Cheil's Wain Choi on Samsung's human connection

Wain Choi, VP and executive global creative director of Cheil.
Wain Choi, VP and executive global creative director of Cheil.

The VP and executive global creative director explains its biggest client's move from functional product advertising to "launching people"

Cheil vice president and executive global creative director Wain Choi has spent enough time across markets and agencies to know when a brand is ready to take off. And he is predicting big things for its No. 1 client, Samsung

Cheil's "Minus 1 Project" for Samsung won laurels at the Cannes Lions and other festivals a couple of years ago, with an ecological message that reducing font sizes by 1 point would save paper.

This year, its "Look at Me" app to help autistic kids communicate and the "North Korean-South Korean Translator" — an app to span the gap between the two countries — have been screened at multiple Cannes stages.

According to Choi, this is just the beginning of the brand's new approach to communication: "launching people" instead of products.

"Samsung's advertising has come a long way since the functional, product showcases of the past," Choi said. "While that genre remains, alongside some celebrity-led brand advertising (FIFA World Cup, for Galaxy), there is also a surge of award-winning work that is not product-led.

"About two years ago, Samsung (with then CMO Sue Shim) came to us and Leo Burnett, with a pitch for how the brand could move from product-centric advertising to a brand ideals-based platform. It was about moving from ideas (on functionality) to ideas (like Coca-Cola ... or Nike, which doesn't sell a pair of running shoes through its advertising). The idea we got to was this notion that when you as a consumer and technology from Samsung come together, it leads to something amazing.

"They have been launching products every year: a more colorful phone; a thinner product; a larger screen; and many, many other great products. For the first time, we launched a platform [when] we said, 'Samsung doesn't launch products; they are about launching People.' Meaningful technology, adding value to each individual, whether the person is from Bangladesh or Madagascar or New York or London. It's about giving people that little bit of leverage.

"'Look at me' was one of the babies that came out of it. It wasn't a cure, but it had the power to bring the mother and child closer to each other. It has won a few awards, but the bigger award is that it could help the loved ones become closer.

"Korean mothers, and possibly others in other markets, don't like to show weakness of their kids publicly. It was really brave of the mother in the research that we did using the app. She told us, 'If we can use this to help other mothers get close to their (autistic) children, I would love to do this.' "

"Hopefully, this will continue. In Canada, we did a follow-up on this, involving a father and his daughter. The daughter had never smiled since she was a baby. He wanted to see her smile. This is what we want to do — meaningful innovation for all.

"Last year, we launched Power Sleep in Austria," which donates smartphones' nighttime processing power to medical research.

"Currently, we have something in the oven, as part of more initiatives on the 'launching people' platform.

"Yes, we still talk about the product and that will never change. That has a role to play and an important role to play.

"But in a lot of places, like China, Austria, the UK and India, we have started to invest in work that moves people. It has started slowly. But it will catch fire very quickly, I think.

This article first appeared on

Cannes Lions 2015 Coverage

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