CANNES – It has long been the goal of people to rise above boredom and for people in the entertainment and advertising industries to do so by battling boredom. In this particular talk by Cheil Worldwide and CJ Entertainment & Media, a quartet of speakers from South Korea presented their cases for boredom actually not being such a bad thing.
Yungsuk Nah, TV producer and director for CJ E&M, spoke first and presented his pretty impressive resume in television. Nah is the man behind four groundbreaking TV shows in Korea, namely 2 Days and 1 Night, Grandpas Over Flowers, Three Meals a Day, and Youn’s Kitchen.
Though the first two shows revolve around travelling, Nah started thinking about what he could do that was different from the usual television fare. He contemplated just doing nothing because he just wanted to eat and play. Many people wanted to go to the countryside like Nah, but most don’t actually go.
He then came upon the magazine Kinfolk, which he initially found to be too pretty to be real. One of his staff argued however, that though it may be fake, she still loved it. Nah hypothesized that although people like nature, they don’t want to move and be part of nature. He figured out that people only want to experience nature sometimes.
Instead of forced competition shows that were prevalent on Korean TV, he wanted to make a TV show about doing nothing. He wanted to make a variety show about eating, playing, and sleeping. Three Meals a Day is about two city men in a small country village. They grow organic food and prepare three meals a day. That’s it.
Although it looks like a real documentary, everything happens according to the scenario. No real life issues, only worry-free scenes. Nah’s intention was to show fantasy, not reality because Korean viewers don’t want unrealistic fantasy, they want realistic fantasy. They want fantasy that is just one step away, in their reach and accessible to everybody. He calls this, “affordable fantasy.”
Even though I’m not rich, I can afford to do this. This is the power of affordable fantasy that was also the thinking behind Youn’s Kitchen, a show about opening a Korean restaurant on a small island near Bali, Indonesia.
Nah then introduced the common thread among all his shows, someone he described as akin to junkfood because viewers couldn’t get enough of watching him, Seojin Lee, an actor for Hook Entertainment. Lee explained the contrast between variety shows (that brought happiness by making people laugh and have fun through exaggerations) and what he was actually good at. Lee saw that what the audience wanted wasn’t harmony when watching TV, but actually, they wanted cacophony. Lee brought cacophony in the situations he was put in because he constantly complained, he never overreacted, and he said whatever he wanted, which just happened to be unique.
They were then followed by Tschaik Lee, Executive Vice-President for CJ E&M. Lee said that in his position, there is a need to find the sweet spot between fun and meaning. He also enumerated three meaningful changes brought on by the phenomenon that was Three Meals a Day. First is Meaning of Labor. Lee noted that for viewers, labor for myself may be difficult, but in the end, it makes me happy, and this was shown when the men on the show would work hard to prepare food for themselves. Second is Meaning of Time. True value of time can only be felt when you stop in time, as was the case when the actors were only tasked with trying to find the ingredients to prepare their three meals. Third is Meaning of Life. The moment the goal of life becomes simply eating three meals a day, audiences then discover a whole new meaning of life through the eyes of the actors.
This then led to Wain Choi, Chief Creative Officer of Cheil Worldwide, to wrap everything up. Wain pointed out that enjoying boredom may not be easy, but it may be the easiest thing in the world to do. Why? Because all it takes is turning your head. We need to stop looking forward, we need to start looking back and side by side. This is not an easy thing to do.
Most of the time, we ignore things around us, however, the mundane and boring things in our lives may have the practical solutions that we are looking for. Citing the example of bubble wrap, Wain noted that people use it to wrap the most fragile things and when they are done moving the items, the bubble wrap is often popped or just cast aside. However, Koreans began reusing bubble wrap to warm their homes during winter. And that’s when Cheil created the Heat Tech campaign for Uniqlo.
Wain concluded the talk by saying that one of the important keys to happiness is finding the little things in our lives. We often don’t look but they may be staring right at us.