Jeseok Yi and His Advertising Philosophy

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Jeseok Yi and His Advertising Philosophy

History has shown that advertising has been a phenomenon that is vital for human societies. They say it is the most important art of the world. Billions are spent on it every year, regardless of its purpose. The evolution of this art has brought it to the point where it can change the minds of people perceiving it. Jeseok Yi understands it more than anyone else and uses the power of advertising to change the world. His unambiguous works have been recognized and accepted by professionals of the field and have proved to possess great impact on societies. In this paper, our objective was to study the works of Jeseok Yi and identify their role and place in the world of advertising.

The figure of Jeseok Yi has not been carefully studied so far. Therefore, this close look at his works will be one of the first studies of his creative work alongside with his personality and philosophy expressed by them. The information we rely upon is taken from his interviews to be as precise as possible. The methods used for this research have been determined by the goals we wanted to achieve: to study the background of Jeseok Yi, to learn about his worldview and to study his works.

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The young artist today is renowned for his social oriented advertising, which is edgy and appeals to every person. However, there was a long path he had to go through to achieve success. As a young boy Jeski was considered to be a ‘naughty kid’. This tendency was actual throughout all of his school life, with teachers beating him and alcohol addiction. The young man loved drawing and everything connected with fine arts, and to make it possible for him to go to college and study what he wanted, Jeski began to study. His diligence allowed him to enter Key-Myung University in 2005 (Biography).

Though he was the top student, he failed to win contests and this was a major frustration for him. A young creative man had to paint signboards for shops and diners, until he was eventually humiliated by one of his customers. Under these circumstances he managed to learn English enough to enter School of Visual Arts in New York, where he was underestimated again. After he received his first two gold medals at one contest, he began to promote himself and, finally, got an internship at BBDO. A series of high positions in various advertising agencies followed. However, Jeski was not satisfied with what was going on. His desire was to use his mastery as a tool that could change the world (The Saga).

Jeseok Yi believes that advertisement can be used not only to promote products for commercial purposes, but can also conduct important humanistic messages (Social Graphics). Advertisement is a powerful platform, and its possibilities are endless. Jeski realizes it and successfully uses it to refer to different social, political and cultural issues. He is recognized and renowned for his creative and understandable art, which is of high quality and integrity. Those who look at his ads cannot help contemplating over those messages, which Jeski brings.

Since money is not a priority for Jeseok, 70% of his clients are non-profit organizations, that have their own philosophy and morals that are of humanistic character (2011 NVAWinner). Yi has strong principals and he follows them, regardless of their profitability. In fact, his economic sufferings taught him that a person can survive, but this is not what he wants others to experience. That is why many of his campaigns are meant to aid the poor.

Work Analysis

The series of anti-war posters include four situations. The first represents a soldier with a sniper rifle. Since the poster is placed on a column, the beginning and the end of it come together. The long muzzle of the soldier’s rifle aims at himself, and the round surface gives this effect, expressed in the motto: “What goes around comes around”. The motto and the image suggest that the old saying ‘you will reap what you sew’ is true. The purpose of this advertisement is to convince the society that interfering in military conflicts will result in more deaths.

The second poster is a soldier throwing a grenade. On the column, it looks as if it goes right at the soldier. The same motto is written. Beneath there is a text, saying, “Stop the Iraq war”. Though the soldier is staying in a trench, it does not protect him from his grenade. The initiative is punishable, as one can understand. This message can be understood as a simple grenade can explode not only the enemies, but also the oppressors. War leaves only death after it. In this advertisement the statement is very strong, due to the tension created by the weapon, grenade in this case, which is about to explode.

Next is the tank with a couple of operators and, being on a round column, aiming at itself. Tank is a representation of a powerful and invincible machine that can tread in every possible area. America is a technological country that can boast of being powerful enough to subdue the weaker. The usage of technology to kill people is what Jeski speaks against. The war in Iraq would damage the image of the country and would lead to deaths of its own citizens. The advertisement clearly states that aggressive methods of resolving conflicts do not bring more peace, in fact, no peace at all.

The last poster that will be overlooked is the one with a jet plane flying in the blue sky. The bottom of the plane, where the bombs are located, is visible. The text “What goes around comes around” is placed at the beginning and the end of the poster, both parts of it on separate sides. The round surface gives this amazing effect, when the bombs are following the plane. This advertisement is very bright, because of its blue color. It catches the eye and definitely makes people think about the issue. This ad campaign is one of those that give stress and a feeling of anxiety, especially when people understand that the pilot is an American.

