BBDO’s Kevin Lynch on one year using Airbnb in Hong Kong

Kevin LynchAdvertising creative Kevin Lynch has just started a project called ‘Yearbnb’, where he’ll be spending a year in different parts of Hong Kong using holiday home rental service Airbnb.

In this interview, he talks to Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks about why he’s doing it, and what he’s learned so far.

You have likened your Yearbnb project to ‘method marketing’ on your blog, 15 Ideas; you say that creatives need to step outside their comfort zone to get inspired. What is the advantage of your method?

Discovery Bay

Discovery Bay: “It reminds me of a suburb in a Tim Burton movie”

Wait, you actually read my blog? Hah – that means it now has a total of three readers! Welcome to that very exclusive club. Actually, the project didn’t exist yet when that blog post was written. But I’m a proponent of diving into the deep end of life. Sure, it offers creative inspiration. More importantly, it gives you something to talk about at cocktail parties. Yearbnb [read the Yearbnb Tumbler feed here] is a great way to get to know the people, neighbourhoods, and culture of Hong Kong. But I’d want to learn about those things regardless of what I do for a living.

What gave the idea for yearbnb?

This past summer, I took a new job as ECD of BBDO South China, based in Hong Kong, but covering Guangzhou as well. However, my family is committed to spending the school year in Shanghai. So I knew I’d be spending a lot of time living out of a suitcase. Airbnb is popular in Hong Kong, so I thought staying in a different neighbourhood each time I was in town would provide a fast immersion here. Unfortunately, Airbnb is not popular in Guangzhou, so thus far, my local expertise there is limited to a comparison of hotel breakfast buffets.

What are some of the most inspiring things you’ve come across in Hong Kong since starting yearbnb? 

Yau Ma Tei fruit market

Yau Ma Tei fruit market

The diversity of Hong Kong is stunning. I’ve stayed in 17 neighbourhoods so far, and each has been unique. As for favourite places, I love the fruit market in Yau Ma Te. It gets going around midnight, and stays hopping until dawn with people working each other over for the best produce and best prices. For me, it encapsulates the energy and competition of Hong Kong.

How do you feel these incidences can be applied to the real world of advertising?

One of the wonderful things about this business is, everything we experience can be applied to advertising. Maybe not directly, and maybe not immediately, but everything. So far, the yearbnb project has had an impact often – from the practical (being familiar with potential media locations around the MTR) to the emotional (speaking with people at local dim sum places to make sure our work plays off the local vibe).

On the evidence of what you’ve seen of Hong Kong so far, and that evidence alone, you are handed a brief to advertise Hong Kong to the world. Without thinking about it too much, how would you answer that brief?

Asia's World CityI really appreciate the bigness of Hong Kong’s tagline, “Asia’s World City.” But the more time I spend here and elsewhere in Asia, the less true it seems. Hong Kong doesn’t represent Asia, or anywhere else for that matter. And that’s how I’d sell it. From the surroundings (a pulsating, 24-hour city pace just a cab ride away from 100km long hiking trails) to the changing cultural climate, Hong Kong really is a once-a-planet kind of place.

What plans do you have for your next creative mission?

There’s much to accomplish in the day job, obviously. But like a lot of people in our business, I suffer from undiagnosed ADD, so I always like to have a few projects going. As for what’s next, I have no idea. And really, that’s half the fun of life.

Kevin Lynch is the executive creative director at BBDO South China


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