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Marketing in the modern world

Jason Yim's company Trigger designs websites and games to promote big Hollywood movies, tying into Facebook and MySpace and opening a Shanghai office along the way.

July 12, 2009|Richard Verrier

The gig: Founder and executive creative director of Trigger, a digital marketing agency that designs websites and games to market big Hollywood movies on the Internet and through mobile phones and other devices. The Los Angeles company employs 60 developers and 3-D artists, including 40 who work at a studio in Shanghai. The company's clients include Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Co., Cartoon Network and Paramount Pictures.

Background: Yim was born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, where his father was a chief architect for the government and his mother taught interior design. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in graphic design in 1995, Yim launched a website-design company with college buddies. One of his first customers was Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, who tapped him to run another marketing business, Media Revolution.

Yim, now 36, left to form Trigger in 2005. He started the company out of his condo in Santa Monica, relying on his own savings, word of mouth and past clients to get started. Today Trigger generates about $5 million a year.

The goal: To establish a global marketing agency for the digital era. "You have this global consumer who is on so many different devices and is so hungry for media of all types. Now it's up to agencies like ours to catch up."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 12, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 0 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
"How I Made It" column: In today's Business section, entrepreneur Jason Yim is once mistakenly referred to as Yang.

The strategy: Yim uses the appeal of video games to market movies across all new media -- websites, social networks and mobile devices. "I felt I could create a better film marketing campaign by focusing on gaming as one of the core capabilities." Trigger recently created, for example, an interactive graphic novel for the Sony Pictures film "The Taking of Pelham 123" in which players assume the role of a SWAT team member or subway car hijacker. For the movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," Trigger developed an online game that allows players to compete as Wolverine in various battle settings, and challenge their friends to engage in combat through social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The biggest challenge: "Opening our studio in China. That was a big risk. The paperwork side was surprisingly easy. But with so much ocean between you, communication breaks down. . . . My Mandarin is embarrassingly bad."

Big break: Creating a fan site for the 2002 blockbuster film "Spider-Man." Translated into 10 languages, the website featured blogs on the making of the film and allowed fans to submit their own artwork. Sony then hired Yim and his team to work on websites for the next two "Spider-Man" movies, developing a track record that enabled him to establish Trigger. "That put us on the map," Yim said.

Thinking globally: To compete with bigger ad agencies, Yang opened a studio in Shanghai in 2006, where the cost of production is about one-fifth what it is in Los Angeles. Another advantage: getting a foothold into the burgeoning Asian market and landing business that has helped offset a slowdown in the United States.

One of Trigger's main customers is Nike, which has its Asian headquarters in China. Trigger is designing a multiplayer interactive soccer game for Cartoon Network in Hong Kong. "They're hiring us because of our U.S. experience," Yim said. "At the same time they also want some local flavor and exposure."

Trigger's Shanghai workforce includes workers not only from China but also France, Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. "We're exporting U.S. talent and Hollywood creative to the rest of the world. At the same time, we're importing knowledge and skill sets from international locations."

Giving back: Working with Care and other nonprofits, Trigger contributes resources each year to fund schools, healthcare programs and other philanthropic projects in such countries as Kenya, Mali and Cambodia. The program, dubbed Trigger Change, is an attempt "in our own small way, to do some good for the less fortunate."


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