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Opinion and Insight

Innovation in Hong Kong. Please Stand Up.

Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, 2 years, 5 months ago

In an environment where cheap and fast rule, Ogilvy & Mather Group Hong Kong creative technologist Craig Mason says no to boobs

Innovation in Hong Kong. Please Stand Up.


Okay, so I have your attention.

With a large crowd forming in a popular Hong Kong shopping mall you would be forgiven for thinking that something truly interesting was happening. Unfortunately no. It’s just a group of men taking photos of young women in skimpy costumes with big boobs, paraded out to advertise the latest Marvel film. In this part of the world this can be considered an effective marketing tool and, unfortunately, it probably is. However, for how long and at what cost? 

The problem with this type of marketing (apart from blatant sexism) is that it not only cheapens the brand, the target audience and the models involved but also keeps the bar very low when trying to present truly innovative ideas to clients. Especially in an environment where cheap and fast rule. 

If you judge a market by the quality of the advertising you would be forgiven for thinking that Hong Kong was moribund. And yes, there is the occasional great campaign, but these are few and far between in a sea of lowbrow mediocrity. But scratch the surface and you find a wealth of smart, talented creative people in a city which, according to the Global Innovation Index by Cornell University, is ranked 10th in the world, second only to Singapore in Asia. 

And here lies the frustration. In an industry with increasingly smaller budgets, an increasing emphasis on ROI and a cultural conservatism, innovation in advertising faces an uphill battle.

Innovation needn’t be expensive. Take the recent citywide protests as an example. Regardless of which side you have sympathies with; you cannot deny the inventiveness of those trying to sell their idea (brand) with meager resources but exceptional levels of passion, drive and talent. No boobs required.

And innovation needn’t be irrelevant. We don’t want to put lasers on cats just because we can. It will always need to be meaningful and appropriate to the brand (unless your brand actually sells lasers for cats – if so, get in touch!). With today’s always-on generation it is more important than ever to create work that makes a positive impact with this increasingly sophisticated crowd, in a smart, informative or just plain entertaining way.

To achieve this aim, as a community it is important to push beyond the fear of losing face and think about what is good for the brand and how we can make brands stand out. Risks reward the brave and we need to take calculated risks to help drive brands and innovation forward. 

We can only do that by fostering a mentality of ‘partnership over vendorship’ as more often than not, the relationship between the agency and client is not one of collaboration but rather a game of pass-the-parcel. This dynamic breeds an element of blame culture that frequently stifles innovative ideas before they even get started. 

In a crowded marketplace, agencies are increasingly seen as a commodity that can be simply pitted against each other to get the lowest bid, but this doesn’t do either party any good. Its only by working together that we can build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and look to create an environment where risks can be taken. Innovation isn’t something you just “buy”, it is something that is forged from shared understanding, being brave and maybe a little luck.

Agencies also need to deliver. More true innovation means embracing technology that is playing an increasing role in today’s marketing landscape. Take for example, the recent British Airways ‘Magic of Flying’ campaign that utilises air traffic data with a digital landscape, or the recent Orbis ‘Don’t Look Away’ campaign which simply stopped playing a video when the user looked away from their screen. 

These are just two instances where traditional advertising has been augmented with technology to create a distinctive and effective experience. With this in mind, agencies are increasingly recognising the importance that technology can play and are fostering expertise that helps to bridge the gap between creativity and technology.

So my plea to Hong Kong is simple: the desire and skills to create innovative, exceptional work exists so let us all raise the bar, take a few risks and ultimately take pride in our work. Let’s make a location in which innovation can truly flourish and say no to boobs.

And finally, yes I am aware of the irony of using boobs to attract your attention on an article about not using boobs to attract your attention. But let’s agree that neither of us feels good about the experience.


Okay, just checking you read to the bottom. 

Craig Mason joined Ogilvy over five years ago with OgilvyOne in the London office before relocating to Hong Kong in 2011, where he now works across the Ogilvy Hong Kong group. Having over 15 years experience in designing and developing digital solutions across a wide range of different platforms and technologies, he has overseen a number of award-winning campaigns for global clients such as IBM, Unilever, American Express and Intel.

As part of the innovation team, Mason works closely with the senior creative and strategy teams and is responsible for identifying new client opportunities using the latest and emerging creative technologies.