Q&A: Yang Yeo – ‘Nothing Great Ever Came out of Being Fearful’

Known for his infectious laughter, Yang Yeo is on a mission to help Hakuhodo Inc. to be more progressive outside Japan.

Yang Yeo describes himself as a “Creative Kaiju”, which translates roughly as “strange creative beast”. And he’s walked that path over a successful career that saw him join Hakuhodo Inc. in 2017 as Asia Pacific Co-Chief Creative Officer – a role he shares with Kentaro Kimura, who has been with Hakuhodo since 1992. 

Together, they’re on a mission to reinvigorate Hakuhodo – an agency with a 120-year legacy – as a creative company with a strong sense of purpose.

Yeo started his career at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore before moving to BBH London. He opened Fallon Asia, was Chairman of JWT China, rebooted Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai – all before joining Hakuhodo Inc. last year. His next role will be as AdFest Jury President overseeing the Outdoor Lotus and Press Lotus categories in March 2019.


You joined Hakuhodo as APAC Co-Chief Creative Officer in April 2017. How is Hakuhodo performing?

I would say Hakuhodo is a “Gentle Giant”. It’s a huge and powerful network, with many talented individuals, innovative divisions, and creative companies, globally. But yet Hakuhodo remains very humble and low profile.

Nothing great ever came out of being fearful. My role is to transform this gentle giant into a giant that is tenacious in doing what’s right.

You don’t hear very much about their clients or new business wins, or boasting about its financial or award achievements. Aware of the environment, it goes on its own path, in search of solutions and relevance in the modern times, with a gentle smile, in a calm, and orderly manner.

Can you describe your partnership with Kentaro Kimura, who is Hakuhodo’s other APAC co-chief creative officer: how do you compliment each other?

Kentaro-san is a global citizen with a Japanese passport. He is terribly open-minded, madly-energetic, bloody-fearless, awfully-positive, and a bucket full of silliness, which works well because I’m equally silly, if not sillier. Besides the fun and laughter, I compliment his crazy enthusiasm with plans, strategies, and structure, so there is some science to the madness.

What is your focus for 2019? How are you both helping Hakuhodo to be more progressive outside Japan?

Progression outside Japan is our focus, and we’re still figuring how to do this. (Even if we’ve figured it out, we wouldn’t share our plans openly here, right?)

You have another title as Hakuhodo’s “Creative Kaiju”, but I think “Kaiju” translates as “large strange beast” or even “monster”. Do you think of yourself as a strange creative beast?

Nothing great ever came out of being fearful. My role is to transform this gentle giant into a giant that is tenacious in doing what’s right – right for the brands, right for the people, right for society, above and beyond what clients think that is right.

Who has mentored you along the way – are there any leaders who have shaped your philosophy as a creative leader?

Too many to name here, but working for the best leaders and companies from around the world definitely helped shaped me. It certainly confirmed that formulas and methods are for people whom are pretenders and clueless.

The best talents tend to drop what they think they know and start from scratch, and always ask the simplest of questions: ‘Why would people give a shit about your ideas?’ Wieden has a philosophy that I still use today: ‘walk in stupid’.

What campaigns are you proudest of helping to create over the past year or two?

Beyond campaigns, helping the various leadership teams, plotting courses to unchartered business territories, and identifying ways of staying relevant, or even better, lead the future, is what excites me the most. Makes me proud when I see these plans adopted and put into action.

You’re judging AdFest again in 2019. Why do you keep coming back?

Because it’s simply Asia’s most festive festival. A wonderful venue to catch up with old friends, and meet new talents. Also, ADFEST throws some of the best parties, seminars, and the food in Thailand is just yummilicious. All in all, a great event to feed spirits, mouths, and minds.

Barbara Messer
Barbara Messer
Barbara is a Sydney-based content strategist, writer, editor and communications consultant.

Get our Newsletter

We don't share your info, only ours.

The Latest

The Trade Desk Partners with Tencent, Baidu, iQIYI, and Youku in China

Ad Tech company The Trade Desk, has inked several partnerships in China that is says will now allow brands to reach and engage millions of consumers in China through integrations with China’s premium media companies, including

Dentsu Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann Stepping Down After Nine Years

Dentsu has announced that Jerry Buhlmann is stepping down after nine years. A stint that started at Aegis Group plc, and then for the last six years at Dentsu Aegis Network.

YouTube Pitches Music Service in Australia with Focus on the Neighborhood Sound

"We listened to Aussies, and heard a resounding call out for more Australian music - from playlist curation to profiling local artists," said Mark Wheeler, head of YouTube Marketing, Australia.

Kareena Kapoor Khan Torments Sleeping Man to Make Point About Healthy Sleep

Honeywell has launched a humorous public awareness campaign starring Bollywood Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan to educate people about the importance of 'Healthy Sleep'.

Wavemaker Hong Kong Adds Three Hires to Client Solutions

Wavemaker Hong Kong has added three new hires to its client solutions team. Diego Cerrone as head of strategy, Adrian Lee as head of digital and Omar Crutchley as performance director. Both Lee and Cerrone will report to Coley and Crutchley will report to Lee.

Nine Judges From Asia Tapped to Judge for One Show 2019

The One Club for Creativity today announced that nine top creatives from Asia have been selected to serve as judges for The One Show 2019. They will join nearly 200 other creatives representing 26 countries who will judge work submitted from around the world. 

