5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly

5 Minutes with… Jinho Kim

Advertising Agency
Seoul, South Korea
Cheil Worldwide’s global creative director on Korean creativity and going client-side with Blizzard Entertainment

Cheil Worldwide’s global creative director Jinho Kim has been on quite an international ride throughout his life. As a youngster he grew up in Gran Canaria where he was born, studied in Boston and Miami and took his first advertising job in Singapore. Since then, he’s pottered around Asia Pacific with roles at Hyundai and Blizzard Entertainment before recently returning to Cheil as now creative director.

LBB’s Natasha Patel picked Jinho’s brain on his career, creativity and an insight into South Korea.

LBB> Tell us about your childhood and early years in Gran Canaria, Spain. Was creativity always a part of your life?

Jinho> Being Korean and born on that little island is quite rare. I was born there and raised there, up until I was 17. 

I think creativity is kind of in my blood. My grandfather was a sculptor, he was an artist, and I've always been drawn to the creative side. As a matter of fact, I was more inclined to study film. I had this passion that I wanted to become a film director. But then there's the other side of me, the Korean side that thinks a little bit more conservatively, thinking about my parents. If I told my parents that I want to be a film director, they would probably disown me. The next thing where I could be creative with some stability, was how I made a choice about entering advertising.

LBB> Where and how did you hone your craft after you made that decision?

Jinho> I got an American education in Boston, where I studied advertising, and later found out it wasn’t enough to cut it in the industry. I majored in Communication and Advertising but it was very textbook-driven. So, there wasn’t much about concepting and specialising in the different disciplines. Later on in my life, I went to Miami Ad School and that's where I learned everything about advertising.

They had this programme called Quarter Away, which is simply a platform for students to spend quarters of the year in different cities around the world and be taught by real professionals. I got some experience in London where I was taught by people from Wieden + Kennedy and also in Germany.

My experience with advertising started with disciplining myself in copywriting. I made the jump to art direction because I thought it was more marketable for somebody like me, being Asian Korean and born in Spain. People looked for copywriters who were English-speaking natives, but I think that has changed a lot in today's industry. 

LBB> What was your first role in the industry?

Jinho> After graduating from Miami Ad School, I made the jump to Singapore, and went to the Fallon office there. It was kind of a risky thing because I didn't know anybody in Singapore. No family, no friends. Back in the day, Singapore was winning tonnes of awards, there was a lot of great talent in Singapore, and they were all about the creativity so that's what drew me to go into Singapore. I was in Fallon for about four years. And then after that Cheil called me, and that's how I made the jump to Korea.

LBB> After eight years at Cheil you left to go client side with Blizzard Entertainment. This must’ve been quite an experience!

Jinho> The timing was just right because the Seoul office just took the helm of being the Asia Pacific office and I got the position of being the marketing creative lead for Asia Pacific. So it was huge. 

I had six IPs that I had to take care of for all these different markets in Asia Pacific. But it was a huge learning curve. I mean going to the client side, it's very different from the creative side in an agency. The reason why I went into it is because I love video games, it doesn't matter how old somebody is, video games is just something that is for everyone.

But my ambitious side wanted to embark on something completely new, too. While being on the client side, I learned the business side of marketing, and this is something that to me was a huge culture shock in a way. As a creative in an agency I think there's very little exposure to seeing the bigger picture.

Another aspect I also saw was this side of the video game world that I already knew about but I saw first-hand. And that is the fandom behind video games, especially Blizzard. They have this amazing annual event called BlizzCon and you see people dressing up as their favourite characters, it’s insane. But when you look at it, that's the kind of support every company would love to have: diehard fans living and breathing the brand.

LBB> After that you spent some time at Hyundai before going back to Cheil, what made you go back to the advertising world?

Jinho> It's always nice to be called to a place. I wish I had a better, more interesting answer and to be honest, here in Korea there are not that many brands or companies that have that global perspective. And that is what draws me in. Cheil and Samsung have that. 

Also it took me this whole journey to realise that I love the agency side.

LBB> Having been in South Korea a while you’re well placed to talk about it as a creative hub. What makes the region stand out to you?

Jinho> What I love about Korea is that the youth is becoming more empowered here, especially with creativity. They're becoming braver and bolder, and it's not just an attitude and creativity. It's a cultural perspective and it's a shift that's happening. For instance, in Korea maybe even six years ago, people walking around with tattoos on them was seen as very taboo. And now you see it everywhere, people and especially the youth are not shy or scared of showing who they really are. 

I think that's something that comes across here in creativity, especially with the young people. It's much more opinionated; it's bolder, and it comes through through the arts, fashion, start-ups, and social media as well.

LBB> What is the conversation around diversity and inclusion like in South Korea at the moment?

Jinho> When it comes to inclusion and diversity, they're very welcoming. I'm not even talking in terms of the corporate world. Korea as a country and as a society, they're very welcoming. 

If we're talking about gender, I think it's opening up a lot and very fast.

LBB> Where does your creative inspiration come from?

Jinho> I would say the one thing that always makes me think about ideas or anything is music. It could be any type of music, a whole range, it could be from electronica to jazz to the most obscure music, I think music has this direct line to creativity that just sparks something.

LBB> What are your plans and hopes for the future at Cheil?

Jinho> As a creative director right now, I see my role has changed a lot. When I was a creative it was all about me coming up with ideas, but what I enjoy most now is meeting people who are very talented. I love to learn from other people and their different views.  Anything can happen.

LBB> Outside of work what does life look like for you?

Jinho> Outside of work, I spend it a lot with my eight-year-old daughter, Anna. And you might guess it, we play a lot of video games together.

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