A big white billboard on a house has a picture of a gun on it, and the house’s smoker serves as a muzzle ejecting black smoke. The text says: “Air pollution kills 60,000 people a year”. A gun, which purpose is to kill, expresses the idea that air pollution is not just a bad thing by itself, but it is dangerous for real. The artist wanted to say that people actually die, because of the absence of fresh air, and the source of the problem is not only cars and factories, but simple houses as well.

A picture of an African boy caring a bucket is on a typical grey house, with a water container on its roof. It looks as if the boy is holding it with his hand and carries it on his head, as they normally carry things in Africa. The text says “There’s enough water in here to last an entire village for a whole year”. The boy is wearing red pants, his bucket is also red, and the organization that initiated this advertisement is the International Red Cross. Such color on a gray background catches the eyes of passer-bys. It makes people think how little others need, and how unwisely they use the available resources.

The next is the advertisement for IKEA. The words in the up say “Find the one that fits”. On the bottom there is real furniture affixed to the billboard. The concept is to mimic the famous tetris game (Advertising Genius). The red sofa in the middle is about to fit perfectly into the gap. Such bright advertisement wants to say that IKEA has a piece that will fit any room. I think the association that occurs when people look at it is strong enough to believe the advertisement.

The advertisement for IMAX 3D is one of the simplest, yet the most understandable and effective of all of Jeski’s works. Since the house is not wide, and the windows’ shape resembles the size of the paper glasses, Jeski decided to wear them on the house, as if it was a face. The windows are colored red and green – just like the real ones – and the customer will quickly understand what IMAX 3D is. Even the house watches 3D, so you, human, must do it without even thinking. Such personification – animating the inanimate objects – is an effective method of pulling one’s attention.

One of the most astonishing social ads was made for American Disability Association. The image of Mount Everest is printed on the steps, and it makes it look as if the mountain is real. The text below says, “For some it’s Mt. Everest”, and one step further is says “Help build more handicap facilities”. The message makes people realize what a struggle it is for people with disabilities to climb up the stairs, especially when they have no facilities. For people, who have never thought about it when they went up the stars, this message will be a revelation.

Another advertisement that stands out because of its location and form is the Oreo glass of milk on a panoramic elevator is a mall. It is found on glass surface of the elevator box, which make is look real, and the size of the glass is big enough to grab the attention. The most entertaining thing about this ad is that the Oreo cookie is on the elevator itself, so when it goes down to the first floor it makes it look as if the elevator dips the cookie into the milk. The message is clear – Oreo is the best compliment to the milk. The advertisement is placed from the side of the escalator, so people moving down will see it (Oreo: Elevator).

The advertisement for the Nature Conservancy is located on the sidewalk under the trash bins. The picture shows the jungles and a man, who is apparently an explorer, with binoculars. The bins are standing right where the binoculars are. The effect is achieved by the 3D. Below there is a text, saying, “Keep the environment clean”. People might think that they put trash right in the man’s eyes and everything he can see is no longer jungle, but litter. On the other hand, they may think that the man is watching them as they keep the streets clean. In any case, the advertisement makes people more environmentally friendly.

The next is the advertisement for Windex, a detergent for glass. The bust stop, which is mostly made of glass, or thick plastic, is transparent, and can show, how good Windex may be. The image through the glass on the bus stop is blurred, but where Windex sprays, it looks sharp. There is no text on the ad; in fact, nobody needs it. The message is as clear as the glass on the bus stop washed with Windex.

Continuing the bust stop theme, there is one more quality that glass possesses, but this time it is not transparency, but fragility. The ad for Doritos grabs attention, because one can think that the bus stop was vandalized at first. However, a closer look will convince a person that the glass broke, not because somebody did it, but because Doritos is so crunchy, that the poster crashed the bus stop. The pieces of poster are under the bus stop. Such visual effect achieves great psychological impact on the viewer. At first, he believes that things are not normal with the bus stop – it is broken. In some time, the viewer understands that the glass is broken because of Doritos’ crunchiness, and only in the end, the viewer realizes that it is an advertisement. The whole process can last a few seconds, but the psychological impact has its way. The text in black letters says “Intense crunch”. No doubt it is.

The statue of Admiral Yi-Sun-shin is the equivalent of the Eifel tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York, being the most famous tourist attraction. The condition of the statue was far from being good, so the reconstruction took place. However, there was a problem with the new view, which would be spoilt by bulky construction panels. The locals were surprised by the dressing room with Admiral’s clothes hanging on it. Such not conventional approach of government was even nominated for 2011 New York Festivals International Advertising Awards. The relocation campaign is one of the outstanding Jeski’s works.

A pack of candles for a birthday cake, or a pack of cigarettes with a birthday cake on the bottom, makes it look as if the cigarettes are stuck into the cake. The message states, “The more you smoke, the less you celebrate”. It is up to the smoker to decide whether he wants to have one more candle on his birthday cake or to smoke another cigarette.

