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‘It is our responsibility to lend a voice’: SK-II on its new in-house film studio

SK-II launches studio

Brands are increasingly keen to tackle social issues and create ideas to be in touch with the communities they are present in. The Drum uncovers how SK-II is doing this with its new in-house film studio.

Luxury beauty brand SK-II has launched an in-house film studio as a way to better connect with its target audience through film.

The brand has already been responsible for campaigns that have been a success from both viewers and the industry’s perspective. In fact, the brand had already become known for its films, starting with ‘Marriage Market’, moving to ‘Expiry Date’, ‘Meet Me Halfway' and more recently the ‘Timeline’ series with Katie Couric.

The brand has now brought the creation of these films in-house into a business called SK-II Studio, a production unit that has its ‘change destiny’ brand mantra at its heart.

Sandeep Seth, chief executive officer at Global SK-II, tells The Drum, the decision to create a formal part of the business is that it recognised the impact the films made on its customers.

“SK-II is part of the communities it serves, and we represent what has happened in the communities as we talk to many of these women. And as we talk to them about their lives and the pressures they face, I think it is our responsibility as a brand to be able to lend our voice behind those pressures,” he explains.

Adding to this point, YoeGin Chang, senior brand director, SK-II Global, says it is a genesis of a long-term commitment from the brand to be embedded in the challenges its customers feel. Right before the brand launched its Marriage Market film, the brand stumbled across some insights that have driven this journey ever since.

We were talking to our consumers and we also realized that it’s not just skin that matters to her, there’s actually much more in their lives and what matters most to her actually is all the things all the choice all the decisions she’s making. Some of our consumers across the world were sometimes not so happy with the decisions that she just made. And we realise there are different social pressures that we call “box”," she explains.

"Different boxes that we put ourselves into. Sometimes spurred by society, unknowingly. Sometimes by someone very close to you, sometimes by yourself as well. And we realised, we want to talk about this. We want to share stories where women are not limited to those boxes and actually change their destiny and that’s how the Life pillar had come to life."

Now, with the launch of the studio, Chang says the brand wants the films to encourage positive behavioural change.

“I think that SK-II Studio will definitely tackle different challenges that our traditional marketing or brand-building had not done. We will be shedding lights on different social pressures that women faced today. We hope we will be triggering conversations to spark thoughts and lead to behavioural change and we want our women to consider the choices that they are making. As we always say, ‘Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice’. We want those deliberate efforts and changes to be made through this,” she adds.

From a practical point of view, with a commitment to producing more and more of these films that are integral to the brand’s purpose, the brand decided to bring this in-house. Seth says this means bringing some of the creative talent closer in-house, of which one of the next steps is “bringing in more creatives from the YouTube side like Melodee Morita and others who will be working as a part of a team”.

However, this does not mean the end of relationships with agencies. Seth explains that this is more to do with how these films have become the future of the brand, which requires it to function more centrally.

“For us, this is not either-or. Our agency partners are an integral part of the work that we are doing. But you know, as we look at #ChangeDestiny, it’s more than a campaign for us, it’s our brand’s purpose. It’s actually the purpose of each and every employee that works within SK-II,” he says.

“Now as we are getting much more deliberate about changing the destiny of life with the campaign, we felt the need to really make this the central focus of our brand-building team and creating SK-II Studio really formalizes this as a key part of our brand-building framework; something that we will commit resources to, both internally, and make it a key part of how we story-tell with our consumers, how we share human stories that can inspire women across Japan, across the entire world that we serve, and really takes it a step further beyond just being another commercial project where we are going to be partnering with agencies.,” he adds.

In terms of how the studio will function, while the global office in Singapore is the base and some talent will be specifically drafted in to work on the projects, Seth says it will be integrated into many parts of the business.

This is also the basis of what’s coming next for the studio as SK-II starts to build the studio by partnering with more creators.

“As we have established as SK-II Studio, it’s not just having full staff team in-house, we do collaborate with diverse partners. And it goes across even the first series of film that we are releasing, goes across the world-renown filmmakers, to animators, to musicians, to all sorts of diverse fields and experts that may not reside in-house and these partners that we bring have higher quality content to SK-II Studio and we will continue on this journey of finding the right partners outside as well as developing talents in house,” explains Chang.

Adding to this, Seth says the connection with the wide creative communities will be essential to its success.

“This is a social issue that we are tackling and the only way to know and create ideas is to be really in touch with the communities we are present in. So with all the partners that Yoegin talked about, both internally and externally, are in the interest to be in touch with the community we are serving. Keep our eyes and ears open. Listen to what’s happening, and sometimes when people don’t talk about it, you got to sense it. We have to feel the air and the smell of what is happening and then unearth those insights and those ideas that we can bring to life through different human stories,” he says.

There are already eight films in the pipeline for the studio and major partnerships with filmmakers.

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