Andreas Krasser is half-Korean, half Austrian, living in Hong Kong as Chief Strategy Officer at DDB Group. He is joining the line up of speakers at Ad Stars this August in South Korea, where he’ll argue that planners and creatives need to work together more closely – especially in Asia.
Barbara Messer recently caught up with Andreas for a conversation where he reflects on his multi-cultural background and how it impacts his creative philosophy as well as other topics on his career and work.
Why did you choose a career in strategy?
I’ve wanted to work in advertising since a very young age – back in the days of ‘TV-only’. It had always fascinated me how someone could tell clear stories in such a short period of time while still getting an emotional response from the viewer. Strategy really allowed me to combine my passion for creative story-telling and combine it with my interest in anthropology and cultural studies.
What’s the secret to excelling as a strategist?
Not sure I’ve cracked this one myself yet, but I think it’s less of a timely matter and more a timeless one – a matter of caring: first, caring about the consumer (i.e. don’t drink too much of client or agency Kool-Aid), and second, caring about the work (i.e. don’t be a smartass, work with the creatives and not against them).
What is the most meaningful project you’ve worked on?
Not meaningful on a societal level, but at least very meaningful to me personally and the others who have worked on it, was our agency’s own jewelry start-up, which we launched back in 2016. Named ‘Crafted By My Heart’ it was based on an iOS mobile app that allowed users to design a ring with their own heartbeat.
This start-up of ours really helped us to embrace a more flexible and agile way of working. More importantly, though, we stopped defining ourselves based on job roles and job descriptions. During the course of this project, we would often be short of resources—even more so than usual. We would also very often work after-hours and on weekends. But never would anyone ever say, “I’m not going to do this, because it’s not in my job description.”
We had planners edit videos, suits and project managers write copy, technologists do customer support, creatives review legal documents, financial analysts evaluate UX design… everyone involved with this project did not just do their own part, but at some point, also everybody else’s. There was just no other way if we wanted to get this thing off the ground.
Globalization has broken down barriers, which we can especially observe with pop culture – and it’s not only Hollywood movies and the old ‘West goes East’ type of convergence anymore.
This has also increased the understanding of each other’s value to the agency and therefore strengthened the mutual respect within the company. And within our industry, this is something I consider meaningful.
You’re fluent in German, English, Korean and a little Russian. How does this cultural mix shape who you are today, & how you think?
My multi-cultural background and upbringing drive everything – my thinking, my decision-making, the way I view our industry, my personal as well as my work philosophy. Having seen my parents looking at the world through different cultural lenses, being in a multi-cultural relationship myself, and having lived in countries that are – to say the least – very different from each other, all of this has taught me that there is always more than just one answer. More than just one way to understand and interpret an issue. More than just one truth. And to me that’s beautiful because it means diversity. And diversity in turn, breeds creativity.
Can you elaborate on your creative philosophy?
I believe that creativity is a lot about making connections between different types of information one has accumulated over time, and then creating something new out of them. Now, when you bring two or more people together that have not only different types of knowledge but also different cultural and personal reference frames, the potential for new thoughts and ideas increases exponentially.
How are consumers different between, say, Korea versus Hong Kong versus Austria?
When it comes to certain consumer behaviors, these markets are obviously very different. Back in grad school I actually co-authored a study on ethical consumerism, comparing consumers in Austria and South Korea. Surveys were conducted to determine the influence of cultural differences in the motivations for practicing ethical consumerism.
It was found that Austrian consumers showed higher enthusiasm for the practice than did equivalent consumers in South Korea. This was influenced by variables such as post-materialistic values, self-identity and levels of attention to news media.
Planners of the future are more flexible and they’re not afraid of being in the trenches, getting their hands dirty. They’re practicing strategy that is not theoretic but provides clients with tangible solutions.
This initial interest in cultural differences has, over the past years, made way for a newly found interest in the commonalities between cultures. While certain behaviors will always differ based on each market’s broader context, emotions I believe are universal. At the very core, don’t we all laugh and cry for (almost) the same reasons?
Globalization has broken down barriers, which we can especially observe with pop culture – and it’s not only Hollywood movies and the old ‘West goes East’ type of convergence anymore. These days, the East is also influencing popular culture in the West. Who would have thought that people in the US or France would listen to K-Pop? It just goes to show that there are certain universal traits that connect all of us – no matter the cultural background. And that’s not only fascinating but also beautiful.
You describe yourself as a “new breed of planner”. What skills will the planners of 2030 possess?
I like to call them Renaissance Planners. Practitioners who are many things at the same time, refusing to be held back by job descriptions – creative strategists, strategic creatives, data crunching story-tellers, opinionated relationship managers, and newspaper-reading social media wizards.
While certain behaviors will always differ based on each market’s broader context, emotions I believe are universal. At the very core, don’t we all laugh and cry for (almost) the same reasons?
Planners of the future are more flexible and they’re not afraid of being in the trenches, getting their hands dirty. They’re practicing strategy that is not theoretic but provides clients with tangible solutions. They’re practicing strategy that is not slow and static, but fast and adaptable, and they’re practicing strategy that doesn’t demand creative thinking but inspires it.
Can you give a hint of what you’ll be speaking about at Ad Stars this year?
I will be speaking about what I believe is the most important relationship within an agency setup: Strategy & Creative. When out of tune, briefs become intangible know-it-all rants, and ideas address award judges’ considerations rather than consumers’. When in tune, however, that’s when the magic happens.
I want to make the case for why planners and creatives need to work together more closely – especially in Asia where this relationship still is in its infancy compared to its counterparts in Europe and America. I will give some implications for how agency leaders can create the best environment for strategists and creatives to become BFFs, and therefore effective creative problem-solvers, for life.