Jooho Kim | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Jooho Kim

KPR & Associates


With the importance of collaboration increasing as we move into the digital age, wisdom is needed to utilize a variety of tools with a PR perspective.”

As the president of one of Korea’s longest-running and largest PR firms, Jooho Kim has overseen a radical repositioning of the firm’s operations in recent years — ushering in an approach that has seen KPR & Associates transformed into a leading digital and mobile marketing consultancy. Kim has led the firm since 2019, after previously working as a top PR executive at Cheil Worldwide, and also serving as EVP of the 2018 PyongChang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is an attitude that listens to and embraces the thoughts of consumers but is not afraid of trying new things.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
A pop-up exhibition hosted by global healthcare company Sanofi was held at Cafe Scone in Yeonnam-dong, Seoul to commemorate Atopic Dermatitis Day. The exhibition unveiled generative AI drawings created by five patients with severe atopic dermatitis under the theme ‘My Flaw: Home’. The works that projected cross-sections of the lives of people who have suffered from atopic dermatitis all their lives contain not only their dark inner self but also endless hope for a cure.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
I think Hyundai Motors Company is carrying out the most innovative PR and marketing activities. Hyundai is taking an active response to climate change by switching to electric vehicles through its carbon neutrality declaration. In particular, it has been carrying out ESG campaigns based on technology, such as developing the I-care car, an autism counseling vehicle, and launching the Heals on Wheels campaign, developing and donating a hydrogen electric truck, and launching Going Home, a hometown visit VR program for separated families

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
At the time of Expo 2012 Yeosu, Korea, I was in charge of planning the Samsung Pavilion while working at the agency Cheil. After several committee meetings, we came to the conclusion that the Samsung Pavilion should be turned into a play space. Instead of displaying Samsung's products, a performance of sailing into the future was staged using acrobats, dance teams, and lighting. The shape of the Samsung Pavilion was also inspired by the shape of a ship. In that an expo is a place where people of various ages come with a light heart, it provided entertainment based on the concept of riding a ship of the future

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
In 2021, KPR planned and implemented the Kia VR Driving Center amid COVID-19. Even though consumers were reluctant to make contact due to the coronavirus but wanted to take a test drive, there were no cars available during the new car reservation period. However, they could test drive a car in advance through VR during this period to learn the functions and try virtual driving. Of course, this was based on close consultation with the client. I respect the employees of KPR’s digital team who were in charge of this project.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I have traveled abroad a lot, but I also travel domestically a lot. Every time I discover something new, I take a lot of photos. Seeing something new, whether it's a movie, a book, a street event, or a store display, is a way to break the routine.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Traditional PR industry practitioners tend to be obsessed with the independent functions of PR, such as responding to legacy media or focusing on image enhancement. There is a need to look at PR from a broader perspective. With the importance of collaboration increasing as we move into the digital age, wisdom is needed to utilize a variety of tools with a PR perspective.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I may have been a reporter. I liked writing in school and once won a prize in a university essay contest. However, the functions of the media and PR are complementary and similar in that they create an agenda and try to change the world for the better.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I can't say that Gangnam Style's PSY is my favorite musician, but I saw a change in global PR as I watched him enjoy sensational popularity through YouTube with Gangnam Style, appear on famous broadcasting stations in the U.S. and Europe, and meet international stars. This starting point became a model for today’s Korean idols such as BTS and Blackpink to enter the global market.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The importance of ESG is growing. As interest in the environment, social, and governance grows, and ESG, a non-financial evaluation indicator as well as financial performance, becomes important. Companies will strive to be more faithful to their substance. This will accelerate the company's ability to respond to various issues such as the environment to respond to climate change, employee relations, social inequality, and racial discrimination, and to increase transparency in corporate governance. This is a desirable phenomenon in that it operates the organization soundly, which is the essence of PR, and approaches society from a two-way communication perspective. In other words, strengthening ESG will increase PR leverage