5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly

5 Minutes with… Peter Khoury

Advertising Agency
Singapore, Singapore
LBB’s Tom Loudon caught up with TBWA\Asia & TBWA\Singapore CCO Peter Khoury to talk iconic campaigns, global resonance, and the philosophy that fuels innovation
Peter Khoury, the chief creative officer steering the ship at TBWA\Asia and TBWA\Singapore, has been behind some award-winning campaigns, such as orchestrating the groundbreaking "Ayoba" campaign during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to crafting an AI-generated anthem for mental health. Now, Peter gives insight into his creative career and legacy.

Speaking to LBB, Peter discusses the driving strategies of his career navigating cultural nuances, championing creative success amidst change, and his philosophy on innovation in an industry undergoing profound transformation.

LBB> Can you share more about your experience leading the 2010 FIFA World Cup "Ayoba" campaign for MTN? How did this project impact your approach to future campaigns? 

Peter> This was such an overwhelming project to work on. At the time, integration across all media formats was still coming of age. There was no real reference point for creating at the scale we needed to. The platform thought “Ayoba” was a cultural hook, and summed up the experience we wanted people to have. This project really laid the foundation for me in terms of how platform thinking and design-led thinking principles can entrench relevant memory structures through distinction at scale.

LBB> You've been involved in various award-winning campaigns, accumulating over 500 statues at local and international shows. Could you highlight one drive that holds particular significance to you, and elaborate on the creative process behind it?

Peter> There are so many examples I’m incredibly proud of that I’d love to share. One of the most recent and poignant is a pro-bono project we worked on for the late South African Hip-Hop Icon Riky Rick and a Foundation named after him for mental illness. We used AI to create a new song titled “Stronger” to bring attention to mental illness. The song was structured around the social media posts he wrote before he lost his battle to mental illness, and passed on by suicide. Everything in the campaign (except the song production) was made in-house – all the design, social media launch, music video production, merchandise, and so much more. It was a labour of love that took us over a year to bring to life. 

LBB> Your journey includes roles in different countries. How do you navigate cultural nuances to ensure your campaigns resonate globally?

Peter> Human truths resonate everywhere across ages and cultures, and stand out if they are bold, distinctive and have a compelling POV. Simplicity is also key, trying to be as binary as possible and interrogating a brand until it confesses its truth to you.

LBB> You've transitioned between agencies and countries throughout your career. What strategies have you found most effective in driving creative success during change and adaptation?

Peter> It’s always been about the work and only the work for me. This means building trust internally and with clients/brands, which is easier said than done. It is a journey you must go on, and there is no shortcut.

Trust leads to iconic. Trust leads to saliency. Trust leads to people feeling safe rather than self-protection. To get confidence, you need to earn respect. To earn respect, you need to over-deliver. To over-deliver, you are required to be reliable. To be reliable you need to deliver what is unexpected. If you only deliver what is expected, your client will eventually leave you. Like I said, no shortcuts. When I have tried to shortcut this, I have failed.

LBB> As someone who has served on the juries of prestigious award shows like Cannes Lions and D&AD, how do you perceive the evolving landscape of advertising creativity, and what trends do you foresee shaping its future?

Peter> Mediocrity, more than ever, is going to be everywhere, and meaningful purpose from brands will become a hygiene factor. Brands will need to know their audience more profoundly and align with their audience's values or suffer the consequences. Currently, experimentation with new formats, content and platforms is the order of the day. It’s hit or miss. As this matures, more focused work that is true to the brand and consistent will emerge. 

LBB> Your involvement in the Cannes Lions Game Changers and Fast Company's world's most innovative ideas showcases a commitment to pushing creative boundaries. Can you share your philosophy on innovation within the advertising industry? 

Peter> In my travels it has become clear to me why certain places and cultures do what they do and how they approach innovation and originality. First-world markets generally have unlimited access to formalised resources and knowledge, meaning the boundary-breaking work comes from a place informed by this access. The lack of access in emerging markets defines their spectacular work — two very different approaches but equally as powerful. You need to adapt your thinking to the market you are in.

LBB> Beyond your role in advertising, you've ventured into the clothing/lifestyle brand Zero One One and consulted for the film industry. How do these experiences influence your creative approach in the advertising domain? 

Peter> You must be ingrained in culture, and find different ways to do that. I venture into these spaces openly and try to experiment and learn from what I see around me and then try to play with it, twist it and find an angle or space that feels fresh and thought-provoking.

LBB> Having worked with TBWA\Hunt Lascaris in various capacities, what unique elements of the agency's culture and ethos do you believe contribute to its continued success? 

Peter> John Hunt has said many powerful things over the years. One of his most impactful statements is that we are all equal before the idea. It can come from anyone and anywhere. You must be open-minded and humble to see and run with it. Hunt Lascaris taught me to find something, really, big to aim for, then go and get it when you see what great looks like good is just not good enough anymore.

LBB> How do you balance maintaining creative excellence while adapting to the industry's ever-changing demands and consumer preferences?

Peter> It always has and will always be about the idea. Not getting sidetracked by shiny new things compromising the picture is probably my most beneficial and consistent attribute. At TBWA, we follow our Disruption® methodology, which has always been about business transformation, to help our clients become “Categories of One.” We also have intelligence tools that help us create work that has distinction and relevance, such as Edges and Next. An Edge is defined as a meaningful cultural shift with the scale and longevity to propel a brand into one category. It’s more than a trend. Much more. NEXT is our global innovation practice designed to disrupt the future of brand experiences. Through NEXT, we create the conditions for innovation to thrive so that we can imagine better customer experiences that deliver impact for brands.

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