As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia presents “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.
This week we talk to Ci En Lee, Planner at Publicis Groupe in Singapore. When asked what he loves most about the job, he told us: “I love the rhythm and pace of advertising. Living on coffee and adrenaline. especially when I am working on pitches. and the chaotic energy from opening the brief deck to finally presenting the response.”
Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how he got his first break in the industry, what he enjoys most about the work, as well as what he doesn’t like about it, and more.
Name: Ci En Lee
Company: Publicis Groupe
Current Location: Singapore
Education: Singapore Management University, Bachelor of Science (Political Science), 2019
How did you get your first break in the industry?
It all started with a coffee. I reached out to Filmmaker and Storyteller, Josiah Ng, after coming across one of his ground-up initiatives, While It Was Hazy, which went viral and left me feeling inspired to play my part for the community.
He opened my eyes to the world of advertising and Mad Men, and there was a Strategy and Planning team within an agency. This made me realize that I could join the industry because while I cannot paint or write, I enjoyed thinking and it was something I could be paid for.
What is your personal mantra?
Life is short, so am I.
Time is limited, so we should work on every brief as if it was our last.
From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?
My friends’ kids! Children are young and free. Free to be themselves and not hold themselves back. Free to imagine and wonder, why is the sky blue. Free from unspoken rules of how ideas ‘ought to be’.
But in all seriousness, if I had to crack a brief tonight and squeeze out an idea, it would be to look at ads coming out of China. Having lived and worked in Shanghai in 2019, what we see in China today is a glimpse of the future. There is so much ‘adaptation’ happening right now whether it is the art direction of Chinese New Year posters to interactive HTML5.
I would review the latest case studies under the topic of Crossover IP or Brand Partnerships to gain some lateral thinking inspiration.
What do you love about the job?
I love the rhythm and pace of advertising. Living on coffee and adrenaline, especially when I am working on pitches, and the chaotic energy from opening the brief deck to finally presenting the response. In the thick of it, I will question myself why I eagerly volunteered to do it, but in the end it is all worth it. Seeing the fruits of our labor gives me a rewarding sense of satisfaction, so much so that I want to do it – or rather feel it again and again and again.
I love that I get to learn new things. Going beyond the tools of the trade, and learning about the brand and category – knowing the ins and outs of it from the business strategy to the consumer demand space. Getting to ask why things are the way they are. Finding insights and understanding the unchanging man.
Finally, what I really love about the job is the opportunity to solve problems through creativity. There is no single correct answer or media plan – only many ways to achieve the desired outcome. It is really about the power of a great idea.
What about your job are you not so crazy about?
Too much time is spent on reporting rather than thinking. There is an overload of data in the digital age where everything is measurable, yet the data that we have today is not able to pick up our fears, hopes and dreams.
What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
The Covid-19 Global Repository
I am the founder of The Covid-19 Global Repository – where I collected all of the world’s covid-19 reports (346 in fact) in one place early on in the pandemic.
In late February 2020, I noticed that everyone was trying to give their point of view about the pandemic – which made it very difficult for time-poor agency teams and clients to navigate the crisis. To filter out the noise, I created a Google Drive System that housed all the reports that teams would need from advertising to business operations to HR.
“Too much time is spent on reporting rather than thinking. There is an overload of data in the digital age where everything is measurable, yet the data that we have today is not able to pick up our fears, hopes, and dreams.”
Originally intended for the APAC markets, the repository went viral across LinkedIn and the agency networks. There was a rapid expansion of reports into three languages and was used by thousands of advertising and consulting people from across the world, from Hanoi to London to Colombia – with the help of 22 other Strategists from the global community.
Sweathead Podcast Interview
For the work that I did on the Covid-19 Global Repository, I was invited to speak on Mark Pollard’s Sweathead podcast. It was my first time doing a podcast and ‘meeting’ Mark for the first time, so that taught me to bring some ‘Australian energy’ into my presentations.
I’m honored to be on a podcast series that features some of the strategists that I look up to, and thankful for the opportunity to leave my mark on the global advertising industry.
Singapore Airlines – We Look Forward to Seeing You in The Air Again
This was the biggest global brand campaign that I have worked on, spanning across broadcast, digital, print and outdoor – including the iconic Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.
It was not easy to launch this campaign to bring the national carrier of Singapore out of the pandemic, and I saw the beauty of creative, media, and the client working as one through a shared vision and purpose.
If you had to choose another career what would it be?
I want to be a food critic because I’m always hungry.