Happiness Saigon will also operate as the lead creative partner for Oreo in the market. It promises to provide a range of communications services from R&D to advertising. It will also service group clients in Europe and the broader Southeast Asia region.
Happiness Saigon is the company’s second fully-fledged agency after Brussels, where it launched 10 years ago. The Ho Chi Minh office will incorporate sister agency Bliss Interactive, which launched in Vietnam seven years ago with Karen Corrigan as CEO for the purpose of providing digital services to the European market out of Vietnam.
The office will be led by three co-founders: Alan Cerutti, who has rejoined Happiness from Ogilvy in London, as CEO and strategic director; Thuy Tran as COO; and Karen Corrigan, who is also CEO and founder of Happiness Group.
Other staff members include Paul Busschau, who has joined from Cheil, as creative director; Tran Quan and Stijn Van Velthoven as managing partners; Thomas Colliers as creative technologist; and Tri Ngo Quang and Thai Nguyen as heads of development.
Cerutti told Campaign he had long hoped to set up an agency in Vietnam. The chance came when Nivea “came knocking” though FCB, which Happiness is affiliated with. He said he saw the potential for rapid growth by giving opportunities to young people looking for an outlet for their creativity.
“We see a lot of raw creativity [in Vietnam],” he said, but added: “Advertisers are looking for good work but don’t know where to get it from. The reason we are here is to realise that potential. We see an opportunity to start putting Vietnam on the creative map.”
Cerutti said the agency would explore possibilities to work with local brands as well as global companies operating in Vietnam. He noted that while Happiness is a European agency, it did not aim to impose European principles on Vietnam.
“We’re not a fully Western agency coming in with lots of ego,” he said. “We are going to listen through local people to get a better understanding [of the market].”
He said another point of difference was that Happiness would be able to function as a one-stop service provider, which would help reduce what he saw as the problem of duplication and lack of consistency as a result of widespread use of multiple agencies.
“We don’t think of ourselves as an advertising agency,” he said. “We think of ourselves as a communications group that also does very good TV and print ads. A lot of agencies say it, but don’t [act on] it.”