We recently caught up for a conversation with Park Wannasiri, Chief Creative Officer at Wunderman Thompson in Thailand.
Wannasiri has been in the ad world for over 15 years working at agencies including BBDO and Leo Burnett with some of the world’s most well-known brands doing work that has been awarded at Cannes Lions, D&AD, Clio, and many more.
Over the course of our conversation, we talk about creativity in the time of Covid, lessons he’s learned managing his team during in a WFH world, some of his favorite work over the years, and more.
What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Firstly, I would say People. Creatives are not machines that can keep working non-stop. We need more than that. We work hard on keeping the team’s morale high, and ensuring that passion stays ignited even after two years of Work From Home(WFH). Every day, we think of ways to keep inspiring the team with fun new briefs, and finding new ways of working to build team chemistry that you cannot create via only virtual calls.
The second thing is work. After two years of the pandemic, we got used to it. Even our clients and consumers are used to it. Work pipelines are almost back to the same level as before COVID, but with more concerns and objectives. My team and I have been updating ourselves every day on new behaviors, new technology, etc.
With the pandemic, things change very quickly. Most of the time, we are busy catching up to new trends.
How do you feel the pandemic has affected the creative process as well the creative work itself there?
The pandemic had a huge impact on creatives. We need to work harder to be able to adapt to this rapid change of the consumer, market, and media landscape. Sometimes we work so hard that we break our own backs and must buy Herman Miller to recover. (laughs)
But on the other hand, we are the masters of change. Change always brings new opportunities and territories for creatives. You can learn new things and re-learn what you have known for your entire career during this pandemic. The process totally changes to be more agile and flexible to be able to deliver fast. A smaller group with the right people can do a big task. It also reflects on the creative work nowadays. There is no longer a year-long plan out there. The creative work that we deliver needs to be able to adapt to changes, too.
As someone tasked with managing a sizable creative team, what are some lessons you’ve learned from managing and motivating during the lockdowns that will carry over into your management strategies once things are “normal” again?
As I said earlier, it’s not easy to manage and motivate the team during this tough time. The only thing that binds us together is “Good work”. Period. We will do whatever to deliver our quality of work even when we are not in the office together. I’m very lucky that everyone here at Wunderman Thompson has that attitude.
“I always believe that creativity is powerful. And great power always comes with great responsibilities: responsibility to tackle a new challenge, solving the unsolvable problem, making an impact on society, or even changing the world to be a better place.”
One thing that I learned is, we all want to be better and smarter. We need to make every brief, every meeting, every brainstorm worth being a part of, so that no one feels stuck or feels stupid. We talk to each other more now. After every client meeting, we regroup right away so nothing gets lost in the process.
Trust is also the other thing I learned from this long-distance relationship. We need to trust the team.
And finally, we need to “care more”. We need each other more than ever. You must be able to detect that your junior’s morale is low from the tone of voice they presented in virtual meetings.
When you were appointed Chief Creative Officer you said that ”creativity is a powerful source of inspiration that allows us to test limits and think beyond what we know.” Can you talk more about that and how it drives your creative journey?
I always believe that creativity is powerful. And great power always comes with great responsibilities: responsibility to tackle a new challenge, solving the unsolvable problem, making an impact on society, or even changing the world to be a better place.
It’s all about knowing the comfort zone and taking it to the next level. In every brief we got, I always say “Don’t just read the brief but look for the different possibilities.”
And that’s how I love my job so much, and that keeps me excited when I wake up every day.
What are some of the campaigns you’ve worked on over your career that you are most proud of?
There are so many campaigns that I like over my career! I think the works speak for me and for my creative style.
First, I pick TMB Bank’s “Make the Difference, Story of Panyee FC” back in 2011 when I was working at Leo Burnett Thailand, where I learned most of my advertising skills and foundation.
I really love it not because it won Cannes or the film was nicely shot. I love it because it truly makes an impact on the world. The life of people in Panyee island changed forever from our storytelling.
Also, the floating football pitch that we made became a landmark of the world. Even after 10 years, I still see the photos of our football pitch in my Facebook feed from time to time.
Second, I would say Netflix’s “Narcos: The Censor’s Cut”.
It’s just simply showing the power of creative that can bend the rules and create an impact and still center around the brand and the product. It also shows how naughty we are as creatives. Looking back to see how we turned the limitation into an advantage for the brand, I’m just proud that we did this.
The last one that I pick is Thai Airways’ “Stay Home Miles Exchange”. The key to staying relevant is to stay hungry, even when you are in the most desperate situation. “Stay Home Miles Exchange” is the work that was born in the toughest time for the client and the agency.
I always believe that “we are as good as our client”. This work just proved everything. When the client and the agency become ONE, nothing can stop us.
Thailand is renowned for some incredibly humorous and some of the most tear-inducing ad work I’ve ever seen. What is it about the market there that drives this? And please assure us that it will never end!
LOL. When we say Thailand is the land of humorous and tear-inducing, that sounds like a trap to me. I get that question a lot.
Well, maybe we are good at those kinds of styles, but it became a default choice sometimes. Let’s say If it delivers the impact to the brief and the brand, if it truly connects to the consumer we are talking to, I don’t mind being funny or emotional.
But if it is not, then I assure you that you will see something different and unexpected from Thailand. Something bold, crazy, and never seen before.
When you are predictable, it is not fun, is it? 😉