Suthisak Sucharittanonta talks Advertising, Nurturing Creativity, and the ‘Hybrid’ Future


Legend is not a word one should throw around lightly. But in the case of BBDO Bangkok’s Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, Suthisak Sucharittanonta, the designation is completely apropos.  

One of the most highly-awarded creatives in Asia, “Khun Suthi” has for years overseen a steady flow of globally recognized creative work; from the iconic 1996 slapstick spot for Black Cat Whiskey, to “Belly Button Face,” which garnered Thailand’s first Cannes Film Gold Lion in 2003, to this year’s highly-acclaimed, and uniquely brilliant, MotoRepellent campaign to fight the spread of dengue fever in the slums of Bangkok.

And while the past and the present fit together nicely as a testament to an ongoing body of great work, Khun Suthi keeps an eye well placed on the future, pushing the young creatives in his charge to forge ahead even further with their work for both clients and for the community.


 

Branding in Asia recently caught up with Suthisak Sucharittanonta at his office in Bangkok.


What are some of the difficulties of being a creative while at the same time being the director tasked with nurturing your young talent to take the lead?

It’s a very tough job these days to motivate young talent to be hungry for creating great work. Passion and ambition are key factors to success, but it’s found less and less in the Gen-Y these days. But I’m lucky to have many great, talented young guns working for me.

Any young creatives coming up in the Thai ad industry that we should keep an eye on?


 

There are very few in the Thai ad industry these days; you’re better to keep your eyes on other things that are more interesting, like fresh ideas instead of fresh creatives.

We’ve stepped out of the comfort zone and now we’re doing something more interesting and challenging.

What do you think makes Thai advertising unique?

Thai ads? It’s “Zab!’” (flavorful). It’s drama to the max, either slapstick humor or tear-jerker ads. But these days, these types of ads don’t excite me anymore. We’ve stepped out of the comfort zone and now we’re doing something more interesting and challenging.

Khun Suthi, in a painting by his daughter, Anna.

Khun Suthi, in a painting by his daughter, Anna.

You’ve remarked in the past that early Thai advertising was influenced by the West. Now that it has firmly established its own style and its own flavor, do you see it being influential on the ad industries in other parts the world?

That’s almost two decades ago that we all learnt from Western ads, then we found our own approach. “Zab ads”. I think they have their own ways of doing ads in other parts of the world. These days you can recognize Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Argentinian, Brazilian ads which are all distinctive with their own voice and style.

Are there any trends in advertising that you think are overused and due for a change?

Too many. I can’t name them. It’s easier to follow than to lead, isn’t it?

You’ve been at this a long time and have an incredible wealth of perspective. Globally, what challenges do you see ad agencies facing in the next few years?

We’re facing the digital challenge; it’s about data, mobile, social media, content, and technology. We’ve reinvented our agency and now focus more on New World creative. I think we all have to be “hybrid” in this rapidly changing era.  

Passion and ambition are key factors to success, but it’s found less and less in the Gen-Y these days. But I’m lucky to have many great, talented young guns working for me.

BBDO Bangkok’s innovative MotoRepellent campaign has garnered a lot of buzz worldwide. What is the process that brings these kinds of important public service campaigns to life?

Simply put: identify a problem and find a solution. The dengue fever outbreak in Thailand was scary last year, particularly for poor people who live in the slums. Along with Duang Prateep Foundation, we wanted to find a way to repel the mosquitos without disrupting the way of life of the locals.

Luckily we found a way to utilize the heat from motorbikes’ exhaust (motorbikes are the main mode of vehicles in the slums) to help repel the mosquitos. Our design team and technicians built and tested these devices and gave them to the slum community leaders.

If you had to choose 3 campaigns you’ve done in your long career, of which are you most proud?

-There are many campaigns I really like; I definitely like the recent “MotoRepellent” project we did.

BlackCat whisky TV ad (1996) 

“We accidentally found the ‘Zab!” for this ad by trying to make the it the way we make the Thai dish, ‘Tom Yum Koong”. Which is, we put every flavor we liked into it. The ad was a big success for the clients and for us.”

https://youtu.be/mHkXc-KCoeM

Giffarine “Bellybutton Face” 

“This is another we are very proud of; it was the first Cannes Film Gold Lion we won for Thailand.”

What tips would you give to a young ad team out there getting ready to make their first big pitch?

Oh, my advice is to keep fit! It’s very tough these days, so you better be prepared.


 

Read More

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

Read More

subscribe & get more brand in your diet

newsletter

get more brand in your diet

We never share your info,
we only share ours