“Get into adver-sing, design, or any other kind of commercial art business only if it’s the only thing you want to do with your life. You know, there are easier ways of making money. Making ads, especially good ones, is very hard work. It’s stressful. It’s a soul and ego destroying ac-vity. On one hand you’re an ar-st. You’re sensi-ve. Well, at least you’re supposed to be. If you care about your work, you pour your life into it. Each piece of work that you create is a reﬂec-on of you, your tastes, your life experience. So its does your ego and conﬁdence a lot of damage when ﬁrst your crea-ve partner, then your crea-ve director, then the planner, the account director and ﬁnally the client tells you that it sucks. And this happens on a daily basis.
And then you have to pick yourself up, pretend nothing happened and go back to the drawing board and give it your very best shot all over again. So it’s hard work. But every once every while, your stars will align. You will get the perfect brief. You will crack the perfect idea, your crea-ve partner will craJ it to perfec-on, the client will buy it, there will be enough money to do the idea up well, and it will win awards and sell products. And when that happens it’s magic. It makes all the pain worthwhile. Ask yourself if this is what you want to do? Does this get you out of bed every morning? If you follow your heart and love what you do, success will follow.”
“At 26, I started out as a copy trainee with a small agency in south India for the princely sum of 800 rupees, which is exactly 48.67 Singapore dollars. But I didn’t really care, because I was doing what I loved. I was consumed. I used to work 18, 19 hours a day. Things that nobody else wanted to do, I'd do with pleasure. With a lot of luck, aJer 6 years I ended up as an associate crea-ve director at Ogilvy in India. I was having a good -me. I had a fancy -tle. I was making fairly decent money. But I realised there was something missing. My ads were looking like shit. In the late 90s, I was seeing all this amazing work coming out of Singapore. Exquisitely craJed work with razor-‐sharp focus on the message. Work created by people like Pann and Thomas yang and Maurice Wee. So one Friday, I quit, paid for my no-ce period myself and came to Singapore with a 10-‐day visa.
This was in 2001, not many Singaporean crea-ve directors were on email and all that jazz. So I started cold-‐calling agencies with not much success. I eventually got through to Norman Tan, the execu-ve crea-ve director (ECD) of JWT Singapore, he was looking for writers and he oﬀered me a writer’s posi-on. I told him, I'll take it. We didn’t even discuss money. When he ﬁnally got back to me about the money, it was almost half of what I was making in India. But I took the job. The ﬁrst year was really tough. Yet I was working with some of the best art directors in the world. That to me, was enough. My work was gedng beeer. I was learning a lot. I was gedng good stuﬀ into my book. And soon enough, because I was working with really good people my work started winning awards. And within a year, I started gedng fair compensa-on for my eﬀorts.”
“I’ve seen many rising stars whom I thought would change the face of adver-sing, yet aJer a couple of years they sort of vanish down the black hole of adver-sing. These are people who buy into the adver-sing lifestyle. A liele success and they acquire the trappings of the adver-sing life. They start to live their lives like they were in an episode of mad men. But I've also seen a lot of solid people with half the talent but double the hunger and passion for their work. When I ﬁrst came to Singapore I heard a lot of stories about David Droga who now runs his own set up called Droga5, easily one of the best agencies in the world.
David Droga, applied a disciplined approach in coming up with ideas using the 60 boxes rule. His ra-onale was that if you had ﬁlled up the sheet with 60 ideas, at least one of them won’t suck so much. And I know that some of the most successful people in adver-sing do that. I remember when Thomas and I were working together at JWT, we were doing a campaign for Listerine and we did these three ads, and I was ready to go home. But Thomas Yang said we must do at least six. At that -me I was like are you fucking crazy? But in hindsight 6 ads gave the campaign a lot of body and it ended up winning best of show at the Singapore Crea-ve Circle Awards. Keep referring back to the brief, don’t strive for perfec-on. The brain is a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets. Discipline and consistency is key.”
“If there’s no life outside adver-sing, there will be no life in your adver-sing. You must have a rich and varied life if your work is to be rich and varied. At DDB, we’ve set up something called degree. Degree is an online shop that allows our people to create ideas and products that have nothing to do with their daily work. But aJer that you must do one very important thing.”
“Have a place to record all these interes-ng things that life throws at you. Most crea-ve people I know have a place to store all these memories. Keep a notebook. There’s only so much your brain can store. Collect quotes and stuﬀ that inspires you. Draw random stuﬀ.”
“And ﬁnally, don’t be a jerk. No maeer how successful you are, know that rela-onships, friendships are the most important things in life. You get into an agency, you do a great campaign, you win some awards, you get a raise and a fancy -tle and then something strange happens. You stop gree-ng the taxi driver, you become nasty to the servicing people, you screw over your partners, you start calling the clients dumb. You go from a young, talented, hungry, nice kid to a prima donna that nobody wants to work with. So pick a great agency, work your ass oﬀ, be nice to people, try to stay happy and everything else will follow.”