Coffee Chats is a series where industry experts spill the beans on their profession, address misconceptions and impart practical tips.
Khuong Vu, the director and founder of Chaidao, after having spent six years in the marketing industry, has produced over 200 videos for brands big and small. At the same time, he has also produced numerous music videos for famous artists.
1. Dien May Xanh dominates in market identity
Dien May Xanh is a well-known Television Commercial (TVC) chain that Khuong has participated in directing. The treatment, which is the independent variable that has been manipulated by a researcher, was worked on by a foreign director. Oftentimes, even if Vietnamese directors have a similar vision, it can be hard to pitch such concepts to the brand as it may seem too strange for the Vietnamese consumer base. But if, for instance, this Japanese director pitches it and it becomes successful, the brand will reapply similar strategies going forward.
Though it is often said that the advertising industry tends to have many qualities that seemingly ‘dim’ down one’s creativity, every well-known global brand has a certain set of guidelines that they must follow — which makes it difficult to create an entirely new look that is far from the brand they have already established in the market. Hence, if directors and agencies want to really add a unique creative touch to change things up entirely, such as designing a new brand image that is more engaging and out-of-the-box, starting with a smaller local brand is a more feasible option.
2. COVID-19 has given opportunities for creatives in the country
On the topic of branding, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for Vietnamese creatives to work on projects for global brands... Up until the global pandemic happened. Ever since last year, given the pandemic and stricter travel regulations, many foreign producers and directors were unable to travel to Vietnam to make their mark on the industry, and there wasn’t the trend of collaborating on such projects from abroad as we see right now.
Pepsi Ngo is the more well-known project that Khuong has been a part of — and it is a brand that has rarely tapped into the potential of creative directors and producers within the country.
“When the customer doesn’t have a choice, we get the possibilities!”
3. The directors’ ideas often come from personal experiences
During his time directing and producing TVC for Nescafe, Khuong Vu encountered some personal matters — his father was diagnosed with cancer. Using that personal story to inspire him in his work, especially since Khuong has not spoken to his father as frequently since the news came out, the commercial “Do you want a coffee, Dad?” for Nescafe is one that Khuong will cherish for a long time to come.
Additionally, the light-hearted and humorous commercial “Surf: rain or shine” for the detergent brand Surf is also one of his personal favorites.
4. The biggest challenge for a TVC director….
Is pitching their idea for the script.
When they receive a client’s brief, it is a highly tense and stressful period of time, as many agencies and production houses are put head-to-head to see whose pitch will be selected. They work independently with the client, and no one knows the results until the official announcement.
Therefore, during the pitching period, Khuong says he needs the most focus in order to brainstorm multiple ideas and directions. When they emerge from the pitching round as the client’s selection, all that’s left is to turn that vision into a reality!
5. Are there TVCs that have never been seen before?
Too many to count, sometimes they emerge half a year later, and sometimes not at all. There are many reasons justifying that decision. Sometimes, it’s due to sudden problems or changes that are inevitable.
For instance, when Khuong collaborated with singer song-writer Bich Phuong in the summer of 2020: the moment they were done filming… COVID-19 arrived! The concept for the video included huge gatherings and parties, encouraging many to loosen up and have fun, but with the global pandemic, this is not a message anyone should send out. Other reasons could be related to the client — such as the moment the crew is done filming, the artist is caught up in terrible scandals, so the product either never sees daylight, or is drastically postponed.
There are also many TVCs that have been produced, but if the marketing department of the brand is not ready to launch it due to many reasons, the video itself will be held back.
6. Are TVC directors rich?
The cost for a director will range between 4,000 to 5,000 USD for one day of filming, and between 7,000 to 8,000 USD for two days. This is certainly on the lower end of the field, especially in comparison to foreign directors. The cost of Khuong’s video production will range from being free (when he works on projects for friends) and can go up to several billion Vietnam dong.
7. Are TVCs… still shown on TV?
Due to the ever-changing forms of advertising, TVCs aren’t typically shown on TV like they once were. Now, it comes in any format that supports videos, which will pervade more aspects of the consumers’ lives. Today, TVCs are often known as ‘viral videos’ that emerge on social media, and there is no longer a limit on the length, content, quality, or genre. It could be a touching video or a humorous one and could range anywhere between 15 seconds and a multi-series sitcom.
8. What are the latest trends in the industry?
Many videos from Thailand, such as touching ones, or funny ones, are some trends within the TVC industry.
But dominating the field would be music videos (MV). These videos not only showcase the artists’ creative direction but also their music and the storylines within each lyric. The viewers will mostly only watch a touching and sentimental video once, but they would stream MV over and over to see the level of craftsmanship and artistry that is accompanied by catchy music.
The current audience for MV also has a higher expectation of production quality. Tiki is one of the bigger names within advertising MV, especially with their series “Tiki and Vietnamese stars.” During this time, many rising rap stars and their music has also aided in making this trend go viral.
9. TVC and Tet
Every year around Tet, Khuong Vu will produce 1 to 2 MV. In the past two years, every Tet, Khuong would be booked for multiple projects. Khuong’s project last year with KOL starring Tran Thanh for Momo’s annual raffle campaign became one of the top 10 most notable projects during Tet.
This year, however, given the economic toll due to the pandemic, many think that the demand for TVC would decrease. However, as Khuong shares, the views for TVC have actually risen. There are many brands that have established such an image for themselves during this time that makes Khuong think “why would they need commercials?” This is to say that the marketing industry is now in dire need to be more engaging and lively. Hence, many Tet projects will actually start filming as early as October.
10. The sustainable system of MV and TVC
To Khuong, the primary difference between TVC and other MV is the creative freedom that he is vested with, from beginning to end, when working on MV. On the other hand, TVCs need to follow the client’s desires.
For music (as someone who plays music), Khuong can do anything he likes from the script to the scenes — and he only works for artists whose music he loves. The process of producing the MV actually doesn’t generate a considerable amount of income. “Sometimes, the directors have to put their own money in to achieve their vision,” Khuong laughs.
The MV market, in turn, is an opportunity for directors and producers like Khuong to make a name for themselves, as their names are placed prominently within the credits — something that many TVCs don’t offer as it is not the work of only the director, but the product of an entire cast and crew.
“Due to my popularity in creating MV, many brands have booked me to direct and produce their TVC. So they balance each other out.”
Khuong shares that from many of his MV projects, his favorite would be JustaTee’s Thang Dien, Toc Tien’s Hom Nay Toi Co Don Qua, and more recently, Jack’s Hoa Hai Duong.
Khuong Vu was actually the director for the MV with the most views in Vietnam — with 480 million views on YouTube. It’s the band 365’s music video for their song Bong Bong Bang Bang, a favorite for many Vietnamese families.