Interview: Suthisak Sucharittanonta – Why Thailand is so ‘Zab!’

If you’ve traveled to Thailand, you may be aware of the word ‘Zab!’ To find out why Thais are crazy about ‘Zab’, Barbara Messer caught up with legendary ad man, Suthisak Sucharittanonta, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of BBDO Bangkok.

You’re joining AdStars as an Executive Judge this year. Why did you accept the invitation?

I accepted the invitation to judge Ad Stars because it’s different from other awards shows. It’s an international awards show that has no entry fee, is judged by international juries, and gives monetary prizes to Grand Prix winners. Aside from that, I’ve been to Busan once before and I really liked it.

Actually Thai people like something “Zab!” (spicy) like their food! So we like drama to the max, regardless of whether they’re funny or tear-jerking ads.


You made history by receiving Thailand’s first Cannes Film Gold Lion award in 2003. How did it feel to win this award for Thailand for the first time?

It was awesome to win a Cannes film gold lion for Thailand. It was for a TV spot titled “Bellybutton Face” for our local client, Giffarine. I never thought that a very Thai and hilarious TV spot could win at a global advertising awards show.

In 2003, Thai advertising officially “arrived” on the global stage, famous for being funny, quirky and irreverent. How has Thai advertising evolved or changed more recently?

Actually Thai people like something “Zab!” (spicy) like their food! So we like drama to the max, regardless of whether they’re funny or tear-jerking ads. We still make funny commercials but less than a decade ago.

It’s rare in many countries for people to stay at the same agency for more than a few years. But you’ve been with BBDO Bangkok since 1998. What has made you remain loyal to one network for so long?

I love BBDO. I love this network, the culture, the work and the people. These are the reasons why I’ve been with BBDO for almost 20 years now.


Outside of agency life, you love Bossanova music, taking photos, painting, brewing coffee, cooking, and cycling. If you could choose just one of these passions, which one is your favorite & why?

Hahaha. I have so many things I want to do! I’m doing photography now because I’ve loved taking photos since I was a boy. I’m painting as well; it’s also something that I’ve been passionate about since I was a boy. But if I have to choose one, I would choose painting because I can spend my quality time painting at home with wife and daughter.

Can you tell us the story of how you found yourself to be working in advertising after studying architecture? Did anyone mentor you along the way?

Actually, it was an accident! I studied architecture because I can draw well, and my teacher and my parents worried that I would end up homeless if I became a painter (I wanted to study Fine Arts). At that time I wasn’t interested in architecture design at all. I spent my college years taking photos and working as a freelance photographer for some magazines and clients.

One day after I finished my university degree in 1984, I applied for a job at Dentsu Thailand as a photographer… unfortunately or fortunately, they already had two photographers, but they offered me a job as a visualizer instead. This was my first job in advertising… 33 years ago!

Can you tell me how Thailand/Bangkok inspires your creativity?

Thailand is very Zab! I love our unique ways of life here… it’s laid back, not serious and has lots of freedom. Also, there’s great food and beautiful country, culture and people. When you are open to what’s around you, it’s very difficult not to find inspiration, both for work and life.

Looking back on all the campaigns you’ve created, and all the awards you’ve won, which campaign is the one you’re most proud of?

My all time favorite is a campaign for BlackCat whisky I did when I worked at Results Advertising (O&M) in 1997.  It was a starting point for me to try and reinvent how I approached and executed whatever I did.

What is your vision for BBDO Bangkok looking forward to the future?

At BBDO Bangkok we are crazy about innovation. We call it “New World Creative” (I heard that they’ve found a planet which is similar to the Earth… haha, new world indeed!). We want to reinvent the way we communicate between brands and people in this digital era.

For more on Ad Stars and its upcoming 10th-anniversary festival visit

Barbara Messer

Barbara Messer

Barbara is a Sydney-based content strategist, writer, editor, and communications consultant.

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