Many talented young creatives in the Philippines eventually make their way to other markets. Marvin Ramos is one of them.
His career began as an intern at DDB Philippines in 2010. Since then, he’s worked everywhere from Ogilvy & Mather to Publicis Manila and Cheil Worldwide in the Philippines.
Two years ago, Ramos left Publicis JimenezBasic to take on an entirely new challenge as Creative Lead at Leo Burnett in Vietnam.
It’s been two years since you moved to Vietnam. What made you jump at the opportunity to move there in the first place?
I was at a point in my life where I kept asking myself what’s next. So many things were happening at that time and I considered the opportunity as a sign. And so I grabbed it. Best life decision yet. The greatest thing about being a stranger is that it allows me to be a total sponge.
Culturally there are similarities, but still there are a lot of things to discover: food, traditions, pop culture trends, etc. You name it, there’s something new to absorb every day. And while the language is a barrier, I’m just grateful that I work in an industry where we use the universal language of creativity and humanity.
What is it like to live in Ho Chi Minh City: how does the city inspire you? How does it differ from the creative landscape in the Philippines?
Saigon is same same but different from Manila. Both are craaaazy busy cities. As a creative landscape, I find Manila to be more adjusted to global trends whereas Saigon is really full of vibrant culture and a local touch. Saigon is like one big art hub, which I love.
The creative scene here is thriving. So many hidden gems, cool coffee shops, and unique architectures. It’s almost like every block is a pixel of an artwork. You don’t need to go far to find inspiration. Just hop on a motorbike, and you immediately find one. In fact, my friends and I even run an instagram account (@hello_pho) for all our Vietnam findings.
Can you tell us a little about your career path over the past decade: can you remember how you felt on your first day interning at DDB? Have you had any influential mentors and what did you learn from them?
How I felt on my first day? Of course, I was ecstatic! It’s not every day that a newbie ad geek gets introduced to people behind iconic ads. I met co-interns with the same interests too. I remember we would always say ‘see you in the industry’ to each other. And it really happened. We got to be teammates, some became my client, one is even my co-juror now.
Then came the real world. Ogilvy had a one-day exam for aspiring young creatives. I was fortunate to be one of the four chosen among the 100 applicants. I got trained by the most brilliant creatives and moved to three more agencies afterward.
I had a great set of selfless mentors during this formative part of my career. Marlon Rivera was my advertising professor turned boss. All the ad principles I uphold came from him, from simply doing logic + magic, to always presenting the 3rd argument.
Peachy Bretana was my first ad mom. She taught me a lot not just about work, but life values that I carry on ’til now. Henry Gonzales and Onat Roldan believed in me so much. They always pushed me up and let me shine, pulled me down whenever it was too much.
I really admire Trixie Diyco’s brilliance, sharpness, and drive for the work. If only I could be half as good as her, I can already consider myself a great creative.
After 8 years in Manila, I packed my suitcase and moved to Vietnam. Almost like a reset. I’ve done some regional stuff prior to moving, but it was still a different feeling uprooting my life and planting it somewhere else. Work-wise, I’m focusing more on digital and social now. Currently with a great set of people, too.
What is your proudest achievement so far? Is there a campaign you’re especially proud of?
Now that I think about it, I’ve realized that the campaigns I’m proud of are very family-oriented, especially for moms. Perhaps because my mom is my no. 1 inspiration. We once did a film honoring moms through their moms. Another one honored them through their eldest children, their husbands – ha, ha.
I also did a campaign where we asked them to relive their amazing childhood through their kids. All those play under the sun, touch the dirt moments. It launched at a time when tablets were becoming a huge thing. And as I grow wiser in this industry, I would like to assume I’m becoming more like her – generous and selfless.
If you ask me now what is my proudest achievement, it would be my small team. It’s not about me anymore. I’m very happy to see them mature, guide them as they establish themselves as agents of impact.
What keeps you awake at night? What gets you out of bed?
As much as possible, it’s not work-related. I go out and explore, do sports, or just be a couch potato. We work in a very demanding industry. We constantly need to push and push and it will never be enough. So it’s very important to prioritize mental health.
We should be bringing happiness and inspiration to our work, not the other way around.
Do you have a creative process: is there a certain way that you approach a brief and get into a creative ‘zone’ or ‘flow state’?
Let me explain it scientifically. I use my left side of the brain first. I dissect the brief. I try to find the answer to all the ‘Why’s’, reframe and pinpoint the real problem. Once the brief is already in its simplest form, I jump to the right side of my brain (Never use left! Or else the thinking will be too analytical and ticking boxes).
I try to unlearn what I’ve learned all these years and bring back my child-like curiosity. There should never be a formula. No overthinking. No ‘NO.’ Like what my former mentor used to say, ‘Hang before you kill.’ Quantity over quality. Quality can be sharpened after. I’m an idea-first person and as long as it excites and entertains me, I go for it.
What kind of kid were you: were you always ‘creative’, curious, and breaking rules?
I was always the weird kid. I was more interested in watching documentaries than cartoons. When I was 4, I memorized flags, capital cities, and the scientific names of plants. I think as early as that it already showed how all-out I go when curiosity kicks in.
I used to draw a lot. Competed in drawing contests. Played different musical instruments too. But then I got a scholarship for a high school specializing in science, which supposedly leads to taking a science-related course after. I took up an art course instead.
You’re joining the preliminary jury at AD STARS 2021. What are you most looking forward to?
This is my second time. Last year, I got impressed by how creativity adjusts to different situations and takes in any form to solve problems. From high-budget productions to a simple social post. Most, if not all, were human-centric. And that’s what I’m still looking forward to this year.
The thing about creativity is that it doesn’t stop. Just when we thought we’ve reached its peak, suddenly a new idea comes. I’m excited to see the newest simplest grandest weirdest most human-centric works. Works that drives humanity forward. Works that truly entertain. Works that make me jealous and stay hungry.
Marvin Ramos is joining the jury at AD STARS 2021. Entries close on 31st May and can be sumbitted here.