Hot Series: Young talents in advertising

5 of Singapore’s hottest rising advertising talents, who have been nominated for the Institute of Singapore (IAS)'s Hall of Fame Young Talent Awards, offer an inside look into their day-to-day lives

Hot Series: Advertising’s hottest under 30
Hot Series: Advertising’s hottest under 30
03 Nov 2016

Hot Series: Advertising’s hottest under 30

It is no secret that people in advertising can often be found in the office after the rest of their peers have gone to bed. While most twentysomethings would balk at the idea of slaving away at campaigns on a Friday night, the industry’s hottest young talents relish the challenge. And their efforts have paid off: in addition to seeing their work on television, in print, and on the bus, a small group of young adults have been nominated for Hall of Fame Awards 2016’s Young Talent titles, which celebrate their ability to rally teams, reach new audiences, and bring fresh ideas to life.

Despite all the coverage advertising gets in popular culture, though, the actual day-to-day experiences – let alone the path to success -- for real-life “Mad Men” can feel rather nebulous to those of us unfamiliar with the industry. Obviously, we had to sit down with the finalists, who are all under 30, to find out what their jobs entail. While the five that we met all have unique stories, their unquenchable passion makes us believe that the long hours are actually worth it.

The Institute of Advertising Singapore (IAS) Hall of Fame 2016 Awards will take place on 23 November 2016

Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom
Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom
03 Nov 2016

Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom

Finalist for: Young Talent Of The Year (Media)
Age: 22

Cherie, who has worked as an integrated planner at Starcom for over two years, is always up for a challenge, be it meeting a client’s expectations, or juggling work and part time studies (she is currently pursuing a degree in Marketing and Brand Communications).

How did you end up in this industry?
I studied hotel and leisure facilities when I was in polytechnic, so it was completely different from what I am doing now. It was a part time job – managing part-time reports for a luxury account –  that got me into this whole industry. Once my internship ended, I started full time work in media.

Describe your day-to-day life
I do a lot of things day to day, and it’s a lot of liaising work and planning. Internally, I liaise with the execs, I work with the interns that we have, I talk to my bosses. Externally, I liaise day to day with clients as well and also with media owners. I reach out to them for proposals and I do integrated plans for them. Accounts wise, I’m quite independent, I guess my manager trusts me enough to handle it on my own. 

What are the most challenging parts of the job?
You don’t always know what your client wants next, and you can get requests where you wouldn’t know what to do. For example, one client asked us to do video production. It was out of my scope but interesting because we got exposed to different media touchpoints. For that video production, it supplemented our existing campaign, and at the end of the day, we just want to deliver what the clients think is best. 

Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom
Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom
03 Nov 2016

Cherie Tang, Planner at Starcom

What are some of the most gratifying parts of your job? What makes the intensity worth it?
We spend a lot of long hours just brainstorming for the client, hoping to share something they really like. One time, I had a campaign for a really cool digital execution. My client was not very digitally savvy but we managed to sell the idea because he really, really liked it. After all the hard work, when they come forward and say thank you for the idea, I really like it, is what makes you feel accomplished.

Let’s talk personal lives. What should people be prepared for if they’re dating someone in advertising?
For me, if I’m out with my friends, I always keep a lookout for ads in the surroundings, and I’ll point out the interesting and exciting executions to my friends and they are just like uh, ok. Those of us in advertising are more aware of these things in our surroundings but it doesn’t affect others. But I’ll always try to sneak it in conversation so they get exposure as well!

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated for Young Talent Of The Year?
I felt happy and appreciated! Fifty percent surprised.

How will you celebrate if you win?
I guess I’ll bring my team out for a meal!

Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA
Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA
03 Nov 2016

Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA

Finalist for: Young Talent Of The Year (Account Service)
Age: 28

Andrew, who goes by Andy, moved to Singapore from the UK in 2014 after his girlfriend got a job here. Despite beginning his career on the client side, Andy landed a job as a Senior Account Executive in TBWA and hasn’t looked back.

How do you feel about being nominated for this award?
It’s my first time being nominated for an award. I found out about an hour ago (laughs). It’s a great compliment, and I’ve been in the industry for two years, so I guess I’m doing something right.

How did you know advertising was right for you?
On my first day, I felt like this was the right thing for me. It wasn’t like in previous jobs where for the first couple of days, you’re like ugh, I’m not sure. What’s very strange for me is that I’ve never woken up before and thought, I don’t want to go to work today. Sometimes I’d rather stay in bed, but I’ve never really thought I can’t go in today, I can’t handle it today. It’s just been a lot of fun. I worked in marketing before but advertising is very different and I much prefer advertising. The tasks you are doing can be different every day, the people you interact with are different every day.

What was that initial transition like?
I actually came here just as they were a month or so into a huge brand campaign for Standard Chartered. Part of the reason they brought me in was because they needed extra hands on the account for that big project. There was a lot to learn, in terms of the technical side of it, processes, how long things take, and industry terminology. I was put on straight away and I had a lot of trust put in me by my bosses. I organised a photoshoot in Dubai, and I had never done anything like that. That campaign also included three films shot in Shanghai released across 27 countries, and all the work was done essentially here. Now it seems like a more straightforward task, though I can’t say it is ever straightforward. 

Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA
Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA
03 Nov 2016

Andrew Norris, Account Manager, TBWA

Describe what you do so that the average person could understand it
We’re the front of house of the agency. We’re the link between the clients and the creatives. We make sure the creatives can stick to what they want to do, that we can manage the account, and that we can work with the clients. For me, I’m a good people person, which I think is a really important part of your job. I need to not only get on well with clients, but I need to work well with clients. You have to ask a lot of favours from people here – if a brief comes in, if something goes wrong, you can ruin people’s days quite easily, so you have to have that good personal relationship with people as well.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s new in the industry?
Be committed but also see things through because there’s a lot to do. You’ll start from the bottom but you need to be patient and give yourself the time to progress. It’s not a six month thing. My boss at the time told me that she'd observed me listening in on my team’s conversations when they were talking about work. If they were discussing the process, I would listen in just to see, and use every opportunity that comes to learn. In two years’ time, I’ll be doing things that I’ve never done before. New technology is coming in, VR is a big thing at the moment. There is always something to learn.

What do you do for fun outside of work?
I play rugby at BUCKS Rugby club. I find Singapore is a really sociable place. There’s always something going on, there’s always people to see. I love living in Singapore – my plan was to stay for two years, I’ve been here two and a half years. It’s a great place to be, it’s a very hot place to be. What comforts me is that not even the Singaporeans can handle the heat, so it’s not just me. 

Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group
Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group
03 Nov 2016

Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group

Age: 25
Finalist for: Young Talent Of The Year (Account Service)

Yi Wen, who has worked in advertising for almost three years, started her career in a small boutique firm. Craving something bigger and more exciting, she moved on to DDB, where she enjoys meeting new people, liaising between clients and the creative team, and managing the business’ social media portfolio.

How does working at a huge firm like DDB compare to working at a smaller agency?
At the smaller agency we took on a lot of things on our own. There’s a different partner for everyone, everyone has different job scopes, but sometimes you need to double up to monitor traffic or to act as an art director. Here, there are more processes to take note of. It’s a bit more structured, and that’s something to get used to. You can’t just go down to the creatives as and when. But it’s a good thing because you have someone to manage the processes for you.

What was that transition like for you?
In the beginning, there was a sense of permanent stress, a feeling of oh-em-gee, everything needs to be delivered tomorrow or today. Now I’ve learned to relax a little and know my job is in good hands. Sitting around waiting for artwork is not as panic-ridden as it used to feel.

How late do you stay at work?
There are different periods. Now it’s a bit busier, so I’ve been staying till 9 or 10. That’s recently, on a good day, maybe we’ll leave at 8? I would say for most people in advertising, leaving at 6 is not the norm.

Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group
Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group
03 Nov 2016

Chan Yi Wen, Senior Account Executive, DDB Group

Describe your most gratifying experience here
It would have to be one of the bigger campaigns that I’ve worked on, for PayLah, during the SG50 period. We were giving up to 100,000 dollars in cash to people waving their phones, and that was quite different for us because it was a gameification of the app. We were inspired by WeChat in China, and we wanted to see how PayLah could be more exciting for consumers.  Launching an SG50 campaign during that period is a marketer’s dream and a nightmare because there’s so many other SG50 stuff rolling out. It turned out really well that day…but of course, it was also not easy because the bandwidth on the back end could not support all the participation so it actually hanged for a bit, but we bounced back, and just seeing everyone participate, and knowing this was the first time DBS had ever done something like gameify an app, was really rewarding for me.

What should people be prepared for when they enter this industry?
Younger folks or fresh graduates seem to have higher expectations for their jobs: I want something nine to six, if I’m going to work longer hours I need to be paid more, but I feel you should do your best during your early years, even if it’s tough there’s a lesson to be learned. Just persevere and be tough. 

Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB
Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB
03 Nov 2016

Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB

Finalist for: Young Talent Of The Year (Account Service)
Age: 27

Joseph, who graduated from SMU two and a half years ago with a double major in finance and marketing, wanted to do something creative. Unlike most people in his major, who were attracted to jobs with more number-crunching, Joseph entered advertising, and has since grown to love its fast-paced nature.

Describe your first few months on the job
I jumped into the deep end of the pool. I had to take over my predecessor because he left and the slot was empty for a couple of months. Fortunately, or unfortunately, within one week we were already launching a campaign. I had no experience, but I had to read up on the past history of the clients, I had to read the brief, I had a week to start working as if I’d already been working here for months. I had to do things I had never had to touch in school. Whatever I’d learned in school was more of back end, strategic stuff, but here I had to learn the operations, the execution, how to write a very precise brief, what are the colours and sizes you should look at in a print ad, all the different sizes of a digital ad, it was all very technical. 

