Q&A: Hakuhodo’s Woon Hoh – ‘To Understand People, you Have to Look at What They Eat’

Barbara Messer talks to Woon Hoh, Chief Creative Officer of Hakuhodo Asia Pacific.


It’s been six years since Woon Hoh moved to Bangkok as Chief Creative Officer of Hakuhodo Asia Pacific, where he’s on a mission to raise the standards of the network’s regional offices to be on par with Hakuhodo Tokyo.

In six weeks, Hoh will join ADFEST as Jury President, Direct Lotus & Promo Lotus. Barbara Messer caught up with Hoh to find out more about the challenges leading Hakuhodo’s Asian agencies outside Japan and China.


What is the biggest challenge you face in this role? And which Hakuhodo offices are performing best?

The biggest challenge personally is the constant need to adapt to different markets.

As for the best performing Hakuhodo offices, I would say, hands down, Hakuhodo Inc. Japan and Hakuhodo Indonesia. But the rest of the offices are performing relatively well too, considering the slow economic growth in ASEAN countries these past years.

[Master Q] is such an amazing storyteller, being able to tell a story with just four frames. When we creatives sometimes struggle to even tell a coherent story in 30 seconds.

Your motto at Hakuhodo is “irrelevant relevant”. What does this mean?

Cross-pollination: mixing two totally irrelevant things and making it relevant to the story we want to tell.

You’ve achieved so much at so many different agencies. But what is your proudest achievement?

Hiking up Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery in Bhutan, which hangs 3,120 meters above the Paro valley. At my age, it’s a hell of a feat.

Which person has had the biggest influence on your career?

The late Alfonso Wong, author of the famous Old Master Q comic. He is such an amazing storyteller, being able to tell a story with just four frames. When we creatives sometimes struggle to even tell a coherent story in 30 seconds.

ADFEST is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the theme ’20 years of diversity’. What are you looking forward to about joining ADFEST 2017 as a Jury President?

Exactly that, ‘diversity’. It matters now more than ever, considering the state of the world that we’re living in right now.

You’re originally from Malaysia, but studied in America before working everywhere from Bangkok to Indonesia. Where is home?

Home is where the family is – which at this time is Bangkok.

One thing I learned from my years of working abroad is that to understand people, you have to look at what they eat.

Can you tell me something about yourself – a hobby or passion or habit – that people may be surprised to hear?

I like collecting Thai Buddha amulets. Other than its divinity purposes, they’re like antiques. When you chance upon a rare piece, you’re also finding out its history, its mystical lore, and it is by its own right, a piece of art that is handmade by highly-skilled artisanal monks.

If you didn’t work in advertising, what would you be?

A bum. Preferably a bum in Nordic countries. Free food and healthcare.


Woon Hoh will attend ADFEST 2017 from 22nd to 25th March in Pattaya, Thailand as Jury President, Direct Lotus & Promo Lotus. For more information, visit www.ADFEST.com

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