The School of Visual Arts gives a series of social advertising that says, “Think”. This word is complimented by a wonderful idea of turning paper napkins, toilet paper and sugar packs into note sheets. The concept is to make people aware of the problem of culture that consumes more than produces. Trees are cut down to make notebooks and, which is worse, toilet paper. Every time a person uses this napkin, he thinks of the environment. The idea can be viewed from a different point. The napkin is lined, so it can be used for writing, so instead of throwing such paper into the bin, one could write on it his thoughts.

A bag with a container printed on it is the next social advertisement, the purpose of which it to aid the poor in Africa. Under the big yellow container, there is a text “While some moms drive miles away to find luxury items, some moms walk miles away to find drinking water”. The second part of the text is written in grey letters to make the difference even more dramatic. The advertisement says that rich people waste their money on things they do not vitally need. They pollute the air by driving to places where they can buy exclusive expensive items. People in Africa need to walk miles to find what they need to survive. The contrast is conducted by means of text color and the look of the container. Imagine a good-looking woman caring an old rusty water container. This is what Jeski wanted to achieve.

The Raid advertising is the one that impresses both the drivers and the pedestrians. The unusual view of a car being upside down on a parking lot is what definitely attracts people. The model of Volkswagen, which is used, has a remarkable nick-name – “bug”. Since Raid is the remedy for naughty bugs and insects, it can kill even the “bug”. In this advertisement, Jeseok uses a method when a notion from one concept transfers to a different one. For sure, it draws attention, it sticks in the minds of the viewers and gives desirable results. The stereotype that Raid is the best is in its strongest.

The Kleenex advertisement on the back doors of the van is almost 3D. It looks realistic and as if pops out of the image. The motto is “Let it out” which is also of the dualistic interpretation. Let it out of the van or let it out of the nose? The answer is “yes” for both. The feeling of relaxation, the desirable moment when your nasal cavity releases that tension that gathered in it. This is what customers desire, and Kleenex is always there to help. “Let it out”, it says, brining that sensation of easy breath. The van’s doors hold numerous packs of Kleenex napkins, and the driver will let them out to bring happiness to all the sneezers.

The next advertisement impresses by its creativeness. The dental care company gives the advertisement that will remind its customers of it even during the process of fixing their teeth. Jeseok Yi finds a perfect mix of two extraordinary ideas. He knows that when a customer sits in the armchair and has his teeth examined, he usually looks at the ceiling. In fact, most of the time he spends at the dentists’ he looks there. This ‘prime time’ can easily be used for advertising any product. There is one problem, however, that makes it difficult for the customer to have his eyes wide open – the bright light. It associates with something very clean, shiny and expensive, like a ‘million-dollar’ smile. Jeski puts the mouth on the lights and the blocks work as teeth. The effect of the perfect smile is achieved, and the light is not too bright, but enough to persuade a person that the company can provide him with it.

The last but one advertisement that we have studied is the one concerning the cultural issues. Jeski protests against contorted history that Japan promotes. A young man climbing either in the bushes or on the bus stop is like a ninja warrior, who is holding a black bag and has a flag of Japan covering his face. The text states “Stop Island theft. Japan attempts to steal Asia’s islands by distorting history”. The dispute around the island of Dokdo between Korea and Japan has lasted for a long period. Jeski, Korean by nationality, stands out to protect the island sovereignty from Japan by using his advertisement. It was located in several places in New York, but the removed, because it was installed illegally (Stop Island Theft!). The figure of the man is dynamic and looks alive, therefore the purpose of making people aware of the problem was achieved.

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The last advertisement discussed in this research is the one concerning disabled people. The poster is divided into two parts. The top part shows an old man sitting in a wheelchair, the lower part is the legs of probably another old man, but the legs and the upper body fit each other perfectly, so it is easy to imagine the man walking. “A new walk from your walk”, says the poster. It is the advertisement for a Walk Festival in Seoul. The participants had to pay a fee, which would be used to make artificial legs for landmine victims. The poster is a strong statement that is convincing and result-oriented. By working for such non-profit events, Jeseok Yi expresses his attitude towards social issues helping those who need it. Though this work is not commercial, he does his best.


The research has shown that the creative work of the outstanding artist Jeseok Yi is a subject for studying non-commercial advertisement, alongside with the conventional one. He has proven that it is possible to use visual arts not only to promote products and services, but also support organizations that have humanistic philosophy, environment-oriented and whose purpose is to make the world better. Jeseok Yi uses his mastery to appeal to the most acute problems that concern not only a country, but the whole world. The purposes of the research have been achieved. The results of the study can be used for further work on the subject of using visual arts for social purposes.