Cheil Worldwide’s Seulki Lee on making advertising for people who don’t like advertising: ‘Destroy the formula’

PATTAYA, THAILAND — More and more people are disliking advertisements, according to Seulki Lee, Cheil Worldwide Creative Director. And in conference hall full of advertisers, it’s a bold statement to make that everyone can’t help but agree with. On the ADFEST 2024 stage, Seulki shared some tips and tricks on championing advertising that people can love again with her session on “Making Advertising For People Who Don’t Like Advertising.”

Specifically, she presented the work Cheil Worldwide has done for client Samsung for its refrigerator line. “Everyone’s excited about new phones and gadgets, but no one’s excited for a new refrigerator,” she started.

To create an ad that would get audiences excited about the product, Seulki studied the “refrigerator formula” in South Korean advertising:

  1. happy family that eats with smiles
  2. home party with Western food
  3. hero shot with fridge and home party and happy family

“If you want to approach [the audience], you have to break all these,” she emphasized. “Not including the formula becomes our new formula for a refrigerator ad.” And so, Cheil Worldwide purposefully went to the opposite direction to stand out. The result is an eye-catching film like no other refrigerator ad: Respected by Bespoke for Samsung.

Thus then kickstarted Cheil Worldwide and Seulki’s new formula in tackling typically unexciting product categories: study the formula of the category (base it on the ads of top brands), and do the exact opposite.

Seulki and her team’s next challenge was selling a rice cooker. The formula is as follows:

  1. handsome unmarried man
  2. wearing a shirt and rolled up sleeves
  3. lovingly looking at a rice cooker on the kitchen counter

“When such intentions become a cliche, people recognize it as just another ad. So they skip it,” she underlined. Again, they came out with a campaign that goes against the whole formula of the category, and it worked.

“If we make advertisements thinking that people love it just because we do, then advertising won’t fulfill its role as advertising,” Seulki challenged.

“We must always pursue creating something ‘different’ than something ‘better,'” she added, noting how making the next project merely “better” creates the same sort of standard that solidifies category formulas, and ultimately pushes audiences who don’t want to watch advertising even further away. “That’s how we beat AI. They do things better based on the data they know, but humans have what it takes to make something different. That’s our human intelligence.”

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of ADFEST 2024.

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