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Issue #03 - Interviews

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In the second part of our series on BBDO, we talk to Suthisak Sucharittanonta, the Chairman & Chief Creative Officer of BBDO Bangkok - and the most awarded Creative Director in Asia.

S
o awarded that he has been stuck on Campaign Brief Asia Thailand's Creative Ranking #1 spot since 2001, not to mention he was also the Asia-Pacific's most awarded creative director in 1998 and 2001.  Just announced, the Campaign Brief Asia Creative Rankings put him in 10th across the Asia-Pacific. Suthisak is a man of few words, but we managed to squeeze a few out of him for this exclusive interview.

Agency.Asia: BBDO Thailand's Head of Planning, Tina Kelly, was formerly with the Australian Federal Police. It is rumoured you lock your clients in interrogation rooms and hold them there until they accept every concept.

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: Yes, definitely. She's an ex-cop but no, we've never forced our clients to buy any idea if they don't like. You know we also have an ex- lap dancer and sometimes we ask her to entertain our clients!!!

Agency.Asia: BBDO Bangkok's creative award recognition is at all-time high under your leadership.  You won a Gold Lion at Cannes; became the 8th Most Awarded Agency in the World according to the GUNN Report, plus the "Agency of the Year" in 2004 and 2005.  You continued this award-winning streak with Cannes Lions 1996-2004; The One show 1997-1998; Clio Awards 1996-1998; London International Advertising Awards 1996-1998; The New York Festival 1997 and many more. If all this tells us one thing, it is that you guys are not a flash in the pan.  Does that performance bring with it certain pressures?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: No, not at all. We just pray more.

Agency.Asia: That success is amazing and yet you almost didn't make it - at one point you came damned close to death. How has that changed your attitude to life? Thor Santisiri, former ECD and Chirman of TBWA Thailand, described you as one of the most determined people he had ever met when we spoke to him.

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: That's in 2001, virus went into my spinal cord and made me seriously ill. I realized that I couldn't  take anything with me including money and award trophies, so I encourage my staff to live life more, forget stress and stop and smell the flowers.

Agency.Asia: Of course, there is more to life than advertising. Some of us tend to lose sight of that.  You are renowned for your hands-on work with charities in Thailand. And by that, we're not talking about just writing clever ads that win awards. Take the Lighthouse Centre for Children with Learning Difficulties ...

Suthisak Sucharittanonta:  Yes, we do many charity works every year, because if we can use our creativity to build businesses then we can use it to help the needy ones too.

Agency.Asia: It's been a difficult time for Thailand and arguably one of the most damaging for business and international investment in your country's rocky political history. Both Ford & Unilever evaporated.  Let's not discount the global economic downturn on top of all that strife. How badly has the political storm affected business for Thailand and the advertising industry?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: So badly affected but we're unfazed by it, we just have to keep our sense with us and not panic.

Agency.Asia:  We're about to visit the Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards, now in its 7th year. According to the organisers, "AME festival will be the best place to discuss, learn and celebrate 'proven creativity' in the region". What we find disheartening is that the event is overrun by the world's major brands and a legion of hugely successful marketing gurus, yet you'd be hard pressed to find any 'creatives' there. That is as opposed, say, Adfest or The Spikes.

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: I think the effectiveness awards are basicly the measurement of the ad campaign effectiveness more than it's creativity, therefore in creative people's perception it's the awards for the suits. I personally have never entered any effectiveness awards because my CEO, suit partner, does it. But I like to win and also proud of it if my agency's work could win the effectiveness awards, and I think my clients would be happy too. I think it's ok to separate the effectiveness and creative awards because they both require different juries, and judging criterias. I don't see any point that we should combine and gather different bunch of people at the same awards show ( they could clash and fight using beer bottles).

Agency.Asia: We spoke to Sir John Hegarty and he proffered that awards such as the AME or Effies, might be one possible solution to the scam debate, because it is more difficult to argue with results.  We'd hasten to say that the he wasn't necessarily recommending we all go down that path. Any thoughts?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: How many people enter their work to those serious shows? It's an another world.

Agency.Asia: We have asked several guests this question. Why is it that advertising is apparently one of the least respected professions? Look at lawyers, doctors and accountants. Generally speaking, their clients don't habitually haggle with them and question their advice at every turn. Nor do they serially choose a new doctor every couple of years. While this may well not be the case with BBDO, has the advertising industry in general brought this upon itself?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: If you're the best in the league, no one will dump you.

Agency.Asia: Apart from a deadline, what gets you in the mood creatively? Is there any surefire remedy for writer's block?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: Just play.

Agency.Asia:  Explain the thinking behind the BBDO Thailand Your Space Awards.  Did you discover you had some closet interior designers?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: We didn't have money to hire an interior designer for redecoration! Kidding aside, we strongly believe that an individual will create better work when he/she is in their own creatively unique environment rather than dull and boring cubicals. We also want our staffs to show off their creativity regardless of departments from the finance to maids. They're all creative.

Agency.Asia: Suthisak, there can't be too many awards that have eluded you. Of the many that you've won individually and with your BBDO team, which one sits atop the summit - and which haven't you laid hands on that you crave most?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta:  None.

Agency.Asia: There are some incredibly talented people in your creative lineup at BBDO Thailand. Would you like to give the team a shot out and tell us a little of what it takes to assemble such a hot bunch of creatives?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: Tell them that it's fun here.

Agency.Asia: You've been in the business for many years and presumably seen thousands of folios. What are the most common mistakes that folks make in presenting their work?  And do any stunts that kids have pulled to get you to take time out to see them stand out in your memory?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: Once. There was an Indian guy named Raj who stalked outside the awards ceremony venue and he tackled me to see his folio. He's now an ECD of BBDO Mumbai.

Agency.Asia: When we spoke to Jureeporn Thaidumrong about humour in Thai advertising, she said "Compared to our neighbours, we don't take ourselves too seriously, and we love to have a good joke with each other. We tend to respond to slapstick humour, and really aren't afraid of making fun of ourselves. It's a Buddhist thing, not to hold on to oneself too much". Have you got anything to add to that? A significant chunk of BBDO Thailand's advertising is humorous. 

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: She's right, that's my quote. Sorry Judee.

Agency.Asia: We love a good fun horror story here at Agency.Asia. In all your years on the job what is the funniest mishap that has taken place to you in the course of your work, or to one of your friends if that is less incriminating?

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: My parents still don't know what I'm doing, they just see me out every day in my jeans and old t-shirts, they probably think I'm a construction labourer!

Agency.Asia:  What books do you love that maybe changed your life?

1. The Holy Bible

Agency.Asia: It has been a real pleasure meeting you and we're coming to hear you jamming soon.  We ask our guest to nominate the person they think our readers would most like to hear from in the next issue ...

Suthisak Sucharittanonta: Obama!

Agency.Asia: We've already interviewed him. You obviously missed our first issue.

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