By Nina Tabios
Within advertising and branded communications, there isn’t much bigger than the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It’s where the best of the best in the global industry go to play and mingle amongst like-minded creatives. It is also where the global communications community recognizes and awards excellence to those pushing the craft forward.
But for 2017 Academy of Art University School of Advertising (ADV) graduates Ei Kakiuchi (M.A.) and Visarnpong Chateakcharoen (M.F.A.), who goes by Saint, winning three Cannes Lions wasn’t just a dream come true. Taking home two bronze in the Outdoor category and one silver from the Print & Publishing category for their “Inner Warmth” THERMOS brand campaign was just the start of taking down Chateakcharoen’s long list of goals.
“You can work your entire career and not achieve a Cannes Lion,” said ADV Co-Director Andrea Pimentel. “[Saint] and [Ei] worked together as a team in school, which speaks to how the collaborative nature of our classes pushes into the professional world.”
“Cannes Lions is the, if not within the top three, well-known competition in the world and it’s hard to get into the final cut. And the fact that [Saint] won in his first year [as a professional] ups the ante of what this win means,” said ADV Associate Director of Art Direction & Industry Development James Wojtowicz.
Kakiuchi, who got an internship at top ad agency Ogilvy through Chateakcharoen, worked side-by-side with him on brainstorming and designing the THERMOS campaign and said winning the Cannes Lions awards reinforced his ability to thrive in a highly competitive industry.
“In Japan, the advertising industry is very particular and can be closed off,” Kakiuchi shared in an email interview. “I want to avoid being a one-hit wonder.”
As art director for Ogilvy in his native Thailand, Chateakcharoen believes “advertising has the power to save the world.” We spoke with him on how getting his degree at the Academy in San Francisco helped set him up for his Cannes Lions win.
Tell us about your experience in the School of Advertising. How did you find the Academy and how do you apply what you learned to your work today?
After graduating with a B.A. in Thailand, I felt the need to fine tune my advertising skills. I thought San Francisco would be a great place to live, and I wanted diversity, to be exposed to world culture, new trends and the latest in technology, because these are very important in advertising.
“Good is an enemy of great,” was one of the best things I learned from Jim Wojtowicz, my mentor at [the Academy]. He taught me to never settle for mediocrity and to always strive for excellence. I learned many ways to produce great ideas and create great art direction from them. They all supported my involvement in world student competitions to refine my skills. Sometimes I got nothing, and sometimes I won, but the most important thing was the experience—it definitely helped me win at Cannes Lions this year, at the top agency in Thailand.
The School of Advertising offers both a master’s degree and a Masters of Fine Arts degree. How did you choose to enroll in the M.F.A. program?
I think the M.F.A. program is more comprehensive. Many people think general or history classes are useless, but not for art directors. To be a great art director, you must be a hunter, not a scavenger. I had to learn as much as I could and always be curious to create fresh ideas in art direction. Once I came to the west, I stayed longer to be able to absorb as much of the culture as I could. Knowledge is everywhere; I used my free time to travel, go to museums, attend events, do internships and make connections.
Describe what it was like to transition from being a student to a working professional.
For me there wasn’t much difference between my studies and work. For several semesters, I was part [of] Young & Hungry, a class that is a functioning advertising agency. It’s led by experienced faculty, but run by students. We had the opportunity to develop ideas for real clients and interact with them in a professional environment. It made the segue into the professional [world] very seamless, and I felt comfortable on day one because of my time at Young & Hungry.
Tell us about the ad campaign you worked on for THERMOS. How did you come up with the concept?
Here in Thailand, up to 80 percent of the city population spends long hours in air-conditioned offices which can be the cause of many health problems. In this tropical country, air-conditioned offices are a privilege, but office workers are not aware they’re causing themselves harm. We wanted to create an ad series for [the] THERMOS brand to illustrate how it creates ‘inner warmth’ and benefits overall health. With that fact, we envisioned it would be like your organs were wearing sweaters.
What does winning three Cannes Lion awards mean to you?
It really meant a lot to me. My first goal was to get at least one shortlist in Cannes Lions in the first year of my career, so I got more than I expected. I always set difficult goals for my future. My next goal would be to win gold and Grand Prix in Cannes Lions. I’ve often heard people say, “Just do your best,” but for me it’s not enough. You have to be passionate about your work. You have to love your work. People tell me not to have too many expectations about winning awards because of this idea that “the more you expect, the more you’ll regret if you don’t win.” I don’t believe it. If you really want to win, you have to expect to win; if you go at it like you aren’t going to win, you probably won’t.
What is your advice for advertising students for getting into the industry?
Just studying in classrooms isn’t enough in this industry. You have to know more than just arts. You have to have curiosity about everything: Culture, trends, technology, etc. This is so important in the field of advertising. Building connections is also very important in finding a job. You have to attend a lot of workshops and events to meet people and always be working on your portfolio. That’s what gets you in the door.
Featured photo: “Inner Warmth,” a THERMOS brand campaign by advertising graduates Ei Kakiuchi and Visarnpong “Saint” Chateakcharoen. (L–R) Cashmere, Polyester and Wool. Photo courtesy of Visarnpong “Saint” Chateakcharoen.