Matthew Miller
Jan 6, 2022

Outlook 2022: Key themes for APAC creativity

We asked APAC leaders to identify creative trends for the coming year. The developing metaverse—as an exciting canvas and a challenge—figures strongly in their thinking about how creativity in APAC will evolve in 2022.


Creativity is shaped by a broad spectrum of factors, from the economic and social environment to technological developments. But what trends or developments will most influence creative work in APAC in 2022?

We asked agencies around the region to select a creative leader and have that person pick one trend or development that they think will be a major theme for 2022. Unsurprisingly, the collision of gaming, virtual reality, retail and brand experience that's commonly referred to as the metaverse is woven into many of the responses we received. But our respondents are thinking about the topic from different angles. And in addition, some who answered also picked other factors that they believe will be important to consider when it comes to creating work that gets consumers to respond in 2022.


The metaverse gold rush
Brian Leong, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi China

No escaping the separate yet connected trends of the metaverse, NFTs, blockchain, etc as they innovate industries like sports, fashion, gaming, art, music, and so on—not just as a gimmick, but a fundamental way to engage. Adidas entered with a four-way collaboration, and grabbed 144 “parcels” in Sandbox. Nike bought virtual sneaker creator RTFKT, while Ariana Grande held her concert inside Fortnite. Facebook renames the company and introduces its vision of the metaverse and Apple is set to launch VR/AR glasses in 2022/23. From products to experiences to business models, different brands have entered their own way.

With new news every day, the best collaborations will come from brands and agency looking for opportunities in this new digital goldrush, while exploring and learning together.


Unexpected shine
Sharon Goh, creative director, DDB Group, Singapore

Metaverse and NFTs are emerging as new social currency for the young, from art to gaming to investing. I believe brands can benefit greatly from it in 2022.

Already we are applying it for tourism, banking and youth-centric brands. It adds an unexpected shine to product augmentation.

It’s not as complicated and futuristic as it seems, it’s just the choice of a new generation. 


Are you experienced?
Asawin Phanichwatana, deputy chief creative officer, GreyNJ United, Thailand

Experience will be key. Experience can be new, virtual, or interactive, in metaverse or—even better—in person. We've been stuck with lockdown restrictions, quarantine, and many restrictions that have had to isolate people, so inevitably we will crave for any kind of experience which will be powered by creativity. And experiences come in various forms. From CX, the feelings, emotions that result from the purchase and consumption of the product or service. EX, which comes from the engagement with a business in the capacity of an employee. Finally, BX, which is feelings, reactions, and ideas resulting from a brand's exposure, and which can significantly influence a future purchase decision.

Anything that’s intriguing, interesting or immersive will be sought after. It’s now more important than ever for brands and marketers to listen to and engage with their customers and to truly understand what they need and want. Only then can they build a strong bond and connection with people in ways that are meaningful, memorable, and which brings something important to consumers’ daily lives. How brands leverage creativity will differentiate one experience from another.

In return, brands will benefit from customer loyalty and a longer-term relationship that doesn't just end when a purchase is made.


The end of the curated self
Mae Ong, creative director, VaynerMedia APAC

We need to share the ugly, closing the era on the curated self and its false standards of perfection. While there’s still demand for shiny images, audiences also now want to see content that more accurately shows their post-lockdown reality. The new aesthetic isn’t always aesthetically pleasing.

The past year was dubbed as the era of the “photo dump”—random photos grouped together at a time when people were undergoing real hardships. It’s a need for a clear break from their carefully curated online self that was different from reality.

Brands and influencers who fail to dig deeper would really miss out on the opportunity to meet followers where they are.  For those that rely on glam imagery, try adding a touch of imperfection. And that could be in the form of casual, raw or even messy images. It’s all about the up-and-coming vibe of light-heartedness and impulsive creativity.

Be less curated, more imperfect. Change with the times to stay relevant, knowing that the perfectly curated online self is not the only show in town. 


Where you at?
Nicholas Ye, chief creative officer, The Secret Little Agency, Singapore

From Seoul to Singapore, a recent CNBC article cites an Asia Pacific 'property market on steroids'. We are spending more than we ever have on our homes because the pandemic has altered not only our relationship to our homes, but to place or in many aspects, a sense of place. More than ever, where we live, where things are made, where we chose to spend our time is top-of-mind. In the years before the pandemic, many brands were obsessed with telling the 'why' and 'how'. Today, I’m certain that 'where' will take centre stage in communicating memorably to an audience scrutinising everything like it is 2022, because is 2022!


Third-place gaming
Jerome Ooi, executive creative director, TBWA Hong Kong

Get ready, 2022 is going to be fun! And a lot of play! After a year of high-profile delays, 2022 is primed to be the biggest year for gaming since 2017. Accelerated by the pandemic, gaming has become a new ‘third place’ (in addition to work and home), where people socialise, shop and learn—not just to escape the chaos of life, but to seek new connections and a sense of belonging.

“Fortnite isn’t a game, it’s a place” said developer Anoop Ranganath. With over 78% of the online population play games, where the average time spent on games has increased to eight and a half hours per week, Third Place Gaming is rising across all demographics with the fastest-growing audience being 55- to 64-year-olds.

