A Creative's Perspective on Thailand's Evolving Market
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Wunderman Thompson Thailand’s CCO Park Wannasiri on creating campaigns for the ‘new Thailand’, how Buddhism taught him to always stay humble and why learning to sell underarms was the start of a wonderful career for him
When Park Wannasiri was announced as Wunderman Thomspon Thailand’s CCO at the start of this year, he became the agency’s youngest ever one. But, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. In fact, Park’s credentials span far and wide, he began his career on the deodorant account at FCB, transitioned to Leo Burnett and then BBDO and has over the years worked on some of Thailand’s biggest brands in all sectors.
As he finds his feet in his new role, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Park to hear his take on Thailand’s unique creativity, how he’s shaking things up and why remembering his Buddhist teachings has been key to him for all these years.
LBB> What made you go into the creative industry?
Park> When you ask me this question, it makes me think a lot. What made me go into the industry… Then I found out that for my entire life, “I have been thinking a lot”. I am obsessed with thinking.
Looking at people and things, I think about them, I keep asking questions and thinking about them, I go out exploring and think about those things. Thinking puts me to sleep. And my thinking becomes my action. I follow them all the way. And it led me to where I am.
LBB> What is it about Thai advertising that really drew you in and how has it evolved over the years?
Park> Thai advertising industry was very big when I was young. Creatives were like superstars. They created so many iconic works that we all remembered. But I think things have changed over the years. We became less important. Now anyone can be famous and be creative from so many platforms. I think we have to evolve and update to survive in this fast-moving world.
LBB> I know your parents are doctors and in a way you feel as though your role is similar to theirs at times… tell us more.
Park> Most of the time both industries are dealing with people. People go to see a doctor when they have a problem. It’s the same with advertising. We both are in the business of finding solutions.
I also believe that doctors and creatives have a responsibility to heal this world. The power of the advertising industry is not just selling stuff or brand building. But we can change human perceptions, behaviours and move people toward a better world.
LBB> You started off working for FCB on a deodorant account! What were the biggest learnings for yourself during those early years?
Park> Patience lol! Actually, I learnt how to work properly for a regional and complex account. How to sell the simplest thing like underarms in a hard sell way. When you start tough the rest seems to be easy.
LBB> You've been in the industry long enough to see the shift from print and television to digital. What do you think the future of Thailand's advertising is?
Park> I was lucky to be hybrid. I started working at the end of traditional advertising’s ‘golden age’. I still remember when the budget was super huge for one print ad. Then the digital era disrupted everything.
We started to focus on tech and data, and it seems like since Covid-19 came, it accelerated everything; the rise of e-commerce and platforms. Well, I guess we never know the future. But that’s a fun part of advertising. You have to keep evolving, updating and moving ahead of the consumer. For me, I think Thai flavours in ads will continue. Funny, full of emotion and unexpected - but in a different medium.
LBB> How much is short-form content and social media driving this change and why?
Park> It seems like people have less and less time to focus on things. So, we as an advertiser have to think hard on how to talk to them in a right time and right spot. Short form content might help us to remind them about the message they wanted to communicate, it's got that reach and frequency. But it is just one part of the whole picture. You have to have them but still need to think big. You can never build a brand with a bunch of short-form content only.
LBB> As a creative what motivates and inspires you?
Park> I am so lucky that I love this job so much. I never have to worry about waking up and not wanting to go to work. What motivates me to push myself forward is wanting to see how the work that I love impacts people around it. How does my work impact the brand that it serves? How does it impact a consumer, agency, industry and the world? So, I’m very inspired when I see things that have an impact! When something impacts the world, you just know it, it always hypes me up to say, “It should have been my campaign!”
LBB> You were named as Wunderman Thompson’s Thailand's youngest ever CCO this year! How did this feel?
Park> Scary! But I would say I love the feeling of being scared. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Itching like I need to do something right now or die. Be a better version of myself fast. I hate pressure so much that's why I have to get rid of it. WT is such an ambitious agency. We really want to be the best in today’s world. We are young and passionate. So, I will do my best to live that title, my way!
LBB>What have been your favorite projects to work on and why?
Park> There are so many projects that I love since I joined WT. Narcos Censor’s-Cut would be one of my favorites for sure. The campaign got a silver from Cannes Lions back in 2018. The campaign was for Netflix to promote Narcos Mexico and was filled with sex, drugs and violence. It never passed Thailand’s overzealous censorship. So, we did something people didn’t expect.
Instead of removing the scenes entirely from the trailer, we just cut around the offending images within each scene, leaving a clear enough outline that anyone could still identify what had been removed. And we launched the trailer just like that. Boom! It went viral and created millions of conversations. I love the campaign because it has that sense of sarcasm and is funny. The idea was playing around with local contexts is why Thai people were so into it. And it paid off like we expected.
LBB> I love your Buddhist thinking and motto 'Work hard. Stay humble', how much has this grounded you during moments of excitement/tension?
Park> Buddhism is a way of living and thinking for me. It is all about finding solutions in life. Buddhism even says that problems are life. You have to deal with it every day and keep finding a better solution in life. Every brief comes with a problem that we have to find a solution for.
I think working hard is the only thing that you can do to guarantee your success. As I say, I have so much love for this job. So, my “work hard” is not that hard for me. Staying humble would be my favorite part of it. I try not to be too excited when things happen. Not too happy when you win pitches or awards. Not too sad when you lose either. I try not to stick with my successes or failures. That’s one of the keys to improvement for me. And it also keeps you emotionally steady. Not too happy, not too sad. Keep it in the middle.
When you are humble you learn more. My glass is always half full but needs to be filled.
LBB> Wunderman Thompson Thailand recently produced the Tinder campaign which taps into a whole new market. How much are things changing culturally in the country now?
Park> That Tinder campaign was done by my best partner, our ECD Thasorn Boonyanate. What he did in that campaign was bringing real impacts to the market by changing Thais’ perception towards Tinder. Thais don’t talk about sex like in other parts of the world. That’s why Tinder was always in the grey area.
‘Friends with (Other) Benefits’ disrupts everything. The idea brought a million new users to the platform and found a new purpose for the brand. Now people can use Tinder without someone judging them.
LBB> Outside of work who is Park…what do you do to unwind and how was lockdown for you?
Park> Outside of work, Park is is a Star Wars geek who is married to a beautiful wife and has a lovely son named Luke after Luke Skywalker. For me, family always comes first.
Lockdown was a tough time for all of us. But if I look into the bright side, I can be with my family all day long… Lockdown was not so bad after all!