Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – TJ Lee

Image courtesy of TJ Lee

I believe many of us in the ad business chose our jobs to make a difference. That is why I got into it; I love problems and I love solving them even more.

So, when Branding In Asia asked me to share some of my favorite ads, I couldn’t help but talk about the following piece of work.  

Sunkist ad from 1916


What I love about it is how it solved the problem of stagnant sales by using lateral thinking and creating a difference over many decades. I also love how it helped me fall in love with the industry.

The story behind it is quite interesting. Back in the early part of the last century, orange growers in California were faced with the problem of picking far more oranges than people wanted to buy.

They turned to legendary ad man Albert Lasker to help solve the dilemma. Lasker, instead of creating a beautiful poster pitching the product, as was standard at the time, came up with a solution that fundamentally changed the entire industry.

Lasker created campaigns that went beyond telling consumers to simply eat oranges, but also telling that they could be enjoyed in the form of orange juice. Today the product is an instrumental part of breakfast across the US and many places around the world.


I think it’s a Never Finished idea, one so powerful that it provokes people, changes behavior, builds equity and creates legacy over time.

December 21st

Another one of my favorites is from Spain’s State Lottery, called “December 21st.”

Great storytelling will never die for as long as we exist. It is in our nature to laugh, to cry, and to pass on the words. This film is well written and crafted to perfection, without being cheesy and it brought me to tears with joy.

Perhaps because half of my family is Spanish, I easily connected with the small things in this film on a personal level. Yet, the narrative resonates with anyone from anywhere.

Given the challenging economic situation in Spain over the last few years, I can only imagine how tough it must have been to advertise a lottery.

The team did a brilliant job in “December 21st”. Nobody wins, but everybody is a winner at the same time. With the eagerness to share in the enthusiasm of someone they love, the outcome of who wins becomes irrelevant.

One I don’t Like

This bizarre ad ran in New York’s Times Square in 2014 featuring Korean-born baseball player Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers. It was meant to promote Korean tourism, culture, and food.

Or so it seemed.

When you followed the CTA at the bottom of the print ad you ended up on a website where you see more weird art promoting Korean food that most people couldn’t even pronounce.

Making it even odder was the political narrative that was included as part of the campaign. It pointed out territorial disputes over an island between Korea (“Dokdo”) and Japan (“Takeshima”) as well as exploring hot-button issues regarding Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

With all of this in the mix, it was quite confusing what the proposition of the ad actually was. It first prompts you to ‘Try some Bulgogi at your favorite Korean restaurant. It’s delicious!’ –then leads you to a website making a case for the Korean side geopolitical disputes.

In short, you had a Korean-born Texas Rangers player in the middle of New York talking about a food you don’t know that leads you to a website about Korean & Japanese political disputes.

It just didn’t connect.

However, if the ad was meant to target Koreans, it probably had lived up to the brief, to a certain extent, as many Koreans did express embarrassment after seeing this campaign.

It’s an example of a creative work’s purpose and objective being diluted by celebrity-first, politically motivated thinking.

And I didn’t like it at all.

TJ Lee

TJ Lee

Taejay "TJ" Lee is the Executive Creative Director at FCB International in Seoul

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