It’s a fallacy to think of gaming only as a form of entertainment. As part of the outermost layer (gaming software and hardware) of the metaverse market set to reach $800 billion in 2024, major tech players have already made their move and brands quick to leverage TPG as its early-access pass. This is the first place where the line between “game” and “experience” gets blurry, where our real and digital life blend. With more in-game concerts, digital goods and currency transactions, platforms like Zepeto, with a massive Gen Z user base in APAC, offer clear opportunities for brands to connect with a younger, potentially future customers.

Brands do need to thoroughly consider their role in this space and with its community authentically, with an aim towards delivering high-utility, meaningful brand experiences—because one-off NFT drops are not the answer.


Wanted: Metaverse experience designers
Nic Brennan, executive creative director, Digitas China

A key theme in 2022 for APAC (and beyond) will undoubtedly be the evolution of NFTs, the metaverse and virtual retail. Many brands are already in this space with their virtual stores inside games and NFT clothing ranges.

The big challenge for agencies will be how to embrace creativity and experience design within a purely virtual landscape and ensure they have the tools to deliver the huge upcoming demand for 3D creative and gaming assets. We can expect to see virtual worlds with avatars interacting and speaking in any language wearing the latest virtual clothing and driving the coolest sports cars. These people will need experiences in their metaverse, so creativity will need to deliver. The beauty is, there are no rules as to what can be created, so I think many creative minds will finally be let loose (and challenged) to dream up the impossible. One of the most in-demand job titles in 2022 will be 'metaverse experience designer'.


Celebrating collabs 
Nathan Hau, group creative director, Dentsu International Hong Kong

The key trends for 2022 are collaboration and co-creation. We’ve seen it happen at the end of 2021 with brands like Nike and Roblox, Oreo and Pokémon, and even Ye aka Kanye West who let fans alter his Donda album. 

These partnerships will happen more often as we venture into a year of new hope and leap into the metaverse—marketing’s and entertainment’s new frontier. With so many multinational brands and IPs originating from this side of the globe, it is undeniable how virtual worlds, games, and NFTs will further play a huge role in everyone’s life. Especially for Generation Alpha, who were born with a mobile device in their hands. My 2-year-old, for example, intuitively skips YouTube ads the moment a bumper ad appears so she can catch her livestream—Paw Patrol is on a preroll!


Learning to live by 'unrules'
Rohit Ohri, chairman and CEO, FCB Group India

The pandemic has led us to a brand-new world that has caused us to question long-held beliefs on the customer journey and behaviour. In retrospect, the consumer journey has massively evolved. As a domino effect of the pandemic, marketers and advertisers have been forced to rethink their strategies to adapt in real-time. While ‘new normal’ has been the most used phrase in 2021, ironically, there is nothing normal about this new world. The rules have fundamentally changed. And now, to prepare for the future, we need to unlearn the past because the only thing that’s changed is everything.

Top 3 unrules that I feel with ‘rule’ 2022 are:

  • Consumer journey unrules: The conventional customer touchpoints have lost their relevance today. In the new world we need to understand the new unrules of consumer journeys and ensure that brand relevance is authentic but fluid on the path to purchase.
  • Data unrules: The cookieless world is our new reality. The advertising and marketing industry needs to understand and navigate the new-age consent-based advertising to engage effectively with the audiences while building a long-term relationship.
  • Success unrules: The new world no longer has a ready reckoner which answers everything instantaneously. We need to learn, grow, and evolve with one experience at a time. This ability will determine personal and professional success in the future.


Commerce...It's alive!
Krystle Morais, Associate Creative Director, VaynerMedia APAC

Accelerated by the pandemic, live commerce—a combination of live streaming and ecommerce—is increasingly becoming a huge space for brands. In 2022, this will only grow as more brands see the potential for creative storytelling focused around authenticity and consumers’ needs. In Asia especially, the rise of advanced e-commerce platforms provides brands with opportunities to engage followers live and tap into real and honest experiences—key factors in helping brands win hearts and drive sales. Brands who will win are those who design experiences their consumers want and need, tap into the platforms' interactive capabilities, and of course, collaborate with the right storytellers.


Echo the times
Nicole Ma, chief creative officer, BBDO China (Shanghai)

In my personal opinion, this year 2022, the trend for creativity would be finding the shining points that echo our time.

When the pandemic is still full of uncertainties, consumers are more cautious to make consumption decisions. At such a moment, in terms of branding and marketing, the communication of brands should deliver specific and concrete information and find the shining points that have many resonances for consumers and our time. 


Ditching the C-word
Scott Dungate, executive creative director, Wieden Kennedy Tokyo

A broad theme in the coming year may be an industry shift of thinking about our audiences less as ‘consumers’ and more as ‘communities’. Great brands have been doing this for years of course, but as media and business pivots more to membership, subscription and direct-to-consumer models, and embraces new technology like ‘the metaverse’, digital real estate, NFT’s and gaming, it will be even more essential to understand the values, language, and behaviour online and off, of your audience. We will all need to understand our audience as communities, that need to be fostered to thrive, not as consumers whose attention can be bought. Hopefully with some luck, we might also be able to ditch that horrible word ‘consumers’ from our lexicon in 2022. It’s well overdue.


APAC ascendant?
Sascha Kuntze, chief creative officer, BBH Singapore

I personally think that the time has come for APAC to influence the world culturally more. Creative agencies can play a pivotal role in that. You can already see how K-pop culture is influencing and inspiring Gen-Z behaviour around the globe and particularly on TikTok. I wonder when global CMOs will wake up and choose agencies from the part of the world that is always a little ahead (and I’m not just talking about time zones).



Campaign Asia

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