problem and we try to find the nearest practical solution on the location. To the day, we are looking to come close to people and affect their lives – that’s why we’ve used the term ‘Lifeshare’.

‘The bridge of life’ experiment for Samsung Life Insurance is one such example. Suicide is among the leading causes of death in South Korea and until now efforts towards anti-suicide campaigns have not been effective. 

The government, NGOs etc. had made efforts but they were very traditional – billboards, TVCs. There was no call to action and it was totally ineffective.

Mapo Bridge in Seoul was one spot which had the highest number of suicides.

Our campaign was more about call to action. We found a solution on the location and built ‘The Bridge of Life’ campaign for Samsung. It is the world‘s first interactive bridge that reacts to people as they pass by and tells a story. We hoped the bridge would provide comfort to anyone who visits it and make it a walking friendly place. As a result, suicides on Mapo Bridge reduced by more than 80 per cent.

What are the efforts Cheil’s global offices are undertaking for brands outside of Asia? How has the McKinney acquisition worked out, in terms of synergies, to better creative output?

It’s not just the McKinney acquisition. We also acquired BMB London (49 pc) in 2008. In 2009 we acquired the Boston-based marketing firm TBG (The Barbarian Group). Last year we also acquired Bravo (with offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai). Now, as a holding company we are figuring ways of interacting with smaller independent agencies.

We have also pitched for global clients and we’ll look at collaborating creatives from all the acquisitions to bag businesses.

Also, now when we look at making our global campaign for the FIFA World Cup (Samsung), we can use our (new) resources. Samsung is not an official sponsor for the World Cup, but there will be a big campaign running at the time.

Samsung has seen some action. From Olympics to S3 and S4. We understand there are other clients. How big is non-Samsung business, for the creative work?

Last year, our concept for the Olympic Games was ‘Take part’. The Games were positioned as the first on social media. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a very powerful tool to show the concept ‘Take part’ effectively and that’s why we decided to have a campaign around that. That’s an example of the products matching very well with the concept.

In Korea, we have a lot of other clients. Samsung remains our biggest client, but we have a substantial amount of work coming from mobile service provider Korea Telecom (KT). We also work on CJ (a food and entertainment) company.

Worldwide also, Samsung remains the biggest. We have gradually developed non-Samsung clients worldwide. In Germany, we handle Deutsche Bahn's business. In China, we handle China Telecom.

The more awards we win in Cannes, the more recognition we’ll get - which in turn could get us more clients.

I think this is a good starting point for us to let people know the power of Cheil.

For a creative, is it monotonous to not have a spread of clients as some network agencies do? Does it affect the ability to attract talent?

Not really. We do have quite a few clients to work on in our domestic market. Samsung contributes to less than 50 per cent of our total work.


Campaign India

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