A day in the life of an advertising maven

Sid Lim and Michael Chin, award-winning ad men, tell us why Mad Men’s Don Draper is — surprise, surprise — taboo in the advertising industry


Sid Lim (far left), 29, and Michael Chin (left), 26. The art director and copywriter respectively at interactive agency DDB Singapore won Creative Team of the Year at last year’s Singapore Hall of Fame Awards, organised by the Institute of Advertising Singapore to celebrate young talents.

They’re the brains behind touching campaigns for a local telco, like #AddMumOnFacebook. “Winning at the Hall of Fame Awards was an affirmation to do better. We also got to give a talk at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and share our experiences,” shares Sid. The Singapore Hall of Fame Awards 2015 takes place on Nov 26 at Gardens by the Bay.

8 DAYS: What’s the most unglamorous thing you’ve had to do for work?
MICHAEL: We shot an ad at Bukit Brown cemetery with a bunch of YouTubers one night during the Qing Ming Festival. The ad was about taking life to the edge, so we filmed people watching a movie on their phones in a coffin. We heard sounds, and cameras that were not supposed to break down broke down. It was a shoot we’d rather forget. (Laughs)

SID LIM: The idea sounded good on paper, but when we were there it was scary.

You guys are all suited up today like proper Mad Men characters. How accurate is the show at portraying life in an ad agency?
SID: Not at all for us. It was set in the ’60s, when the context was very different.

MICHAEL: The show Mad Men made [life in an ad agency] very realistic, but advertising moves so quickly that even something from five years ago would be outdated today. Don Draper is a taboo name in the industry!

SID: Because of Mad Men, everyone thinks that working in advertising is all about arriving in office like a rock star, drinking whiskey while ideas come to you at the last minute. They’re dead wrong, man. If you go in like that, you wouldn’t last a month.

MICHAEL: In the show there’s a scene where Don Draper comes up with a line [to promote cigarettes] that goes, “It’s toasted.” If we say that to our boss today…

What’s one thing you’ve learnt on the job that they didn’t teach you in school?
MICHAEL: I studied Mass Communications at NTU, which taught me that everything has a structure. But work taught me I need to be flexible, like accepting that an idea isn’t suitable for a TV ad. Otherwise I will keep landing back at square one.

SID: I studied Design Communications at LaSalle College of the Arts. School didn’t teach me to like what I do, which is important ’cos advertising doesn’t offer work-life balance! It’s common to see people join an ad agency and leave quickly. 

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