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Woei Hern on unicorns, creativity, getting involved and data.

Day 1 of 2018’s Creative Industry Summit has jut concluded and it’s been a ride!

The summit built upon its namesake as local and international talents came together to speak about data, the future of marketing and TV and creativity.

Creativity may seem hard to come by but creative players such as Executive Creative Director of Ensemble Worldwide Chan Woei Hern know exactly how to churn it out.

Ensemble has been creating some amazing creative work, and Woei Hern understands just how data, pulling up our sleeves and getting involved, and a touch of creative unicorn dust can create some amazing content.

We caught up with him before tomorrow’s event to talk a little bit about his work, and tips on how to encourage creativity.


Let’s start easy. What inspired you to accept the 10-hour long journey to Cairo to speak at this year’s Creative Industry Summit?

Well for starters, when we first got word of the invite, we couldn’t believe our eyes. That a fellow creative industry half way around the globe would be interested in our work? We were truly humbled. That. And Sophia the Robot.


Before coming to Egypt, did you do any research on the local or MENA region marketing scene?

After researching the panel at Creative Industry Summit and speaking to Mai on Skype, I realized how much we have in common. The richness and diversity in the type of content and creators. Of course, we’ve also heard of FP7, their creative reputation definitely transcends borders.


Could you tell us a little bit about your topic for the summit, how KFC stole a burger from McDonald’s?

This was an underdog of an idea. We had nothing to lose as we were starting out as an agency, but we did have sister agency Universal McCann handling the media for KFC. The topic, specifically for Creative Industry Summit will be focusing on how we found our voice as a creative agency that is unique as a set up – a creative unit parked inside a media agency. And how we constantly find ways to develop creativity via media, technology and data.


How accepting was KFC about the idea? Do you have any advice for agencies trying to propose crazy, fun ideas to clients?

To be honest they were really skeptical at the start.

It takes a lot of trust and courage, and kudos for the clients to actually take the leap with us. It took a lot of co-creation as well, and that’s the one big advice I would give to agencies.

Get the clients excited and involved, get them to feel like they are part of the process. Another one would be to get your hands dirty and really take on the content-creator mindset. Dive deep and learn to do it yourself. Passion and enthusiasm goes a long way.


Tell us a little more about the campaign, what kind of data did you use to create and measure its success?

We worked with Google Malaysia and our performance marketing and media teammates to pull together the data of YouTube audiences in Malaysia. Success, ultimately was the response in terms of sales and effectiveness for the clients.


Do you have any advice on how to use data effectively?

Tell a story. I know it sounds cliché. But Neil Geiman said “we are a species of stories”. That is so true.

Data is nothing if you don’t piece together a compelling narrative. That. And ask the right questions.

There is so much data that the challenge isn’t getting it, it’s getting the right ones and that starts with asking the right questions.


Ensemble has created some amazing campaigns; how did you use data to come up with or support ideas such as the Buffer Art Gallery and Golden Prawn System (GPS)?

The tools and techniques might be something new, but the fundamentals of a creative agency are always there – try to solve a marketing problem.

For Buffer Art Gallery, we wanted to hijack competitors and create a message that was relevant, engaging and entertaining. The ability to target competitor telcos and mobile internet users who are not on 4G, made a very interesting idea even better.

For Golden Prawn System, the idea started from a very simple outdoor headline- driven campaign to target holiday-goers during road trips. The media team came up with a really smart way to supplement this message by geo-targeting Waze [Google Map like-app] banners in tandem with the outdoor billboards that Malaysians drive past.


Until now, what has been your favorite work?

Wow. That’s a tough one.

Every time we get to do something meaningful to the community, that gives me a big high. The Kongsi Home project was one such opportunity. We managed to transform e-commerce sites and turn them into e-charity sites and got Malaysians to build homes for the less fortunate.


Another area that we really love, is celebrating Malaysian culture and people. We did that with The Last Kitemaker, which was the Grand Prix winner at the inaugural YouTube Video Awards:


Using data has become a touchy subject lately due to the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica issue, how do you feel agencies that focus on data should react?

Agencies need to understand that data serve a purpose, and that’s to humanize brands.

The humanity in branding is extremely important. It’s a great thing that we live in an age of authenticity, where the check and balance comes from the people. Brands fear people calling them out. And people respect brands who treat them as intelligent individuals.


Hot and Cheezy was a great campaign, extremely creative, as are a lot of your work; what do you think you or your team have that enables you to bring a wealth of creativity to life?

  1. We have each other. There’s no way any of the work we do will see the light of day without the trust and support we have as a team. When a project is greenlighted, you can’t tell who’s who in the team. Everyone gets involved.
  2. We have extremely passionate media agency teammates who work just as hard to orchestrate and optimize the campaigns as a single unit.
  3. We have clients who are brave enough to challenge us, and open enough to accept risks and failure


What kind of personal and professional environment do you believe is best for improving and encouraging creativity?

Conflict is necessary for creativity. This doesn’t mean that we are hostile. It’s just being open and trusting enough with one another to be frank, open and confrontational when necessary.

Just like how a football team would scream at each other on pitch, and at halftime to motivate one another. But when we win, we celebrate together too.


What do you believe is the best way to improve or cultivate creative talent? To encourage them to do more, bigger things.

Trust them with the challenging work. But always be there to catch them when they fall.


How do you distinguish a good creative idea from an average one?

Goosebumps. And a sense of fear and “how the hell are we gonna pull this off?!”


What do you think is next for data and marketing?

A lot more clients will be in-housing their own data capabilities. Agencies will really need to learn how to add value and make sense of all the data, as well as work closer with the clients to identify and solve marketing challenges.


How do you see the international marketing landscape in a few years?

The lens will be shifting east, specially to China. Many agencies are already established there, but we will see more Chinese brands marketing themselves internationally.


If you have looked up on the Egyptian or MENA region marketing landscape, how do you see it possibly growing in the next few years?

MENA has such a rich and unique cultural identity. Specially Egypt. It would be really exciting to see it celebrated internationally.

MENA as a creative industry has the power to play a huge role in creating social impact and better awareness of religious tolerance and acceptance throughout the world.

Telling better narratives and stories of the people. On my flight here, I’ve already made a friend who welcomed me with open arms to Alexandria.

That’s the real treasure. Your people.

Lastly, you use the word unicorns a lot, it’s on your LinkedIn and bio on Ensemble’s website, why are you so fascinated by unicorns? Do you have one that is feeding you creative feedback?

That’s more like an inside joke to be honest. But somehow it [has] a life of its own. So, we just decided to roll with it.

Should we be looking for our own unicorn? Creativity is alchemy. It’s putting 2 different creatures and making a whole new one. You have a narwhal and a horse, you get a unicorn. That’s always something that we should always remember and have fun with!

Meet Woei Hern tomorrow at the final day of Creative Industry Summit, and don’t forget to drop by and say hi!

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