I’m in Seoul where I’m meeting Thomas Kim, the executive creative director of Cheil Worldwide and the man who has singlehandedly reshaped South Korea’s advertising landscape.  

His diverse portfolio includes campaigns for clients such as Samsung, Daewoo Motors, Pizza Hut, Microsoft and HP, which have won him recognition at some of the world’s most prestigious advertising and media festivals including the Cannes Lions, the New York Festival, the London International Awards and the Webby Awards.

Moreover, Thomas was the first South Korean to win the Grand Prix in Media at the 2011 Cannes Lions, an achievement that put him and his country on the global creative map and that profoundly impacted Korea’s advertising culture.

Meeting Thomas Kim at Cheil Worldwide  for Around The World in 80 Brands
Meeting Thomas Kim at Cheil Worldwide for Around The World in 80 Brands

“So what’s the secret of your success?” I ask Thomas after he has given me a tour of the Cheil offices and we’ve found a quiet corner to chat.

“Oh I don’t think there’s a big secret,” Thomas says with a modest laugh. “But I guess I do approach my work differently.

“From the time I started working in advertising, I felt it was about more than just delivering a message to get sales. I think advertising can make society happier and create values. That’s why I’m always trying to create ideas that are new and valuable to society at large. In my view content needs to be meaningful in order to create real value.”

“Interesting,” I say. “So how does that translate into your work at Cheil?”

“A key concept in all the work we do at Cheil these days is creating shared value. This is a trend that started a couple of years ago with the rise of social media: people want to share things they believe to be good and valuable. The type of media is not important anymore, it’s all about creating communication platforms and creating shared value.”

“Can you give an example?”

“My favourite is the Minewater campaign, in which we added an additional water-drop-shaped barcode on a mineral water bottle, which let consumers donate directly to provide clean drinking water to children in Africa. It introduced a new way of donating.”

“Wow that’s cool,” I say. “And what was the outcome?”

“Besides the considerable amount they raised for charity, the brand benefited enormously: brand awareness rose massively and so did sales.”

“You also often take a proactive approach with clients – developing proposals without waiting for their request.”

“Absolutely,” says Thomas. “Some of our most successful projects were developed in that way, like the ‘Bridge of Life’ project we did for Samsung Life Insurance. We transformed a bridge that was renowned for suicides into an interactive bridge with messages along its whole length and sensors on the guardrails that light up when people walk by.”

“So there you’re using technology to create shared value…”

“That’s right, and I think that’s crucial. There has been so much progress in technology, but it has no meaning if we don’t harness that capacity to do good.”



© 2014 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

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