Why Wain Choi & Samuel Akesson stress on human approach to creativity

With the rapid march of digital and growing adoption of technology tools like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data Analysis, et al, there are increasing debates now in the advertising industry as to whether technology will, in the not too distant future, take over all functions of brand interactions, creativity, communications, etc. 

Refuting such a scenario, Wain Choi, Chief Creative Officer, CJ K-Valley, maintains that technology for technology’s sake in meaningless. According to him, “It should mean something for the consumer. Whether its knowing your customers as people, solving problems for them or even using simple ideas for innovation, brands need to be more human.” 

Choi put forth his thoughts in a Knowledge Session presented by Jagran at the recently concluded Goafest 2018, in conversation with Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO FCB Ulka, where they discussed about why brands need to adopt a people first technique. 

Answering an audience question about whether machines will take over the role of creativity, Wain said that while 90 per cent of the work meat and potato can be replaced AI, the top 9-10 per cent work that is seen at events like Goafest and Cannes will continue to be people. 

In a brief chat on the sidelines of the festival Wain Choi - Chief Creative Officer at CJ K-Valleyabout Tec V/S Creativity, things that he likes about India Ad Agencies, things that he doesn’t like and some insights on Influencer marketing. 

When asked whether creative ideation today was being done keeping technology at its core, Choi emphasised that ideas should be relevant and resonate with the people, irrespective whether of the technological vicinity. “There was time when I judged Indian creatives, and that moment I realised that most of the creative ideas were from a human mind, it was mind-blowing to see them. The ideas generated and executed by a human mind are at par with the technologies that we use,” he maintained. 

Since Choi is familiar with Indian creative work, we asked him about the two things that he found great about the work done by the India ad agencies. To this, he replied, “For me, India is a young country with lots of creative young minds. It’s a very beautiful country with diversity in language, culture and ethos. The creatives that come out from their side should touch all the 29 states and people speaking different languages and for that, we need creativity. It’s my request to all the young creative minds to be in India and work for India instead of moving to the US.” 

At the same time he was also saddened by how people in India discriminated against each other on the basis of economic standards. “I believe that nobody here is poor or rich. Everyone has unique ideas and that’s what matters a lot. So, stop judging people on their standards, but consider them on their ideas,” he added. 

Choi also called for giving women equal status in the country. “It’s never a question of gender – that I am a man and you are a woman – but it’s always something about how good your idea is,” he affirmed. 

Talking about influencers, he felt that one should not just depend on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube and get influenced by that person. He cautioned against getting influenced by somebody who has a 1,000 views on YouTube, and instead said that one needs to consider those who are really doing something for others in a great manner. 

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Being Human 

Echoing Wain Choi’s views on the human face of advertising was Samuel Akesson, Art Director, Forsman & Bodenfors. In a Knowledge Seminar by WION, Akesson highlighted the unique and different way in which Forsman & Bodenfors functions – it doesn’t have any hierarchy and works as a collaborative team. 

Akesson mentioned, “What we do is ‘human’ mostly...Perhaps there’s a lack of humanity in advertising, which is why sometimes advertising is bad at making people feel anything.” He went on to explain the three pillars that are believed in and followed to the hilt at Forsman & Bodenfors, making it an award-winning and successful agency: 

Responsibility – There’s no hierarchy. Everyone is responsible for the work they do. If you do the work you’re responsible for the work. This gives a strong sense of freedom as well as ownership.

Trust – At the agency as many people see your work as possible. More minds tend to be better than few. You have to trust everyone in the agency to look at your work and understand it and give feedback. You have to trust others because they trust you too.

Courage – The trust and responsibility make us courageous. You have the support you need to execute your conviction. 

At the same time, he also admitted that “Very often we have experienced failure and mishaps. But in this structure of work, you feel like a part of a strong community. We face such situations together, which makes us feel stronger.” 

Elaborating further on Forsman & Bodenfors’ human approach to creativity, Akesson told Adgully, “I think it comes down to the end result, where human stories connect with humans. And I realise that to that point, we will have to start at the very beginning – in the way we organise and structure our agency. So, by behaving in that way, we organise ourselves that way and that’s the only threat that goes all the way. What makes us different from other agencies is our holistic point of view towards creativity.” 

When asked about the advantages of following such an approach, he pointed out that it is reflected in the quality of work the done. “We have a great output of work that connects with people, and the human connect that I keep talking about, it all shows in our work and also shows some kind of understanding of how human beings relate to stories,” he added. 

Akesson observed, “It is surprisingly difficult that advertising is led by massive corporate positions, and we also talk about technological innovations today. All these things tend to marginalise the essence of creativity, which is basically all about being human. This is sort of sitting in front of a person and talking and telling stories; it’s like an ancient way of human behaviour that we tend to lose track of a little bit in advertising today.” 

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When asked how advertising agencies can take the creative ideation process from average to wow, Akesson had one practical piece of advice, “Most agencies have a fixed team for creative ideation, for instance, art director and copywriter work together, almost like a married couple. I think we need to break that. We don’t work that way. For every different project we have a different constellation, which means that your work day or work week is in several different constellations. This means that immediately all the ideas and work start to cross breed and everyone starts to engage in each other’s work and the quality of the work just steps up. Then you realise that people have begun to collaborate rather than compete.”

(With Inputs from Mansi Jhingan)


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