Q&A: Adrian Miller – Debate, Discussion, and Banter is Needed for Ideas to Thrive

We recently caught up with Adrian Miller, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy Malaysia. Miller joined the agency in January after a successful, nearly four-year tenure as CCO at Ogilvy Indonesia.

The move to Kuala Lumpur marks a return to Malaysia for the native of South Africa – he first touched down in Malaysia back in 2004, where he spent seven years in creative leadership roles at MullenLowe, and Saatchi & Saatchi. He later went on to Delhi where he worked with J. Walter Thompson before returning home as a founding partner at +27 Advertising.

Over the course of our conversation, Miller talks about settling into the new gig back in Malaysia, the interesting story of what first drew him to the Asian market nearly two decades ago, how the pandemic has affected creative departments, creative trends in 2022, and more.

 
 

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

I landed in KL in mid-March and it’s been non-stop since then. A combination of getting settled in KL, getting to grips with a new set of accounts and pitches. The search for the right CrossFit Box is an ongoing pursuit.

You moved to Ogilvy Malaysia after three years with the agency in Indonesia. What are some differences in terms of creative work and engaging with consumers in Malaysia?

I started at Ogilvy KL in January of this year.  Whether it’s Indonesia, Malaysia, India, or South Africa, people all respond to good storytelling. In that respect, there’s very little difference between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Well-told human stories work. Mobile-first thinking is obviously critical across both markets too. In Malaysia perhaps, you might be able to push the executional boundaries a bit more.

 
 

Starting in 2004, you spent several years working in Malaysia and a stint in India before returning back to South Africa to work for a spell. What drew you back to Asia?

Self-preservation. Crime and political instability were reaching all-time highs in South Africa. I knew staying wasn’t a viable option as it simply wasn’t safe for my family.

“In my opinion, the pandemic hasn’t been good for creative departments. Debate, discussion, banter is sorely needed for ideas to thrive.”

The final straw was my business partner getting car-jacked. I hadn’t actually planned on returning to Asia specifically until Ogilvy called to take on the Jakarta role.

What are the strategies you’ve used to manage and motivate your creative team during the pandemic? And what will you carry over once things are “normal” again?

In my opinion, the pandemic hasn’t been good for creative departments. Debate, discussion, banter is sorely needed for ideas to thrive. It’s incredibly hard to motivate creatives from behind a screen. Creatives need to bounce ideas. That being said, working in an office is no longer a necessity.

The 9 to 5 formula is dead and buried. Flexibility will be the carryover.

What are some creative trends in advertising you see (or would like to see) in 2022.

Right now, it looks like it’s about Web 3 or the metaverse. Brands are trying to jump into the space and agencies are trying to play catch-up. I’m suddenly seeing briefs asking for NFTs land on my desk.

“Marketers need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what people are interested in.”

It’s a 17 billion dollar market and growing daily, so clearly this will be a major trend to look out for. It will be interesting to see how marketers bring actual ideas into the space and not just gimmicks.

Any trends you’d like to not see any more of in 2022.

All requests for brands to go viral on TikTok should come to an abrupt halt. Jokes aside, marketers need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what people are interested in.

What are some campaigns you’ve worked on over your career that you are most proud of?

There are quite a few. Some campaigns hold a special place just because they were incredibly difficult to sell and produce.

Here’s a small, random sample.

Aware.org.za – Drink Like There Is a Tomorrow

Bear Brand Bisa Banget MMA​

Airtel 3G ‘Endless Goodbye’ (Not available for viewing in all markets)

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