Samsung’s Creative Chief Explains Why VR Is the ‘Next Frontier of Storytelling’

And how to advertise it

From opening a cool experiential space in New York's trendy Meatpacking District to bringing virtual reality to the masses, Samsung is determined to connect consumers to the latest technology. As the electronics maker's chief creative officer, Jesse Coulter oversees marketing strategy and ad campaigns in North America. Here, he talks with Adweek about his first year on the job, the difference in working on the agency and brand sides, and why Samsung is betting big on VR.

Adweek: You've been at Samsung a little less than a year. What is your role there and what have you accomplished so far?
Jesse Coulter: Samsung is at the heart of nearly every experience where people connect with technology, and I get to help tell the brand's story—not only all the great and cool features the products and services have but also how the products connect deeply and emotionally into people's everyday lives.

Much of Samsung's recent work has focused on virtual reality. How do you market something like Gear VR that consumers may know nothing about?
We believe that virtual reality represents the next frontier of storytelling. Our technology is a catalyst to spark inspiration with this new medium, but we have an important role to play in developing the content, too. We're spearheading collaborations with some of the best filmmakers and studios in the business—Skybound Entertainment, the NBA, 20th Century Fox, Vrse, Vice, The Wall Street Journal, Funny or Die and Sundance—to give consumers fun, interactive experiences through VR. Ultimately, we want to not only tell and show people what it is but why it matters. Our goal is to democratize VR. We want everyone creating and pushing this medium forward.

Samsung opened its Marketing Center of Excellence in New York's Meatpacking District last year. What's the purpose of that space?
We actually just officially opened Samsung 837, a cultural destination and digital playground, and our Marketing Center of Excellence. It's a physical manifestation of the Samsung brand: the intersection of humanity, technology and culture that underscores how Samsung's full portfolio of signature services and technology, ranging from mobile devices to home appliances, can make your life more awesome.

You are the chair of the 2016 Clio Awards' new Brand Jury evaluating submissions in the Innovation & Integrated Campaign mediums. What will you be looking for?
What excites me is how brands are pushing the boundaries in how and where they tell their story—everyone needs a new playbook. It's an exciting time to embrace change, not fight it. Those who do will be rewarded. Innovation comes from the ability to have the courage and commitment to explore new ways to tell your story.

What are you working on now?
We just recently launched our latest smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. We're really focused on the question "Why?"—"Why can't your phone be slim, sleek and beautiful with a large, immersive camera that works even in low light, a more powerful, longer-lasting battery, expandable memory and still work after you accidentally drop it in water?" We want to position our products as something that solves our collective problems without taking ourselves too seriously.

Your work for Chipotle at CAA Marketing a couple of years ago was lauded because the branding was minimal. Are you taking the same approach with Samsung?
It's always about finding the right balance. Too much branding disrespects the audience; too little disrespects the brand. What's great about Samsung at this stage is that brand awareness is high. We don't need more sponsorship; we just need to tell our story.

What's been the biggest difference in working on the agency and brand sides?
I think my time at CAA and Wieden + Kennedy prepared me for the client side by teaching me about the business of creativity. That being said, it has been an adjustment, but in a great way. You're closer to the business and you have a macro view of it. It's definitely more responsibility, but I love the big picture. I've always cared about the business and the cultural impact of great work, so now I love working with our partners to create impactful work.

This story first appeared in the April 4 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.