12 Questions : 20 People - #4 Paul Chan, Group Creative Director, Cheil Hong Kong

Paul Chan_Cheil.jpg12:20 is a Sydney based creative consultancy that works with agencies across Asia. Recently, while working in Singapore and Hong Kong, Christian Finucane and Jon Skinner met with 20 creative leaders from the top agencies to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the industry. The interviews, '12 Questions: 20 People' are being published in a series of blog posts on Campaign Brief Asia. The fourth interview is with Paul Chan, (pictured) Group Creative Director, Cheil Hong Kong.

What's the most exciting thing about working in Asia?
Asian creativity is still evolving. It doesn't blindly emulate the West anymore and it's making its mark on the international stage. So we're finally beginning to find our own voice. Which is important. You're talking about a region that contains almost two thirds of the world's population. Now that's a lot of eyes and ears. And hopefully, our best days are still ahead of us.
 
What inspires you?
Apart from listening to vinyl records and eating marmite on toast, it can be anything and everything. It's hard to list because it's usually things that you can't predict that are the most inspiring. I mean, we look for inspiration everywhere and in everything we do. Especially when staring at a blank layout pad!
How has social media impacted creativity in the region?
Massively. People now view several screens whilst blogging, browsing, tweeting and chatting on Facebook. So as industry players, you can't just wing it. For people to truly engage with your ideas, they have to be really great. You can't just do a so-so ad and carpet bomb your message any more. It simply won't work. That initial spark has to be brilliant, inventive and totally relevant.

dumb_ways_to_die.jpgWhat is the recent campaign everyone wishes they'd done?
It's got to be 'Dumb Ways To Die'. We all know it resonated with festival judges. But before that, it really did capture the attention of the world. Even my three-year-old daughter was hooked. Not bad for a public service announcement.
 
Which clients are pushing the boundaries and how?
Some of the bigger brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Dove have been doing some great work for years.
 
Are there any cultural 'creative watchouts' working here?

Digital integration. There are always more people talking about it than actually doing it, let alone doing it successfully.

Which Asian country is punching above its weight creatively?
There's some outstanding work coming from the most unexpected places. Korea has consistently won top prizes at Cannes over the last three years and the Philippines just got its first Grand Prix this year.

Why does creativity matter?
Creativity is a game changer. This is true in advertising, in business, in society and in life. Besides, isn't that what clients are paying us for? Our business is driven by the very product we call creativity. Without it, there is nothing. I'm still proud of the fact that I'm paid to have an imagination. To think laterally. And solve problems. I still love being creative and the thrill of cracking something. I hope that never disappears.

What makes the local industry different?
Language aside, the pace at which we work is incredible. Which is not necessarily a good thing. Things happen fast in Asia, which often compromises the quality of the work in favour of a ridiculous turnaround time. It's important to fight for the time and space to push for original creative work. Otherwise, you'll just be 'rewarded' with more projects to juggle with equally ridiculous turnaround times.

Cannes Titanium, Spikes Asia Grand Prix or AWARD Gold Pencil? Which and why?
Cannes. It carries more weight internationally and gets talked about more - and not just in creative circles. Nowadays, even clients drop 'Cannes' into their sentences and talk about their hunger to win a Lion!
 
What is the creative issue that frustrates you the most?
Inflated titles. In Asia, it's a common joke that you'll find more CDs in an ad agency than at HMV. And we all know what happened to them...

Cheil HK Group LR.jpgWhat's the biggest opportunity for creative people?
Asia is more social and digital than any other region on the planet and our youngsters are the most avid mobile users in the world. And yet no one has really figured out how to advertise on mobile. In fact, most mobile advertising is still pretty awful. That's a massive opportunity, right there. Surely, that's where the future is.

Left to right: Jon Skinner (Creative Partner, 12:20), Sp Ong (Group Creative Director, Cheil Hong Kong), Paul Chan (Group Creative Director, Cheil Hong Kong), Christian Finucane (Creative Partner, 12:20).

12 questions to Ted Lim, Dentsu Network Asia
12 questions to Eugene Cheong, Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific.
12 questions to Joji Jacob, DDB Singapore.

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