Wisdom for young creatives
When George hired me as a Creative Technologist at TBWA, the title confused everyone. If you think it’s hard to explain to a normal person what you’d do in advertising, it was twice as difficult for me. Everyday I was constantly confined by tiring jumbles like “What do you do? Are you a designer? Wait, so you’re not a designer? So you’re a half IT half art director guy? Shit, that’s weird”. And to say I hear things like that everyday would be an understatement. But over time I’ve learned that it’s just a title. What’s much more important are the responsibilities.
I was extremely lucky to be under George’s master plan of building a truly innovative team that set out to do “cool shit”. Being a fresh grad out of college who was following the network quite closely, to me TBWA was Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and I had the golden ticket. Even now that I am no longer there, I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to learn so much from probably the most dazzling working industry in Vietnam. Either you are a young creative who is beginning to embark on a rough path of your career, or you just graduated from RMIT and is now docking applications at agencies, I hope this post will find you well.
Speak up. That’s your only powerful tool.
If you want something, ask for it. Nobody will come to your desk and ask if you need anything or if anything is alright. People are too busy looking after their own ass. I knew a few designers who spent most of their time executing other people’s ideas, and I know it was fatiguing. Establish yourself as someone who can produce creative thoughts, and you will get noticed. The world’s best creatives always ask questions. If you don’t understand the brief, ask the planner. If you have an idea, share it with your team. If you have beef with somebody sitting next to you, settle it. It’s always down the road where folks who know what they want will get what they want.
You’re surrounded by people who are much smarter than you, so get used to it.
Your ego can help you with nothing but to sabotage your creativity. When the work goes out the agency’s door, it will be under the agency’s name — not your name. Save your time arguing with other creatives on whose ideas should be credited, spend it on building good relationships and making good work. The longer you are in the industry, the more you will take for granted what you did not mean to. Appreciate everything everybody says. If you disagree with something, debate with respect. The industry, especially in Vietnam, isn’t as big as you might think. The last thing you want is to be remembered as an arrogant stuck-up.
Don’t do it all yourself. You can’t.
When me and my team started working on Snow Me as TBWA’s Christmas card, I was on full throttle. I knew it was my chance to shine, both as an art director and a developer. But half way through the brainstorming section, I knew I couldn’t do it all alone. so I sought help. It didn’t take much effort when you have great friends. It helps to create better bonds between teammates, which can only help you from the next project forward. Advertising is never about you or me.
Pay attention to the details.
When our previous ECD left the agency, me and another CD created a poster for him as a gift. Based on Adidas’s print for Muhammad Ali, we took Pat’s infamous catchphrases and formed them as a witty print to poke fun at him. It was funny. Everybody grasped the humor, and seemed to enjoy it. The next day, Pat called me out and asked if I designed it. I said yes. He said he knew it was me because obviously I didn’t pay attention to rivers of white — any other designer in the agency would have. It was purely a constructive comment about my work and we could tell that he loved it, but it still haunts me to this day that the only thing I personally made for him isn’t perfect just because I let a simple mistake slip through the cracks. Even when you’re briefed to design something that only takes 5 minutes, take an extra 5 to double check. It doesn’t hurt.
Pick the job you love, so you won’t have to work a single day.
I never felt like I was working. Everyday was a breeze. There were times I couldn’t stand the account folks, but when your agency wins a huge pitch, you will be drinking till the morning with them. And then it will strike you: nothing really happened. Just enjoy the ride. Picking advertising as a career is probably one of the coolest things you will do to yourself.