Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time his topic is opening doors for new talent ...

Having gotten into this industry through a back door (I didn't go to university and had to blag my way in..and got lucky) I've always believed in keeping an open door to youngsters looking to get in, and more than that, giving up my time to help them. When you're in a position to hire creative people it is anyway in your own interest to take an interest in young talents looking to get their start. Even when I worked in bigger agencies and reached the lofty position of 'Regional Creative Director' (regional dogsbody more like), I always made time to look at portfolios from young people who would call up. I felt it a responsibility. You're never too big or important to find time to help others, at least that's what I think.
This includes giving up time to engage with students at university, and I enjoy the odd chance to give a talk, impart with some wisdom, and generally pass on what I've learned (this takes about 10 minutes usually). It also pays to look in on what they're up to and see what good talent is coming through, after all new hires have to come from somewhere, and why top football clubs have talent scouts roaming small clubs across Europe in the hope of finding the next Ronaldo.

And it was with all this in mind that I popped across the Hong Kong harbour this week to look in on the end of year show at Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design, at the invitation of Associate Professor Stefan Sonntag, who's always very passionate about seeing his students get a good start in the industry.

Poly2.jpgPoly1.jpgAs expected, it was a delightful experience, not least because Stefan forked out for lunch. Lots of bright ideas from bright young things full of innocent ideals about how they would change the world given a chance. From the young fella whose idea was to promote more sex in marriage via love hotels, to a brand campaign to help fight depression through social fitness and a rather eye-popping bid to promote the benefits of masturbation (which I though most appropriate should the creator end up in a big agency, given the amount of scam work that gets produced these days). I laughed. I cried, I admired.

The big question is though, what will happen to these fresh faced youngsters once they step outside the safe confines of campus life and go into the big bad creative world out there, whichever path they might take? Will their rampant creativity be tamed and beaten into submission by the demands of commercial life. Churning out work on bland briefs with often impossible deadlines, and trying to sell in their brilliant ideas to clients who want it safe, cheap and quick.

I asked Stefan what advice he gives to the young guns as they go off into the world. "I tell them, be informed, be brave (but respectful) and above all be yourself. Nobody is looking for uninspiring people who also act indifferently. You need to know what's going on in the industry *, who is doing outstanding work right now and what is it that you can bring to the table. Have an opinion, but don't be opinionated".

Okay, good advice, but don't they get a bit disillusioned after 2 years of sitting in a corner knocking up out promotional flyers and working until midnight? " Some do, some don't. I think we prepare most of them well enough to know what's coming for them. We have a very good 'work-integrated education' programme (Internship, real client projects etc.) and bring in industry practitioners as often as we can. Unsurprisingly... the good ones make it. The ones with equal talent, determination and a bit of luck to meet the right people (like Chris Kyme) at the right time".

Fellow Associate Professor KC Tsang echoed these thoughts. As a Hong Kong advertising veteran and multi-award winner, KC knows what's what. "I tell students, if you're just looking for a job, you'll just get a lousy job eventually. If you love advertising enough, you'll make a meaningful career gradually. Those students who are not serious enough about learning it at school, who just want to earn a living, won't make it."

And KC's message to potential employers "They suck at what we're good at, but they're good at what we suck. Watch out. Handle the resources well".

If you're in Hong Kong and reading this, do go along to see the work on show in the foyer at the School of Design (just say you've come to see Stefan and he'll buy you worked for me..). And Stefan's advice to anyone looking to hire the fresh grads. "Everybody is a beginner at some point! Cut some slack. Be supportive. Continue the nurturing where we left it off. Add some meat and muscles to their skinny bones".

I can vouch for that, because my bones were once, as he said, skinny. And now there is much flesh.

Chris Kyme is Co-founder and Creative Director at Kymechow, Hong Kong

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