"Vivian's diverse background and international experience has been of great benefit to her work within Ireland bringing a different perspective to local work. Vivian is passionate about the industry, displays keen emotional intelligence and is constantly steering clients towards creative excellence. She's an asset to the Irish Creative Industry. ” - Charley Stoney, CEO, IAPI
LBB> You have an international background having moved to Ireland from Sydney, Australia. How does your experience across borders influence your work?
Vivian> As a kid of Vietnamese refugees growing up in the outskirts of suburban Sydney, I was about as far from adland as you could get. But pop culture was my gateway to the rest of the world - Saigon bolero and New Wave on the one hand, and Rage (Australia’s MTV) and Saved By The Bell on the other.
Then a few years ago, I landed in Ireland, in the depths of the rural Midlands. That immersion shock, so to speak, gave me an understanding of what the ordinary Irish person cares about, quite quickly. So you could say navigating different cultures was inherent in my past and present, which helps a lot in my job.
LBB> And how does creativity in Ireland compare to what you have seen in Sydney?
Vivian> Both have a sense of punching above their weight. In Sydney, because of the gaping physical distance, and Ireland, being a small island on the fringe of Europe, there’s a real desire to grind it out and show the rest of the world what we’re made of. And conversely, because of that distance, you get these petri dishes of creativity developing in different cultural pockets, informed by (but not ripping off) other influences - it’s allowed to incubate and fester into its own weird and wonderful thing. When you’re isolated to a certain point, you’ve got no choice but to crack on and make stuff.
LBB> What do you think is the aspect of Irish culture or society that lends itself to creativity?
Vivian> Something I’ve noticed is that the average person will go see a theatre production, or a book festival talk, or a bit of music. And it’s very localised - a lot of villages will have something going on for the community. In that sense, access to creativity and the arts feels very democratised - it’s not necessarily costly or geographically prohibitive. Whereas in Sydney for example, the type of person who’d participate tends to fit a very narrow cultural and socio-economic profile - there isn’t that same appreciation of the arts embedded in the wider community. So that basic sense of turning up creates space for more things to be made and explored.
LBB> You have been working in Ireland for over four years, spending the majority of that time at Folk Wunderman Thompson. You help drive social-led ideas that inspire growth - how have you seen the Irish landscape changing over the years and how have you adapted your approach to match?
Vivian> I think agencies are getting better at getting diverse people and perspectives into the ad creative - there’s more of a push to include better, meaningful representation of different voices and faces in (and making) ads. But as an industry we probably need to do more to get those same sorts of people in the room while the creative is being ideated.
You can sort of get ‘agency brain’ and get locked into this urban adland bubble. We need to get to the stage where ‘diverse’ doesn’t mean ‘other’, and that’s something I’m definitely conscious of in my day-to-day.
LBB> At Folk Wunderman Thompson you inspire people to not only feel but to act - how do you achieve this? What elements go into a piece of work that moves?
Vivian> Work that moves is, in its simplest form, something that connects in some way. And that’s notoriously difficult to achieve, particularly in digital where you’re fighting the scroll, the second screen, the online noise. In digital we can also get into a knot of hyper-optimisation, that gets in the way of thinking about the actual person at the other end of the creative.
But what’s happening in social right now is really exciting. We’re seeing interests fracturing out, and morphing into these co-created digital worlds. Whatever little thing you’re into, however niche, you can find it - or it’ll seek you out. That sense of online discovery feels like an echo of early Angelfire internet, supercharged - the ownership has gone back to the people.
So when we’re building work, we’re really thinking about that moment of connection - how can we speak to that one little group of people in a really meaningful way, and show up for them in the online enclaves they inhabit, in a way that’s engaging and effective?
LBB> What are some of the projects at Folk that you have been most proud of being involved in and why?
Vivian> Most recently, it’s been great to see the reaction to the An Post Christmas campaign - both from the industry, and random neighbours who definitely don’t know what a View Through Rate is.
And with Vodafone we’ve explored some great opportunities to speak to their different online communities. With youth tariff Vodafone X, most recently we handed over 50% of media space to creators in gaming fashion, music and more to platform their work. The Vodafone rugby Team Of Us sponsorship is always great to explore too - with our entirely remotely produced lockdown-era Stream of Us content series, for example.
LBB> What Irish work outside of Folk Wunderman Thompson do you wish the world had heard more about?
Vivian> Saylists from Rothco was great - an elegant solution to a problem that didn’t require loads of new stuff to be made, just the right amount of collaboration and thoughtfulness.
LBB> What advice would you give to up and coming Irish creatives looking to take their work to the next level?
Vivian> Simple enough - done is better than perfect. Whatever you’re working on, put it out there, get feedback, get onto the next thing. There’s only one of you, so lean into your unique point of view. You can definitely overthink a piece of work (I’m 100% guilty of that). But you need to create a lot to get to the sweet spot.
I’d say it’s especially true for digital - you can afford to try a bunch of ideas and see what works. And more crucially, you can’t afford to not try a bunch of ideas out of fear of what might (or might not) happen. Digital is moving too fast for you to hesitate.