Tay Guan Hin is a profound individual in the creative community who has worked for over 25 years helping global brands solve business challenges and improve market share. He spent 13 years at J. Walter Thompson serving the role of Global Executive Creative Director (ECD) for brands such as Unilever, Abbott, and Shell. Afterward, he joined APAC Global Advisory (AGA) as one of the six Creative Change Catalysts tasked with leading its team of change architects. He has also founded TGH Collective, an independent Creative Boutique Agency dedicated to branding and helping brands.
His involvement in the creative industry goes beyond work to include mentoring young talent and introducing the first student awards in Singapore. He had also been a Jury President at Cannes Lions, a D&AD Foreman, Head of Jury APAC Effies and One Show Judge. This year, Tay Guan Hin was named the first ever Jury President for Commward 2019 by Bangladesh Brand Forum.
BBF: How is your experience in Bangladesh and the Communication Summit this time around?
Tay Guan Hin: I’ve been in Bangladesh for a few days now. Last year, I had been a Keynote Speaker but this time around I came back around as the first Jury President. This was an important step to making sure that we raise the standard of Bangladesh.
The most interesting part is meeting different people and sharing experiences. People come from different parts of the organization from agencies to clients, owners to startups and it is meeting them and sharing rich experiences that I liked about my visit here.
You have presided over the Commward entries of this year and in your opinion, what do the entries need to work on in order to make award-winning campaigns?
Award winning campaigns are based on incredible, insightful and relevant work, that touches humans on an emotional level. A lot of work do not win awards due to exhibiting vanity – pretty but not very useful, entertaining or relevant. When we were judging the works, we had a scale system which we used to judge whether the work was innovative or had good strategy. We were very rigorous as will be evident when the winners are revealed.
My advice for marketers is that they need to be braver with some of the ideas, challenge themselves and avoid doing things over and over again. Standing out and incorporating simplicity is what will get your message across and have the impact that we are looking for.
Could you share some words from your keynote speech today?
One of the important things to consider about creating content today is creating content for mobile phones. A lot of the content created by agencies and companies use the same content designed for television for YouTube, social media and elsewhere. This is problematic, because in each setting the content is consumed in a format, for example 90% of us tend to watch content vertically in smartphones but the content we view is not optimized like that.
By creating content vertically, you can reach a larger target market and increase brand visibility. In fact, there are many formats out there aimed at different target markets and you need to manipulate your content accordingly.
Could you tell us about your experience at JWT during your time there?
I was the regional executive creative director for Southeast Asia and I was the global ECD for Shell, Lux, Abbott and during those days, Singapore was the creative hub for content. It was a really good time to see how clients are focusing their base in Asia to create global content. Asia is a growing market and the campaigns I worked on an integrated approach. We needed to think globally but have local insights, which gave rise to great content that resonated with local consumers.
What contrast can you draw between Asian and Western consumers when it comes to marketing?
There are different value systems in different regions. The west, for example in the United States, people are more outspoken and voice their opinions strongly. In Asia, for example from a Chinese perspective, we are humbler and give more value to respect, and contrasts like these provide interesting perspectives in our communications.
Working as a global creative director for many brands, I’ve come to realize that the ones that work are the simple and universal ones. We try to tap into simple human insights acquired through data. For example, with Lux we created a campaign “Reignite the Spark” inspiring married couples to rejuvenate their lost flame, after realizing this was something that was familiar with many.
What inspiration stood behind naming your company ‘TGH Collective’ and what is its journey from here on?
I wanted to start something of my own and also stand out in the market. When it came to naming, I was inspired by the phrase “Gung Ho” that a colleague complimented me with. It stood for passion and energy and aligned with both my initials and what I believed in.
I hope to be able to impart my own experience, work with people who share my philosophy and partner with people to create the best work for them, which is why the ‘Collective’ is included in the name. It is a flexible agency that would cater to the clients’ needs.
As a marketer now, how important is creativity?
As a creative person, it is very important. Unfortunately, in today’s changing technology-driven world, it is becoming less relevant because people feel that they can do it using cheaper alternatives. For example, thanks to smartphones and filters, everyone is a photographer and it is very difficult to snap a bad shot. In that essence, the value we used to hold in the past for actual good professional photography is fading. However, if you use creativity for your business and storytelling in the right way, it will definitely pay out in dividends. Hopefully, those utilizing creativity properly, the results will speak for themselves.
What advice would you give for the newer generation of marketers who want to make a splash in the advertising world?
Keep track of what’s happening in the world through reading key publications and keeping your eyes and ears open because things can suddenly create disruption. Go beyond your industry. If you specialize in culinary marketing, step out of your usual line of work in order to get different perspectives and experience. Learn from others by looking at what they do, including what the competition or other industries are doing.
Good mentors are also very important in your development, and even if you can’t find any close to you, learn about great leaders and role models. Read about their failures, struggles, and advice. There is no easy way out when it comes to being a great marketer. You need to have the tenacity to keep struggling.
Interviewed by Khondker Faraz