Tell me about the last project you got excited about
I helped produce the 2016 Crowbar Award trophies in 100 percent edible chocolate. Every year, there’s this award called the Crowbar Award, so this year, to spice things up a bit, we decided to give out trophies made of chocolate. The idea was to eat up, move on, and stay hungry because a lot of these young creatives win this award and they don’t go on to do big stuff, so this was a reminder to them. 

Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB
Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB
03 Nov 2016

Joseph Tan, Senior Account Executive, DDB

What made this project so challenging? 
Finding a chocolatier who could do it was not easy. A lot people didn’t want to take it up because of the timeline and how hard they thought it would be. But after calling and calling we finally managed to get Janice Wong (of 2am: dessertbar fame). She was quite nice and when we called her she was overseas, but we dialed through her mobile. We said this is urgent, please help us, we need a chocolatier of your calibre to pull off a project this big, and she took it up! Within three days we went down to the factory, we talked to the second chef and got it done. Instead of giving up, we pushed on with the idea and made it happen.

How do you maintain work-life balance?
It’s not super easy but it’s not THAT tough either, you just need to be more effective during your working hours (knocking off on time means leaving at 7-ish or 8-ish). But sometimes when we are launching campaigns, and we have so much to do, it’s super peak period and we have no work-life balance. During the peak period, I tell my girlfriend we can only meet during weekends. And she is understanding.

On that note, what should people be prepared for when dating someone in the industry?
Be prepared for no weeknight dates. I keep my weekends for my girlfriend. I tell her if I meet her on a weekday it’s a bonus. If I knock off on time, I’ll try to go to the gym (Ed Note: Joseph is currently training for a marathon), but then meet her on a weekend. It does depend on peaks and lulls though!

Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore
Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore
03 Nov 2016

Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore

Finalist for: Young Talent Of The Year (Media)
Age: 30

As a “builder” at OMD, Kenneth has two major passions: building people and building things out of…Lego. Intrigued yet?

Describe what you do at OMD
At OMD, we have three pillars: SmartER, PartnER, and BuildER. I lead the “BuildER” pillar to build the culture of OMD, we extend this into our relationship with clients. When you look at an agency, it’s always hectic. What makes people stay and deliver is an environment they are willing to commit to. Building this relationship and culture in OMD, brings out the initiative and the best in each individual. Essentially, we are building a closely knit culture here that ensures a smooth working relationship between different departments and teams.

What’s a typical work day like?
As an associate manager, I work with planners and executives. We have morning sessions where we talk about what’s to be done, challenges we face, and how to overcome them. After our internal meeting, we speak to external partners about challenges for existing campaigns. Then we meet with management groups to update them on what’s coming up and what are the challenges.

My job encompasses working with our clients as well, how’s the status of each of the campaign that’s being run. For me, an additional responsibility is in growing the people we are working with. For example, how do we grow a digital executive into a planner role? Together with my supervisor, I’ll carve out a path for him with tasks he’ll need to take on to move forward. I also conduct trainings so that newly joined hires can integrate faster into role and pick up what this industry is all about.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do, and how do you deal with it?
You are constantly being overwhelmed time and time again. You think that you will eventually get better but things just pile up at a different level of challenge. At the initial stage it’s always about picking up the jargon and managing client expectations, as I move on it becomes how do I think from a brand perspective, how do I implement it strategically? The desire to grow and to learn and to push boundaries helped me tide through challenges being thrown to me. A very cohesive team also helped me feel like I’m not alone in facing these challenges. 

Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore
Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore
03 Nov 2016

Kenneth Seng, Associate Manager, OMD Singapore

Tell me about a moment where it felt like everything was worth it
Earlier this year, Singtel had this award, Agency Rockstar. Secretly, my bosses had nominated me for this role without me knowing it. It was all done behind my back, until the event itself, which they made me attend because it was a “media owner’s event” and “colleague’s farewell”. The moment they announced that I am representing OMD as the award recipient, that was the best. It was about how my hard work and effort was taken note of by the management team, to the point that they would submit it.

I’ve heard that you’re OMD’s “Lego guy”
I don’t just like Lego, I love Lego. When I was younger I thought of becoming an architect, but in Singapore you need good grades to be an architect and unfortunately I’m not a smart kid there. Lego allows me to manifest [that dream], to build things, and to be imaginative. I mostly build small vehicles and use the time to connect with my one-year-old nephew. It’s about that bonding time and constructing things, and how do I learn from HIS imagination? It’s nothing elaborate or professional but it’s really that process that I enjoy

Let’s talk personal lives. What should people be prepared for if they’re dating someone in advertising
When you’re dating someone in this line of work, you need to be understanding on why there could be last minute cancellation of dates, and you should be able to empathise with the tight schedule and the pressure your partner faces in the industry. If two people in advertising date each other, they would not have time and be committed to work. But at least they can understand each other when it comes to last minute cancellations!

Photos by Toggle

More in this series: 
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A look inside the lives of handsome hawkers
Get ready to swoon over Singapore's 5 hottest fitness guys
Nights out: Meet 5 of Singapore's hottest bartenders

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