Raymond Chin is obsessed with making ‘work that works’. He traces this back to his father, a repairman who was constantly tinkering with electrical items around the house, trying to understand how they work and how to make them better. It’s a fitting origin story for a creative who embraces technological disruption full-heartedly. And now he’s bringing that mentality to VMLY&R Asia as its new chief creative officer.
Raymond’s built a reputation for creativity that transcends traditional categories and touches experience, commerce and exciting new frontiers. Most recently, he was CCO at Wunderman Thompson China and before that chief experience officer at Accenture Interactive. But he’s also got foundations in the core fundamentals of creativity, having started out his career with an internship at Fallon Minneapolis at the peak of its strength.
As a gamer himself, Raymond’s move to the network that set the bar for brands in the gaming world with Wendy’s ‘Keeping Fortnite Fresh’ feels like something of a homecoming. As he settles into his new role, Raymond is hyped to get stuck into creating meaningful work and shaping a future-facing agency for the APAC region.
LBB> What was it about the new role that really appealed to you?
Ray> This role lets me apply everything I’ve learnt across boutique agencies, digital agencies, 4As and consultancies and shape it into what I think a future agency can be across the region. That’s what got me excited.
LBB> You’re coming to this Asia role from a big role in China, where you’ve spent most of your career - as Asia is an incredibly diverse region with so many different cultures and creative strengths, I’d love to know what you consider to be China’s unique creative strengths?
Ray> China is the future of marketing, with everything it is doing being 12 to 18 months ahead, especially on the commerce front.
I call it ‘practical creativity’, everything you do to catch a consumer’s attention will somehow lead to a sale action. It’s where the likes of social to commerce and customer experience journeys mash together in service of business results.
That’s a huge strength, but the con to that is marketers not putting in as much effort into long-term brand building.
LBB> And is there anything you’ve learned from your time in this highly unique market that you’d like to take to the whole region?
Ray> The biggest thing is around revaluing what creativity can do for our clients.
This means creating ‘work that works’.
Can a piece of work touch people emotionally yet drive sales?
Can a brand purpose be more than a brand film and be meaningful experiences?
Can we create brand worlds that permeate fragmented touchpoints and eco-systems?
It’s a big resounding ‘yes’. And I am lucky to be in a position to work with the various country teams, leaning into the rich tapestry of unique culture and creativity they are operating in, to create some real practical magic for the clients.
LBB> What does VMLY&R’s ‘connected brand’ concept really mean for Asian clients and creatives?
Ray> I think the concept of ‘connected brands’ is more important than ever. Our new generation of consumers is getting to know brands in very fragmented ways.
The first time they come across a brand could be in a tik-tok challenge or on a product display page. How can you make brand experiences feel like magic across these touchpoints while also driving them to a sale? This requires us to work closely with our clients in a deliberate, iterative approach, creating work across the entire spectrum of communications, web, social, commerce, product innovation, new business models and so on.
LBB> We’re seeing a huge explosion of AI that’s touching creativity in all sorts of ways, and changing fast. As a creative leader, what do you think will be the key to helping your creative teams navigate this change over the next few years?
LBB> New skills will be learnt, and new jobs will be created. Creative prompt directors, anyone? In all seriousness, this needs to be embraced NOW. It’s about creating a curious learning mindset, so you get out of your comfort zone. It’s about helping teams recognise early on how the new technology can bring in new efficiencies internally, while empowering them to create work that they’ve never thought possible.
LBB> I see you’re a gamer - VMLY&R is one the agencies that really pioneered brands in the gaming space with Wendy’s, so that feels like a good fit. What’s the key to connecting brands to the gaming world in a way that feels authentic?
Ray> It’s always about respecting the game’s world and operating in ways that adds more fun to a game’s culture, language, gears, rules and so on, in an authentic way. I think that was the beauty of the Wendy’s case. The character was created using internal skins, the action taken was also an existing game action. So, we are not creating unfamiliar, inauthentic interactions with fans and gamers.
A lot of brands want to connect with youths via games, but how you do it while respecting their world is important for any kind of success.
LBB> Is there anything exciting happening in the gaming ecosystem in China or elsewhere in Asia that brands and creatives in the rest of the world really need to learn about?
