Speaking with Graham Fink, executive creative director, Ogilvy China
Graham Fink tells Elen Lewis about teaching a monkey to speak Chinese and why he likes taking pictures of derelict building sites.
What are the major differences between working in the UK and China?
I could write a book on this. But in essence a lot of creative ideas that work in the UK won’t work in China. This is mainly to do with cultural differences and the fact that China is still a relatively young market in terms of advertising.
The level of sophistication that exists in the UK simply doesn’t exist here. The work tends to be more rational, although emotional films do cut through. The use of analogies is often seen as too clever and in lower tier cities especially, they simply don't work. The use of celebrities is often a sure fire way of engaging people and many of them are used in multiple brands, sometimes even conflicting brands. The sheer size of China is also something to be taken into consideration. With many different dialects spoken and 34 provinces, Millward Brown tell us that what works in one province only has a 52% chance of working in another. And never ever give your creative teams a ticking off in a group. You will have mass resignation on your hands.
Do you think creativity can be learned?
I think everyone is creative and that creativity can be nurtured.
I think what makes it harder to nurture in China is because of they way everyone has been taught at school. Namely, fit in and don’t ask questions.
What advice would you offer to people looking to become more creative?
Come to a series of my Masterclasses.
This is something I set up in China a few years ago in the Shanghai and Beijing agency. They are weekly sessions because it’s not enough just to say something once and expect everyone to get it. It can only be done by a constant influx of ideas, examples and discussions.
What inspires you?
Art, Photography, listening to people at the top of their game talking about their work. Whatever that might be. Not necessarily associated with our industry. I remember hearing a talk by a quantum physicist who left the lab and set up his own distillery making Bourbon. It was one of the most astonishing talks I have witnessed.
What does bold marketing leadership look like?
Do you have any rituals that help you overcome creative blocks?
Walking over derelict building sites and taking photos. Intense breathing exercises and holding my breath for 2 -3 mins. Cold showers. Meditation. And if all that fails, alcohol.
What work are you proudest of, and why?
I’m very proud of the work that I’ve helped make happen in China. One in particular was for a real estate company, Soho China. In his campaign we taught a monkey to speak Chinese and put him into space.
What advice would you offer your 17-year-old self?
Trust your gut and go as fast as you can.
What book is on your bedside table?
Tell us a secret.
I used to be a bingo caller.
Graham Fink is just one of the speakers at our Global Annual Conference on November 17th alongside NASA astronaut, Ed Lu; McDonald’s global CMO, Silvia Lagnado and Nicola Mendelsohn, VP Facebook EMEA.