As much as there is noise about those who have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are also a number of people who have started new roles during this time. One such is Tay Guan Hin who started a new role as chief creative officer at BBDO Singapore in the early days of August. Despite lamenting that he has been unable to meet colleagues face-to-face, the ever opportunist has seen this as a time to “enjoy the present”. “I feel right now that I’ve not really joined BBDO. But at the same time I think we have grown, I have grown accustomed to communicating virtually. Working in a new agency in today’s world it’s about adapting.”
Prior to this he headed up his own creative company, TGH Collective
. The senior-led project-based company was an opportunity for Guan Hin to work with his collaborators to reach ideas for clients quickly. Reflecting on his time at TGH he says “it was going pretty well”, but when BBDO came knocking it was an opportunity he couldn’t ignore. “My goal to be honest is not just to be doing one single thing. I think it’s important to be able to learn other things. BBDO has such a great creative culture - they’re winning awards - but besides that it was the people that were pretty attractive, it's one of the agencies that you can’t say no to.
“I don’t feel like it's going backwards or forwards. I think in life it's all about different opportunities and different situations. I think if the opportunity had come and I didn’t like the people or the agency, I wouldn’t have jumped ship back to join the agency world. But at the same time, the world has changed completely and so different opportunities have given birth to new ways of working.”
He adds that going back to the agency world was a “homecoming” and despite closing TGH Collective he still has a few small projects to complete there. But Guan Hin is looking to the future and wants to be seen as a “voice in a world that needs to build brands”. He adds: “I think at BBDO I can continue to build and open up new opportunities.”
With all of the changes happening in the world, one is forgiven for asking if there are many opportunities right now to build brands. For Guan Hin the different mediums where brands are choosing to advertise has been intriguing to witness. “If I look at the newspaper I just read today, it's wafer thin. A lot of people are using television as a promotion, it's just about selling telecoms or local things like air conditioning.”
The effects of Covid and inability to leave our homes for weeks at a time has meant that social media has seen an increase as a favoured medium for brands with Guan Hin reflecting on bus shelters being previous favoured marketing platforms. He adds: “I think as a business owner, if I were one, I need to really reflect on who and where my customers are – that’s key. So by default social media becomes the traditional media today.”
With the hoards of influencers and rise of ‘content creators’ each time we scroll down our phones, Guan Hin uses this time to consider what that actually is. “If you look at everybody’s portfolio, everybody’s a content creator. Content creation has become a default means because if I put stuff on social media I’m a content creator. To be a great content creator is a completely different ball game because you need to create content that’s relatable and that’s interesting. Most of the content is just pushing a message and not creating anything useful.”
It is revealing then that when Guan Hin explains what motivates him, the mobile phone is one of the first replies he gives. “We pick up the mobile when we wake up and we put down the mobile when we sleep so the mobile has now become an integral part of our lives. For us to be able to create content I need to be good at content. I need to find good content and post it out. I need to think like an influencer, when you think about them it creates good content
“My father is 91 years old and he’s got into Instagram, sometimes he might press the wrong button, but people of all ages are looking at social media as a place to entertain themselves, get information or discover things they normally wouldn’t. What motivates me is great content that makes me think.”
Looking to the future, Guan Hin believes that content that understands today’s setting is an important way to stay relevant. “For me it's not about creating work that we can see in the future, I think it's about creating work for the now.”
But on a personal level, his aspirations are much simpler. “My personal goal is to bring up BBDO Singapore to the level of other agencies in the region. It’s about building a community of like-minded people within the agency that not only do great work but also spread the culture.
“I believe in creating a culture that people enjoy where they work. If BBDO has a way to influence people who left much better than they come in that would be a great legacy to leave behind.”