72andSunny Gives Singapore a Temperature Check with 72 Voices

First developed in Australia by 72andSunny Sydney, the book combines photography and images created by each of the Voices, produce with the aim of stimulating a conversation or to help others who want to know a little bit more about modern Singapore today.




Interviews

Q&A: Andrew Lok – ‘We Need to be More Diverse to Avoid Being Replaced by Algorithms’

Along with being behind some of Pepsi’s most-watched and shared campaigns worldwide, Lok's impressive body of work led AdAge to last year name him as one of the "Creatives You Need to Know."

Q&A: Dong Jin Son – ‘The Purpose of Advertising is to go Further’

As the Founder & CEO of Seoul-based Krema Worldwide, Dong Jin Son bring nearly two decades to the job having worked with a global client list that includes LG Electronics, Samsung Mobile, Disney Korea, Doosan, Lotte, and others.

Q&A: Yang Yeo – ‘Nothing Great Ever Came out of Being Fearful’

Known for his infectious laughter, Yang Yeo is on a mission to help Hakuhodo Inc. to be more progressive outside Japan.

Q&A: Donald Steel on Crisis Management

onald Steel, one of the world’s leading crisis communications experts. A specialist in reputation and issues and crisis management Stell works with companies in the UK, Europe, Middle East, and the Asia Pacific.

Q&A: Calvin Chan – CEO of AdMaster on China’s Evolving Online Ad World

We are seeing some brands who embraced the transformation, and they are leveraging data technologies to help them make better decisions.

Insight

Is Ad Blocking Tech’s Most Promising Weapon Useless? New Research Says Maybe

While brands and the ad industry may tremble, consumers rejoiced back when Princeton researchers announced the creation of AI-backed perceptual ad-blocking technology.

The Race to Success with Facebook Ads

One of the biggest mistakes most advertisers make is they jump straight into trying to set the fastest lap times though they haven’t completed pre-race checks or set up anything to record their lap times

How Vinamilk’s Use of ‘Hero, Hub, Help’ Content Strategy Drives Record Engagement

By prioritizing its video content strategy, Vinamilk became the first CPG brand in Southeast Asia to reach one million subscribers on YouTube.

Gaming Customer Acquisition for Consumer Banking

The consumer banking industry of Pakistan has spent decades relying on free offers, sweepstakes, and contests as a means of customer acquisition. Disjointed campaigns, with...

The ‘Little Emperor’ – Chinese Millennial Travel Choices Revolve Around Child’s Preference

The “luxury” Little Emperor is a fascinating phenomenon, They now play the key role in steering travel destinations:

Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – Pavel Fuksa

Every time I see a group of young people on TV dancing, dressed as, let’s say, rabbits, followed by a group of bearded men and french bulldogs in a quick succession of inconsequent, yet crazy edits, sort of a GIF-generated ad, I feel a strong urge to poke my eyes out.

Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – Chong Kin

Empathy is the toughest part for creative to work out in an ad. If the works can touch consumer’s hearts, it does not only make people cry or giggle a lot, it also changes their perception to a brand.

Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – Peter Grasse

It's hard to pick favorites and point fingers. Especially when you are in the business of keeping friends. Yet Kierkegaard would condemn me to suicide for not asserting my self and being decisive.

Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – Stephanie Widmer

Destination brands and tourism boards are constantly on the lookout for that special campaign that will stand out from the rest, leave an impression in the minds of viewers and most importantly, entice potential travelers.

Dentsu Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann Stepping Down After Nine Years

Dentsu has announced that Jerry Buhlmann is stepping down after nine years. A stint that started at Aegis Group plc, and then for the last six years at Dentsu Aegis Network.

Wavemaker Hong Kong Adds Three Hires to Client Solutions

Wavemaker Hong Kong has added three new hires to its client solutions team. Diego Cerrone as head of strategy, Adrian Lee as head of digital and Omar Crutchley as performance director. Both Lee and Cerrone will report to Coley and Crutchley will report to Lee.

Nine Judges From Asia Tapped to Judge for One Show 2019

The One Club for Creativity today announced that nine top creatives from Asia have been selected to serve as judges for The One Show 2019. They will join nearly 200 other creatives representing 26 countries who will judge work submitted from around the world. 

72andSunny Gives Singapore a Temperature Check with 72 Voices

First developed in Australia by 72andSunny Sydney, the book combines photography and images created by each of the Voices, produce with the aim of stimulating a conversation or to help others who want to know a little bit more about modern Singapore today.




YouTube Pitches Music Service in Australia with Focus on the Neighborhood Sound

"We listened to Aussies, and heard a resounding call out for more Australian music - from playlist curation to profiling local artists," said Mark Wheeler, head of YouTube Marketing, Australia.

Kareena Kapoor Khan Torments Sleeping Man to Make Point About Healthy Sleep

Honeywell has launched a humorous public awareness campaign starring Bollywood Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan to educate people about the importance of 'Healthy Sleep'.

New Campaign in India by Whirlpool Starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon

The first spot shows Rajput working out as his female neighbors use binoculars to drool over the sight of him through his window until Sanon intervenes.

Santa as You’ve Never Seen Him Before in Christmas Campaign for Australia

This year we see a Santa like no other in a new Christmas campaign in Australia from discount supermarket chain ALDI that charts the mental recovery of Father Christmas following a meteor-like sleigh crash in Australia’s outback. 

Get the latest news, creative work,
profiles and insights in your inbox

Thank you for subscribing!