Ray> It’s a whole gaming eco-system unto itself, from tournaments to live channels, to cosplay events, to anime series, viewing bars, collectibles… making it very easy for brands to leverage and engage. There are car brands that create virtual and physical skins; energy drink brands creating armor, to fast-food brands creating NFTs - you name it, it’s out there.
Again, it is down to respecting the nature of the game while curating a meaningful brand experience. And somehow creating opportunities for product sales too.
LBB> As we’re entering awards season and nearing Cannes Lions, I’d love to know what you think about the role that awards play in the industry?
Ray> I was on an award jury where the jury president said something that really stuck with me. The work that we award should be work that ‘shows the way forward’. It kind of became a mantra I impart to my creative leads, that they should be the ones ‘showing the way forward’ with what creativity can do for their clients.
LBB> I’d love to ask you a bit about yourself. What first attracted you to a career in creativity? Did creativity play a big part in your childhood or was it something that grew over time?
Ray> My father was a repairman, he was always tinkering around the house, fixing things with new inventions he created. If a door was not working well, he didn’t just replace a part like normal people would, he would set up a system of strings and pulleys and handles so you open the door in another way. I think that kind of rubbed off on me, always finding ways to solve problems creatively.
LBB> When you were first starting out, what were the big lessons that really stayed with you?
Ray> I was very lucky to have had an internship at Fallon Minneapolis, when David Lubars was running it. And the creative department was like a hall of fame, with the Swedes, Bob Barrie, Greg Hahn, Bruce Bildsten and many many other amazing talents.
At a people level: no egos, stay curious and just love the work you do. I could always walk up to any of them and show them an idea or just have a chat.
At a work level: they had just created a series of digital film content called ‘BMW Films’, a series of action shorts with directors like Guy Ritchie and Ang Lee which totally changed my concept of what we can create for brands. Remember, this was a time, when all clients were asking for were TVCs and print ads. They somehow managed to convince the clients to divert the media budget to ‘BMW Films’ and created something that was 10 years ahead of its time.
LBB> Your creativity is really characterised by the way it’s so fluid and transcends siloed channels - it’s more holistic and experience-led, embracing new tech and new channels. How have you developed that side of yourself and been able to grow and change as the industry has?
Ray> There are 3 things:
One, the best brands don’t just say, they act, they let consumers experience the magic of what they say.
Two, recognising, embracing and quickly trialing with new tech and channels to show the way forward, creating new experiences for the brands I work with.
Three, have it tied to business results early, and have a grown-up conversation around the potential sales and growth your idea can bring.
LBB> Which campaigns or projects are you proudest of and why?
Ray> I will geek out a little.
One of my favourite campaigns was for Unilever Food Solutions called ‘We’re for Chefs’. We worked with third party food delivery apps and restaurant booking apps, to collect data on where diners’ tastes were trending. And we used these trends to constantly create new recipes for the chefs to learn and upgrade their skills, while creating sampling opportunities for our new sauces.
For me, this is a brand creating an amazing eco-system around the consumers they serve.
It becomes an ongoing conversation with them instead of one-way communications.
LBB> Outside of work, you’ve got a really rich array of extra-curricular interests - I thought it was really cool to see you’re really into vinyl and whisky. As a creative who is so well versed in the digital world, what do you get from these hobbies and media that are more analogue?
Ray> There is something very tactile about vinyl, about putting one on and I love that feeling. I usually buy albums that are constructed to flow from one song to another… working very well together and taking you on a journey.
Kind of what we need to do for brands, no?
For whisky, I like the peaty Islay ones, they just remind me of the sea somehow. And again, take you on a journey (gasp).
These things are also there to create great conversations with friends and family in person.
LBB> I’d love to know which vinyls in your collection are your dearest and most listened to?
Ray> Here’s a few for different reasons:
‘Recomposed’ by Max Richter
‘In Rainbows’ by Radiohead
‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse
‘Cheek to Cheek’ by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ by Kanye West
‘Channel Orange’ by Frank Ocean
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
Ray> Dan Harmon (‘Community’, ‘Rick and Morty’), just the writing and creativity of the content he puts out there.
David Droga, for fighting the good fight in revaluing and transforming what creativity can do for businesses.
My five-year-old daughter, for showing me a new perspective every time I talk and play with her.
LBB> Looking forward to the rest of 2023, what are your hopes for the rest of the year?
Ray> Creating meaningful work that impacts my clients and their consumers positively.