Q&A: Kiran Koshy, Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide USA


Born and raised in India, Kiran Koshy studied Economics and Public Administration before abandoning his original career path to become an art director.

Koshy made his way to Dallas, Texas where he spent 10 years with The Richards Group, first as art director and then creative director at the agency.

He is now Creative Director of Innocean Worldwide USA. When he’s not creating award-winning campaigns for Hyundai, he dabbles in TVC direction.


 

Barbara Messer caught up with Kiran Koshy at Ad Stars in South Korea over the weekend.


What it’s like working for a Korean agency based in LA?

It’s a unique experience, while being at an agency that’s pretty much like every other one. The agency prides itself on a great work-life balance, and the network’s distinctively Korean roots do place a lot of importance on employee happiness, morale, and a family-spirit. And, they invest rather heavily in maintaining that culture, which is very heartening. You’re not just another number.

How do you keep each car launch fresh, within brand voice, while standing out from the noise in the segment, all while battling competitors with deeper pockets? That’s our biggest challenge, and it’s exhilarating when you get something right.

Being a part of the group, our dominant client is Hyundai Motors. Our relationship is free of the turmoil and churn other agencies often face, which does have a calming effect on the overall culture of the agency. And, we’re located in Huntington Beach, California. Right on the beach. It helps the vibe even more.


 

What are the opportunities for Innocean LA?

The U.S. automotive category is the most competitive one in the world. So how do you keep each car launch fresh, within brand voice, while standing out from the noise in the segment, all while battling competitors with deeper pockets? That’s our biggest challenge, and it’s exhilarating when you get something right.

MORE: Helen Pak on ‘Bamboo Ceilings’ and Finding Your Voice in Advertising

The opportunities are plenty. You have decent budgets, and the work gets a lot of exposure. You do have a decent shot at producing things here, something so very essential to every creative’s sanity. And, the agency actively supports personal passion-projects, which help you flex your creative muscles. A fairly uncommon thing.

What was your first role in advertising after moving to the US?

I spent a decade at The Richards Group (the largest U.S. independent, based in Dallas), a remarkably nice place, with a very distinct asshole-free culture. Awards weren’t really a priority there.

Producing the best possible work for your client was seen as reward enough, and I felt lucky just to be in this thoroughly enjoyable business of making ads. That feeling stuck, and hasn’t let go yet.

You were encouraged to work on any client the agency had, and with multiple partners. It bred an appreciation for change, and a wariness of the comfortable.

Your career started in Texas. How did these beginnings shape who you are as a creative today?

Being in Texas taught me to understand, and talk to the America that wasn’t a coastal or urban creative comfort zone. Being an outsider from an Eastern culture, this broadened my creative voice even further.

A disturbing trend was the number of category Grand Prix winners that fell under the PSA umbrella…more than half. It might seem like agencies have settled on a cause-based strategy to win awards. I can’t say I’m a fan of that approach.

You got to present your ideas directly to decision makers, and watch them live or die in real time. It was all on you. This certainly molded me into a better presenter, and made me resilient.

The Richards Group has an incredible talent pool, and I considered myself incredibly blessed to be in their company. It taught me humility, modesty, and an appreciation for the victories of others. We’re fortunate to be in this business, and it’s always a magical thing when anything good gets made.

What did you think of the overall quality of Ad Stars entries this year in Direct, Media, Promo and PR?

The quality was pretty high. Campaigns that’d fared well earlier in the awards season were present, which is a healthy sign for the show. However, participation from the Americas, and Europe (especially the U.K.) wasn’t as strong as one would have hoped.

What was the strongest or weakest category?

Of the ones I judged, Media was probably the weakest. I was hoping to see a truly ingenious use of a media space, but that wasn’t coming. The Direct category was really strong, thanks to entries like ‘Meet Graham.’ You couldn’t ask for better.

When judging at Ad Stars this year, were there any interesting debates in your room, or unusual trends emerging?

A disturbing trend was the number of category Grand Prix winners that fell under the PSA umbrella…more than half. It might seem like agencies have settled on a cause-based strategy to win awards. I can’t say I’m a fan of that approach.

A few of us debated whether great Film was being undervalued, and underappreciated, in favor of more non-traditional media campaigns with more executional tentacles. Film is still the most dominant medium of advertising, and it’s harder than ever to do great Film. Some of us felt the category deserved more respect, and a higher pedestal.

 

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