Jeremy Craigen's ambition as global CCO at Innocean

Jeremy Craigen, the new global chief executive officer of Innocean Worldwide, tells Campaign Asia-Pacific in this exclusive interview that his goal is to change the perception of the agency from that of a Korean company with outposts around the world to that of an international firm with roots in Korea.

Jeremy Craigen
Jeremy Craigen

Craigen was, until recently, the global ECD for DDB, working with Volkswagen. Having joined BMP DDB Needham (the former operational name of DDB Worldwide) back in 1990, he clocked 25 years at the agency.

His appointment at Innocean is a public sign that the agency is taking creativity seriously, Craigen said. Innocean global CEO Kun Hee Ahn has publicly labelled both Craigen and Bob Isherwood (who joined Innocean in 2013 as a creative advisor) almost as foreign aides to help Innocean achieve the objective of "being a leading creative agency on a global scale".

This fits into Craigen’s value system that creativity is good for business, though he gave no immediate answers about how he will up the creativity ante at Innocean.

"I don’t think I need to change things a lot to make a difference," he said. "It’s about filling a few cogs in the wheel."

Innocean’s largest and most well-known global clients are Hyundai and KIA Motors, but Craigen does not want to "turn any of them into Volkswagens". The tricky thing about creative strategy, according to him, is "changing things based on what people have already understood".

It is important for Hyundai and Kia to be successful creatively, because "the more successful they are, the more talent we will attract to Innocean", he said. "But creative talent needs variety [of clients], and before that we have to grow on our foundation with Hyundai and Kia".

The cars under those marques have improved "tremendously" but the branding has not kept up, he said. When asked why, Craigen said it has been difficult for the company to sit back and think where it is going when the business is growing so fast.

For Hyundai and Kia, he sees similarities with other car brands such as Honda and Skoda. In fact, a leaf can be taken from the book of Sound of Honda: Ayrton Senna 1989. "How do you do heritage storytelling and make it relevant without giving a history lesson?" he asked. "Don’t just tell me about yourself; tell me why I need to buy you." 

Brand history as a corporate message is fine, but that has to work alongside commercial imperatives, he said. Craigen advocated "getting back to why we exist as an industry – that is to sell our clients’ products". Creative ideas in promo and activation are "deep and dirty", and closer to sales. Conversely, print ideas "tell you information you already know".

Still, creating campaigns to fit those categories at award shows is not Craigen’s game. "Those are by-products of what we do for business performance", he said. "My feeling is: I don’t want to be a short-term fix for Innocean and just create a few Lions for them next year." (Editor’s note: Innocean’s campaign for Hyundai ‘A Message to Space’ did win three Bronzes at Cannes Lions 2015.)

Creativity is much deeper than that, he said. That philosophy should be taken and channelled in a better way. "Hiring a CCO alone is not going to change an agency," he admitted. "What I am empowered to do may do that."

Talent is part of his remit, and the fact that young, talented people are less attracted to the advertising industry than to tech companies is "a cyclical problem", he said.

"It feels like tech is a small part of their career, that they are just doing it to broaden their horizons and their CVs instead of wanting to work for tech companies all the way to the end", he asserted.

This will benefit advertising as the industry is enhanced by such talent, he said. "I don’t think we should look at Facebook as an enemy of advertising agencies, for example", he said. "What will make talent come [or come back]? Money, variety, and the freedom to use their skills on a wider canvas than in just one tech company."

This article was first published on


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