Being ‘artsy’ in school, designing T-shirts, painting banners and doodling on her exam papers were the perfect set up for Wunderman Thompson Singapore’s Natalie Goh to pursue a career in advertising. The copywriter originally planned to pursue a career in journalism but found it wouldn’t allow her “much creative freedom”, although her family had a different plan in mind.
“As a teen, the ‘Singaporean dream’ was all I knew: to get good grades, good school, good job. So the goal was always to become a lawyer! For no real reason except for the fact that everyone was headed there too. The creative field was not aspirational enough, as my family would later tell me, although all well-intentioned.” Natalie adds that for someone who’s grown up “painting outside the lines and defacing exam papers - what made me think I’d enjoy the legal profession?”
For someone who spent much of her younger days with her sister drawing Pokémon monsters and comics, discovering that advertising was her ‘vibe’ was unsurprising. So, Natalie studied communication studies and linguistics specialising in advertising at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Despite saying that advertising came quite naturally to her and the blend between art and words was something she’d been doing her whole life, the early days during her studies provided plenty of learning curves.
“I remember this one core copywriting mod where I did so badly. Every week, we’d be tasked to create an ad for a brand or product, and every week after I’d present mine, my professor would dole out his criticisms and wave me off with a bored hand. It was demoralising and distressing, but I’m thankful to him for my thicker skin today. It has come in handy over the years.”
The critique she received helped Natalie with her first assignment when working in the real world to create a manifesto video for a graduate business school. After sleepless nights and many an hour looking at other videos, she jokes that she drafted script after script with the Phantom of the Opera playing in the background until she landed upon one to present to her creative director. “I remember my wobbly knees, my quaky breath, and perhaps I’ve over-dramatized this in my memory, but I remember that silence after I had finished… then the applause! One client even gave me a standing ovation. That was one of the most surreal moments of my life but just the confidence boost I sorely needed at the time.”
Natalie jokes that watching Mad Men and living vicariously through Peggy Olson were her favourite ways to hone her craft, but despite the jokes she remembers a creative director from her early days advising her to look at the world outside of advertising for inspiration. “So that’s how I feed my brain - I’ve taken up sign language. I joined an adoption and fostering conference. I attended a play for the blind. And it’s so true how empathy and experience are such good sources of inspiration!”
Looking outside of the industry is where Natalie goes to hone her creativity in her downtime and has previously put on musicals for her local church and is a keen illustrator. In fact, she keeps an Instagram account
especially for her musings about things she’s come across in her daily life.
A recent piece of work created by Wunderman Thompson, Asian Microbiome Library and the National University Health System is one that Natalie believes changed her career. “It’s a poop donor recruitment campaign for AMILI, an Asian microbiome library. It’s the first project I’ve ever submitted for awards (aside from under 30 competitions), and more importantly, it has reminded me of why I came into advertising: to do good. It has definitely reaffirmed that goal for me and shown me that it’s possible!”
Although this piece of work has stood out to her, Natalie is honest to the fact that sometimes finding inspiration is a double edged sword. “The lack of it can be paralysing. I’ve often lamented how our work requires so much thinking! If I’m not brainstorming, I’m writing. If I’m not writing, I’m making creative decisions. And on days I’m not inspired, writing or coming up with ideas feels like drawing blood from a stone.”
For someone as driven as Natalie to make her mark in the industry, the sheer belief that she is exactly where she should be for a purpose and her duty to do it well has been the drive that kept her going. “All work has inherent value and everything I do, big campaign or small social post, can be used for good. And what a privilege that is.”