Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time he reflects on creative that is barking up the right tree!!

It's that time of the year again. No I don't mean the time of the year when everyone's starting to approach unsuspecting audiobook/headphone/ charitable cause/toy maker/furniture clients about a brilliant campaign that they just happen to have done and would you mind if we ran it? I'm talking about Chinese New Year.
Here we go. Out with the old animal and in with the new. And this time we are ejecting the Rooster and welcoming in the Dog. Personally I love it. It's more festive than Christmas, It's warm, colourful, traditional, commercial and you just know that there will be pooches everywhere you look. On posters, in ads, online. Cute, happy, wacky, tail wagging doggies promising a year of good health, abundant wealth, and buy one get one free dinners.
And so we also get the usual abundance of CNY campaigns, just as the traditional extravagant Christmas TV ads which turn up in Europe and the US. Don't fret, I'm not looking to do a self-invited summary of the best of the batch (as if anyone cares what I think), but I would like to give a mention to one in particular, which caught the eye and left a pleasant taste.
offtoschool.jpgworkshop.jpgThe Hong Kong Tourism spot from Grey Hong Kong is very charming and tastefully produced. I liked it and shared it around the office. And then I thought, I want to know what this is all about. So I got in touch with Grey CCO Michael Knox to do just that. Get it from the horse's mouth, even if it isn't the Year of the Horse.
The story revolves around a young boy and his little sister, who he surprises with a little gift, in order to help her overcome her fear. Although the territory is familiar - local families, CNY, lion dances etc, it's particularly charming due to the way it's been executed, courtesy of The Sweet Shop and director Andrew Lang. The kids are sweet, but believable (as opposed to the usual over the top saccharine presentations with kids dressed in over-styled outfits like bow ties and Beatle haircuts, and sickly acting). It's a nice presentation of Hong Kong life, without trying to overdo it.
I asked Michael about the approach. "I like cheating the factory tour. Not letting the audience know they're being shown around. Distracting them with a bit of charm.  I like the safety Hong Kong provides. You see that in the way children are treated here. They are looked out for by everyone and can confidently weave through the bustle. That's unique."
It seems that the subject matter itself was actually a reason Michael ended up in Hong Kong too, and maybe that's why this was a perfect opportunity for him to show some love. "I moved to Hong Kong a couple of months before last year's Chinese New Year. One of the ways of convincing my wife and daughter this was a good idea (us moving to Hong Kong) was to point out all the incredible things going on at CNY.
Mansplaining things I knew nothing about! The festivals, traditions, lion dances, the office blessing, the queue at my door for Lai See, flower markets and overflowing temples exposed us to a culture we'd never experienced.  I was left with the impression that CNY is possibly deeper, richer, thicker, more family, less affected than Christmas.  I wanted us to find a way to bring a bit of that out."
Although the rest of the full team behind the spot are local, on agency and client side (and credit to you all, especially the client people at Hong Kong Tourism), it's also interesting to see Hong Kong subject matter through the eyes of someone who is relatively new to the city. And maybe that gives it a fresh perspective. I think Michael's attitude here is a factor in making that all come right. Over the years (okay, centuries then) I've been my plying trade here, I've seen many expats come and go. I've seen people succeed, and others fail. You can't bring arrogance to the table. You have to be open to giving and receiving. Offering your experience and talent, but being open and humble enough to learn from what the city will give you. Michael echoes that. "This isn't about me hoping to change everyone to think the way I do. It's about me trying to learn the way local people think and work in that space. I come from a market (Australia) with an ambitious desire to find simple, creative answers to complex problems. Conceptual thinking is currency there.  Advertising for me is about smashing together unrelated things - to see the familiar in a different way.  I'd like to see more of that. I'll take wrong and interesting over right and predictable any day."
Good work. Okay, you may not see it up in lights at the gong shows, but this is a good classic production, for a major client, with a nicely thought-through storyline. How often do we see that on our screens nowadays? And not easy to achieve. Hats off!
EYS MTR horizontal.jpgOkay, and while we're on the subject (not hats, I mean Chinese New Year), there is one other campaign which caught my eye. Nothing to do with a brilliant idea or anything revolutionary, but there is a campaign currently running here for Eu Yan Sang, the Chinese medicine brand, featuring scenes of traditional family values, which seeks to bridge the unspoken gap between generations. Created by local independent agency Constant, although it's not earth-shatteringly original (and maybe therein lies its charm), it's elegantly art directed, and I was really captivated by the beautiful, retro-style execution. It's a breath of tasteful air amidst a jungle of crap polluted with the usual dross.
Whoever put this together did so with love and care, for a client who obviously gets it. Nice.
Happy Year of the Dog (woof woof!)

Chris Kyme is chief executive officer at Kymechow, Hong Kong


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