There are long-term partnerships, and then there’s a Samsung and Cheil long-term partnership. The two have worked together globally for 46 years, and for over 30 in the UK alone.
“In the US, you get a clap for that,” joked Cheil London’s Executive Creative Director Russ Schaller.
When looking at why it’s lasted so long, Russ pointed to Samsung’s origins, how the brand truly established itself in the 1950s when a newly divided Korea was one of the poorest nations in the world. Samsung originally specialised in food goods, before diversifying its offering into several lines of business. Because of this, it became a greater part of the fabric of Korea, and embodied ‘Tuhon’, the spirit or culture of the challenger.
It’s a culture Cheil uniquely has, because of where we’ve come from. [Samsung and Cheil] have grown up together.Russ Schaller, ECD (Cheil London)
And it’s this culture which Russ says Cheil has also come to embody: “It’s a culture Cheil uniquely has, because of where we’ve come from. [Samsung and Cheil] have grown up together.”
As one has grown, so too has the other. Many of the challenges faced by one, have also been faced by the other. But for all its rarity in today’s marketplace, a long-term relationship can also have its dangers. Especially when, as in Samsung and Cheil’s case, there’s also the consideration of part-ownership.
Sammy Russo is Head of Mobile Marketing for Samsung and joined the company in November 2017. She said that when she first started, the ownership aspect felt almost counterintuitive: “I was worried they wouldn’t challenge us
anymore; that they wouldn’t be hungry. But it’s been eye opening.”
Instead of Cheil resting on their laurels, for Sammy the longevity of the relationship and the proximity it’s brought with it, has meant the agency are willing to go the extra mile for their client.
We work at a high intensity with high standards, which doesn’t suit everyone… the tech industry is awesome but insane.Sammy Russo, Head of Mobile Marketing (Samsung)
Sammy continued by saying that “We work at a high intensity with high standards, which doesn’t suit everyone… the tech industry is awesome but insane. It often feels like the world is watching your next move as an innovation leader.”
This means the pressure on both is only exacerbated. But Russ sees the relationship as the reason qualities such as “honesty, perseverance, patience”, qualities that develop the longer a relationship goes on, are so essential.
We’ll have sticky situations. Who doesn’t? But how you handle those moments is by being honest and taking the time to re-evaluate and understand as a collective why we got there and how we pivot.Sammy Russo, Head of Mobile Marketing (Samsung)
“We’ll have sticky situations,” adds Sammy. “Who doesn’t? But how you handle those moments is by being honest and taking the time to re-evaluate and understand as a collective why we got there and how we pivot.”
Russ elaborated on this by saying how “being a decent human being in those tricky situations is how you get through those situations.” He added that’s only possible because of the openness such a long relationship has fostered. It’s not simply about the length of a relationship, but about how those years and the experiences therein, whether successes or failures, have future-proofed it.
When he first joined Cheil in 2016, Russ revealed that the length of the relationship wasn’t actually talked about that much. But rather it was the effect working with Samsung had on the agency. How that challenger attitude, keeping it fresh, keeping it original, is now regarded as a part of Cheil’s unique agency brand. And how it remains something Samsung continue to seek as a client.