David Kim: from advertising to music videos

Photo Credit: David Kim
Photo Credit: Diwang Valdez

College students constantly wonder about the future; they have goals, hopes and dreams, but they often have no idea how to reach for those things. David Kim, Founder and Executive Producer of the production company tre native, travelled an unconventional path to get to his current position.

Kim started his career in advertising after graduating form Indiana University with a BA in advertising and a business minor in marketing. He dove right into the industry and landed a job in New York City.

“The agency world allowed me to learn how to see trends from a high level; it taught me how to run a business and how to manage big budgets,” says Kim. “Understanding dollars and deadlines in essential.”

Kim graduated in 1999, making the time he entered advertising a pivotal turning point in the industry.

“From 2000-2007 there was a huge transition to digital marketing, and I wanted to learn more about the opportunities online through social networking,” says Kim.

This shift opened huge doors for the industry and for Kim. The market’s transition to the Internet left a huge need for content.

“When I moved to Atlanta and began working at J. Walter Thompson, I started a content group, and that’s when I realized that there is a whole world of production out there. That’s where I got to see big commercials being shot, and I was exposed to a lot of the behind-the-scenes work,” says Kim.

Content production inspired him to begin the transition into the music industry. Working in advertising taught him many of the skills he needed to pursue his passions.

“If there’s one thing I learned in advertising, it’s that content is king,” says Kim. “Written content, photography, videography, just content in general.”

So when he decided to really delve into the production business, focusing on hip-hop came natural to him. tre native has produced music videos for a number of hip-hop artist including Trey Songz, Gym Class Heroes and Rick Ross. Kim has been a producer and executive producer on projects with major record labels like Def Jam Records and Atlantic Records, while also maintaining commercial clients such as PUMA.

“I grew up listening to hip-hop; I’ve always felt a connection to it—I understood the culture,” says Kim. “When I decided to make a transition into the music industry, I started out managing an artist, and representing photographers and directors, and that’s when my partner and I launched the company in 2012.”

Since the company’s debut into the production scene, tre nation has grown tremendously.

“We started the company with a hundred buck in our business account,” says Kim. “Now three years later the progress has been amazing, and we’re even moving into a new office.”

When Kim walked across the stage with his college degree, he had big dreams for his future, but he could not have known every step of the path that got him there. He graduated with a degree in advertising and ended up producing music videos. This experience gave Kim a unique perspective on college.

“College is where you learn how to learn; it teaches you how to engage with other people and really helps you find yourself,” says Kim.

Throughout his career, Kim constantly sought out opportunities to learn new things. He took what the advertising industry taught him and applied it to his passion—ultimately leading him to where he is at now.

“We’re an nontraditional company with a nontraditional path,” says Kim.

There is no single answer on how to live out your dreams, and his career path is exemplary of that. Kim will be a panelist at UWG’s Media Day on March 4.

“I think there’s here that we can share with everybody,” says Kim. “It’s all about inspiring students and helping them understand that what they’re doing has a purpose.”



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