Creative in association withGear Seven

James’ Word

Advertising Agency
New York, United States
James Mok from Draftfcb Asia Pacific hijacks LBB editorial and casts his eye over Spikes 12


Welcome to the Singapore Grand Prix.
Oh, sorry, wrong event. It’s the Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity. 
Trust the very clever organisers of this event to coincide it with the Grand Prix. More reasons to come to Singapore. More reasons to stay longer. More reasons to spend more money. 
Well, the advertising industry is essentially about greasing the wheels of the economy so it makes perfect sense that the festival will benefit the Singapore tourism industry as much as it will benefit the ad people who attend it. 
This is my second Spikes so I’d hardly call myself a veteran, but I do like the idea of the festival. It’s more than an award show and a drinking fest. It’s a lot more than the winning work on display; it’s about the content. Maybe it’s the ad nerd in me but the seminars are the real meat. Look at the speakers – there’s some advertising and communications royalty there. The seminars should offer an incredible range of insightful and provocative ideas on what our industry is doing today and where it could be going tomorrow. 
You might not agree with some of the ideas shared at the seminars. In fact, I’m sure you won’t. But you might create your next breakthrough idea as a result of one thing you remember. Who knows? It’s incredibly stimulating.
One of the joys of attending a festival like Spikes is the opportunity to be selfish. It’s a privilege to be able to completely sink yourself in listening, learning and absorbing ideas without the tyranny of meetings and deadlines. 
So what am I expecting from Spikes? Obviously to see great work, maybe even a little controversy. I’m hoping to see some inspiring innovation. Wealthy Asian countries have high digital literacy and the size of the markets means that there is money to invest in exploring the creative potential of technology. The perfect combo.
But what I’m most interested in seeing is how much Asian advertising is developing its own voice and aesthetic. Doing great work means connecting with your audience. I believe the accepted norms of advertising ideas and techniques have been driven by Western ad culture. While all good advertising taps into universal human truths, culture and social conditioning may dramatically change the way an Asian agency would express an idea compared to, say, an American or European agency. Thailand struck gold a few years ago when their industry found its distinctive Thai voice. Japan has been doing it for years. Have other countries done the same?
It’s a fascinating time for Asian agencies and I hope that Spikes can do justice in celebrating the region’s cultures and their unique ways of storytelling. 
The festival starts today and if you haven’t peaked too early and retired for a beer and a swim, come along to my seminar at 3.10pm. It’s about ‘Affecting Change’. If you’ve ever had a debate about the purpose of advertising creativity and innovation, I’d love you to come along. I’m sure some people will completely disagree with my view, which is good. Debate is always good. Just don’t heckle. It’ll put me off my stride. (This especially means you, Scott Kelly.)
Also make time for the seminar by (shameless plug time) my fellow Draftfcb-er, Tina Manikas, our Global Retail & Promotions Officer. Tina is the jury president for Direct, Promo & Activation this year and she helped to create the same category at Cannes. She’ll be talking about ‘Igniting the Customer Decision Journey’ on Tuesday at 11.10am, highlighting the opportunity to engage and influence shoppers in a changing world. No doubt Tina will get you thinking and she’ll probably do it with a lot more elegance and style than mine.
Enjoy the festival. 
Oh, and my money’s on Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel winning the Grand Prix.
James Mok
Group Executive Creative Director, Draftfcb Australasia
Regional Executive Creative Director, Draftfcb Asia Pacific
Work from FCB US