Branding in Asia recently caught up with Gigi Lee, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA in Malaysia. Prior to joining TBWA Lee was Executive Creative Director at Y&R Malaysia, and before that she was Design Director at Leo Burnett Malaysia.
Over the course of our conversation, Lee talks about post-pandemic trends, her upcoming work on LIA’s TV/Cinema and Online Film jury, her first awards win, and more.
You’ve been part of a lot of award-winning campaigns over the years. What was your first and how did you feel the first time you won?
My first work that won an award was for a brochure for Merdeka Plaza in Sarawak. Full page illustrations on the left, neatly arranged copy on the right. We won at the local show and NYFest.
This was around the late 90s. How did it feel? Similar to experiencing bad Wi-Fi really. It took some time to load and when the bars finally reached full cap- my reaction was ‘Wow? Really? You mean it won? We won?’
That’s how I remember it anyhow. If memory still serves.
In terms of the creative ad industry, as we emerge from the pandemic, are there any particular trends you’re seeing?
I don’t know if it’s a trend or that we only notice certain things the older we get/ the more experience we acquire.
What I do notice lately- in the work that I’ve seen locally and online- is a swing towards smart business solutions. Smart, sustainable business solutions that often translate into straightforward communications – because really that’s all you need. Advertising is not the hero. The brand/ product/ the service is the hero. Advertising is merely the spotlight directing the audience’s attention to the main attraction, the main experience.
You’re on the TV/Cinema and Online Film Jury at LIA this year. What are you looking for from the work that will make it stand out from the rest?
There is no formula to telling a great story. The same story told in a different way in a different setting can seem fresh and exciting. For me, it’s important to keep an open mind to new ways to seeing/ understanding the world around us.
“Advertising is not the hero. The brand/ product/ the service is the hero. Advertising is merely the spotlight directing the audience’s attention to the main attraction, the main experience.”
Ideas and insights remain key. Storytelling and craft bring the script to life and make it memorable, entertaining, watchable. Art Direction, good music, the right VO – all these are important- and often times, it’s the little things that make the work stand out.
Awards most often focus on purpose-driven campaigns. Do you think that gives them an advantage in the jury room over more creatively-driven campaigns?
Purpose-driven campaigns win because the work stands out against everything else in the room. If everybody brings a green ball and you turn up with a red ball- which stands out? Really, it’s not about being purpose-driven or creatively-driven- it’s about solving business problems. Do what works. We need to reward relevant solutions that make a difference in business, society and culture.
What about the LIA Chinese Creativity competition is different and why do you think agencies should enter?
As one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Chinese people are special in many ways. From how the language is expressed to the nuances in each character to the meanings associated with a graphic language from a 5,000-year-old culture. As well, Mandarin is the world’s second most spoken language, with around 918 million native speakers and 199 million non-native speakers.
Put all that together and you’ll invariably end up with many unique voices, styles and expressions. We should absolutely celebrate all of this. Advertising is part of popular culture. It tells us who we are, how far we’ve come, and where we’re going. Advertising in China is unlike anything else in the world- just look at the awards book- you’d see many great work from China, and work done by Chinese people around the world.
For these reasons, Chinese creativity deserves to be recognized on a global stage and LIA Chinese Awards is that platform.