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Uprising: How Creativity Saves Lives With Issel Jayme


Issel Jayme, senior copywriter at VMLY&R Singapore spoke to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about her early passions in literature, how creative work can be lifesaving and the necessity for constant self-reflection as a writer

Uprising: How Creativity Saves Lives With Issel Jayme

Born in the Philippines, Issel Jayme highly appreciates creativity and artistry as tools to ‘put a smile on peoples’ faces’. “Despite the traits that make [the Philippines] a Third World country, I’ve seen how Filipinos show pride in the hard work of others – especially in the creative space.” This push towards the realisation of her creative dreams has made her continuously reach for the unreachable and strive to represent her homeland in a way that invokes that famous ‘Pinoy pride’ in others within her sphere. 

Coming from a background in advertising - with both of her parents in the industry - Issel developed her creative nature from a very young age. “I guess I’ve never really taken on a different path from writing and art.” Due to this, her childhood hobbies always naturally revolved around drawing, painting, sketching, and writing literature. Storytelling and animation in particular were two areas that interested her the most. Today, she still prefers animated films ‘more than real-life ones’. Ultimately what tied all of this together was her affinity towards simply creating things with her own hands and using her imagination. 

Competitive and ambitious in nature - even before her cup of coffee in the morning, she tells us - the copywriter describes herself as quite extroverted and constantly in a mode of self-reflection. “My greatest competition is always my old self and I find comfort in being unafraid to tell my stories the way I want to without caring what people think of me.” Precisely that comparison with her old self is what helps her strive towards self-development both in her personal and career life. 

In university, she didn’t stray far from her initial path – she studied Literature and found the opportunity to do what she loved most - express herself and tell her stories in the form of writing. Straight after uni, she pursued a junior copywriting job at an agency. Although a pretty clear shaping of her career path due to her natural inclinations combined with her parents’ guidance was shaping up, she remembers that she ‘tried not to’ follow her parents’ footsteps at first. However, as she progressed, the realisation struck that advertising is the industry that can provide her with the opportunity to step into other people’s shoes and tell so many worthwhile stories. Later she found her love for other formats besides writing, like TV and radio.

Issel’s first professional project was pro-bono and helped create a safer environment for Filipinos by working with the police department. “They wanted to reach out to citizens and at the same time show that the police can still be trusted with their safety.” Her career path took her from this, to what she rates as her most life-changing project – The Remorse Code, which was a radio ad aiming to raise awareness about the relationship between domestic violence and verbal abuse. “The ad played out a hot-tempered husband cursing to someone we assume to be the wife. Each curse word is censored with a ‘bleep’ and eventually, the bleeps turn into morse code for SOS.” Eventually, Issel’s client for that project received a message from a woman, who managed to report her husband and ultimately save herself from the abuse she was experiencing, with the help of the advertisement. “It convinced me truly that I had the power to help people,” shares Issel.

Although she throws herself 100% into her projects, Issel is keen to acknowledge the importance of remembering to not fall in love with your idea as a creative. Passion and love are strengths but also weaknesses to her. She shares that accepting rejection, when it comes to her work, has been a heartbreaking but necessary process to learn that creativity is subjective and having your work rejected is not synonymous with being rejected as a creative. “It turns into a challenge to become better and also to choose whether to let rejection get the best of you or not.”

This - and finding ways to make people understand the importance of creativity - have both been challenges for Issel in the industry. “Reaching out to our readers, viewers and users can’t be done unless you understand their perspective in a unique way,” which has been a difficulty for any creative in the industry. On the flip side, the most rewarding part of the job to Issel is understanding the true power of her work to help people and the planet. “Communication and influence are key in creating change and if my stories can create that much of an impact, then the sleepless nights are worth it for me.”

When it comes to the state of the industry, Issel feels that writing tends to get less recognition than art. “People assume it doesn’t take much hard work to do. In reality, it does take as much time as art.” The intricacies of writing copy are what make Issel love it and want to exceed in it, to make it perfect and also communicate to people that entire process of hitting the right nerve with the perfect headline, while still allowing the story to take its own path. 

As somebody who has had experiences with the creative industries since a fairly young age, Issel has also noticed some need for change. “The world has been changing so quickly I can see the industry struggling to catch up. As advertising adapts to trends, it must pay attention to the people that make it. People are leaving the industry because it doesn’t seem sustainable, and I think agencies should pay attention if they want to keep the business afloat.” Indeed, gone are the days where working for hours on end is admirable, Issel reminds us. To her, and to many professionals, urgent attention should be paid to mental health and well-being support. Naturally, inspiration for creativity is not something that can be rushed. Issel is keen that striking the balance between the two will be what can turn the tide and keep the industry alive. 

The copywriter is also involved with the feminist movement within advertising, “I stand with women in advertising in the Philippines, as recent events have emerged about sexual harassment that has been exposed and reported. I work together with other women to make sure that safer spaces exist now within these Philippine agencies, so that change can happen and permanently stay.”

Ultimately, Issel’s biggest passion is storytelling – mostly through writing, but also through any other artistic mediums. From her childhood of enjoying animations and her parents’ work to a career where she sees stories everywhere around her, she has managed to stay inspired and continuously improve her work throughout the process. The knowledge that ‘someone out there is listening to [her] stories and they are touched by them… and changes them for the better’ is what drives her every day. 

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VMLY&R Singapore, Thu, 11 Nov 2021 16:47:00 GMT