Event Recap: CATFOA Part 2 with Sung Chang

Advertising is not about formality for Sung Chang. Instead, it’s about focus.

Chang, with degrees in architecture of all things given his career path, believes in building simplicity into his team’s formula for success. Simplicity from an organizational structure standpoint. Simplicity from a creative point of view.

The Chief Creative Officer of MRM//McCann U.S. East joined MIMA on July 18 at Inbound BrewCo for the 27th rendition of CATFOA (Conversations About the Future of Advertising), now in its 10th year. Hosted by former MIMA President and CATFOA founder, Tim Brunelle, CATFOA seeks to improve the quality of interactive marketing and advertising developed in the Twin Cities through enlightening interviews and their resulting conversation. Below is a recap of the conversation between Tim and Sung.

The organization and the team

First, on organizational structure, Sung talked about his push for removing all titles from the creative team. While recognizing that status quo essentially demands titles be part of our work culture (after all, people do seek out that next “role” in the job marketplace and compensation based on certain “levels” of service), Sung championed everyone to simply be “creatives.”

While that never became a full reality, it gives you a sense of the culture Sung is curating at MRM//McCann. A culture focused more on clients and ideas, and less on getting distracted by whether a certain project calls for an art director or a designer.

Titles aside, the way the creative team does its business is effectively democratic. Instead of one or two senior-level team members owning client communication, Sung’s team members at all levels are expected to build client relationships. He recalled one client who texted a creative not accustomed to direct client interaction. The creative was apprehensive, but not Sung.

“If anyone can make that connection and they are part of your team and part of your agency, that’s a win,” he says. “You have to trust people.”

The creative brief

From a creative simplicity standpoint, it’s all about the brief. His creative team has landed on a tried-and-true brief that focuses on five questions, which he couldn’t divulge. But that simple, streamlined approach creates a clear connection from strategy to creative.

“When I see work that’s bad, I blame the brief,” he says. “First thing we’ll do is question the brief and see if it’s right.”

Focusing on what matters most

He also keeps his team focused on what matters, and that’s not chasing awards. He feels, refreshingly, that awards recognize the courage of brands more than the creative work of agencies.

“The role of creative and the role of every person is how to nurture a relationship,” Sung said. “Part of that relationship with people is not the brand you work on but the type of people you work with.”

For Sung, it’s a simple approach to advertising today. Focus on clients. Focus on ideas. Don’t fret about things like titles and complicated briefs. With that, good things are born.

As a creative who studied to be an architect knows: “As an agency, we have permission to build something.”

Summer of CATFOA continues with Part 3 of 3 on Thursday, August 16 with Jen Faucon, Chief Customer Success Officer at Codelattice. Save your spot to that enlightening conversation by registering now.

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Written by MIMA Marketing Committee volunteer Chris Matt

Gina Micek


Integrated marketing strategist, writer, storyteller and adventurer. I am a builder with skills in relationship building and telling compelling stories that drive connections.