The 2021 Creative LIAisons is running online this year. Set up to develop, educate, inspire and grow young creative talent, coaching them to their full potential. The goal of this program is to give young creatives under 30, access to learn from some of the most experienced people working in our industry and related industries. The opportunity to have one-to-one coaching sessions with some of the finest creative minds is a golden opportunity for young creatives working in this business. Here three young creatives share their experiences.
Xin Ying Peh, copywriter at Reprise Digital Malaysia, reflects on her Creative LIAisions 2021 experience.
When I found out I was selected as a mentee for Creative LIAisons, two things ran through my head:
1. Oh my god, I got in wtf.
2. Must. Lock. In. Mentors.
As a small town Malaysian girl with only 3 years of ad experience, opportunities like this don’t come very often. So I wasted no time emailing back, and was lucky enough to be assigned three very amazing and experienced coaches.
On a Wednesday evening in May, I had my first session with Istvan Bracsok of White Rabbit, Budapest.
From the very beginning, the conversation with him was fascinating, intense, and insightful. We discussed the importance of being open to ideas and how creative challenges are fundamentally the same everywhere. The highlight of our conversations, however, were the pictures he sent of his giant Hokkaido Ken (that’s a dog, by the way), which I, as a Millennial/Gen Z person who lives off TikTok animal content, thoroughly appreciated.
Istvan taught me the importance to keep fighting for creative work, and how the ability to start over is an incredibly valuable trait to have in an industry like ours.
He left me with this quote, which had me both inspired and laughing nervously:
“You’re not a man until you win your first D&AD.”
We are all no strangers to the wonderful insanity that is Thai advertising, which is why I was absolutely elated to find out my second coach was Sompat Trisadikun, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett/Publicis Thailand.
Sompat was like this really smiley, creative zen buddha. He even titled his creative methodology based on Buddhist philosophy, which…I’m not gonna lie, was pretty cool. He revealed to me that despite being known for its weird and wacky humour, at the core of every Thai ad is a simple message wrapped in a fun execution, and it is our job to ensure that the work is engaging.
One thing that really surprised me was when he revealed how Thai advertising is for the most part real, non-initiative work, which to me was absolutely unreal. The stuff dreams are made of. But as Sompat very sagely told me, oftentimes, the biggest problem we must overcome is ourselves. (See, very philosophical!)
My third and final coach was Jessica Apellaniz, Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy Mexico & LATAM.
I wasn’t sure who was more excited: me or my boss, Kevin, who fan-girled endlessly about her famous AeroMexico campaign. Our first attempt at connecting ended up in a small scheduling hiccup – the time difference was pretty hard to navigate – but the wait was well worth it.
Jessica answered all my questions with such precision and poise, it thoroughly left me in awe. Our session was brief, but saturated with wisdom.
We discussed her career trajectory from MTV producer to adwoman, and how she made the transition successfully by letting her work do the talking for her. She encouraged me to find “my thing” – a skill that comes naturally to me and how to turn it into a superpower, but to never forget the importance of empathy and collaboration.
“If you want to grow,” she said. “People will want to work with you and for you.”
It made me reflect on the kind of boss and creative I wanted to be one day. And looking at her, I’d say I have a pretty good idea of what that looks like.
To be completely honest, I was very nervous going into the coaching sessions. There’s this pressure of wanting to make the most of each conversation, to make an impression and not somehow cock it up. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to successfully achieve any of those things. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, there’s no one formula to being an award-winning creative. Everyone does it differently, but some fundamental things remain:
1. Insights are non-negotiable.
2. Be open and willing to learn.
3. Keep fighting the good fight.
And these are the lessons I will be holding close to my heart for the rest of my career.
Thank you LIA for this tremendous and unforgettable opportunity.
Abhishek Sharma shares his views on the 2021 Creative LIAisons program and experience with his three Mentors: Jessica Apellaniz, CCO, Ogilvy Mexico & LATAM; Sonal Dabral, Founder/CCO, Tribha, Mumbai and Matt Eastwood, Global CCO, McCann Health, New York
An industry that apart from being creative doesn’t ask for any, or in general have any designed curriculum training that prepares one to enter it, must rely on mentoring or coaching programs to craft young talent. Though welcoming people from all backgrounds has always reinforced our industry by providing a multiple-perspective view to our challenges and then gathering cosmopolitan insights, but then there is a method to it too. It is crucial for young entrants to learn and apply it, which is only going to help them put all their diverse experiences into use in a more creative and useful manner.
Unfortunately, with my experience, I would say that there is a dearth of such coaching programs. London International Awards (LIA) on the other hand, with their Creative LIAisons program is doing a tremendous job on this front.
I have had the awesome opportunity to virtually attend it this year. The main highlight of the program is the one-on-one coaching sessions with three different industry leaders. I was lucky enough to have been connected with the best of the coaches and now in hindsight, I can say that these three hours are by far the highlight of my career.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I yielded far more than I thought I could. I realized that even just a thoughtful conversation does to you what a good piece of fiction does. Leaves you with subliminal life lessons.
After my session with Jessica Apellaniz, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy Latina, I literally listed down seven tips by her which in the first place she never dictated. The conversation itself was so insightful that I discovered the subliminal lessons only in hindsight.
Her clarity on her views and her quality to give her views the perfect words is something I will be aiming for. When you get so influenced by someone’s personality that you start looking up to them, it is surely a lesson in disguise.
Honestly, the biggest task was to understand how to make the most of the Creative LIAisons Coaching. So, after days of overthinking, I decided to keep it simple. Rather than making it just another portfolio review, I proposed interviewing the coaches. I don’t know whether they liked the idea or got amused by it, but all three of them agreed instantly and now I think it was one of the best ideas of my career.
I asked them about their life, career and views on several subjects like creativity. Their perspectives, anecdotes and approaches towards challenges helped me understand better what actually goes into making a genius. Also, this approach connected me with them at a personal level and just within an interaction of an hour, created a sense of belonging.
Just think about you being in an audience, while Matt Eastwood, Global Chief Creative Officer at McCann Health, takes you through his childhood days in Perth to his first job in Sydney to settling thrice in New York and even about his newly discovered passion, Photography without a Zoom. This has got me curious now. What better source of learning than one’s life.
In discussions of this nature, stories or recommendations are not just restricted to advertising but, they come from anywhere and everywhere; like Matt told me about Avenue Q, a play he loved watching and of course I made sure I didn’t miss it. Awesome play. Do watch it if you are reading this; it’s there on YouTube. Currently, I am also on to reading his blog, becomingamateur.com, which has got me hooked.
The LIAisons program had arranged for an hour of interaction with all three coaches, but the way things have gone for me, it doesn’t seem to have a time limit. Whereas as I am in talks with Jessica and Matt to have another session in the coming few months, my interaction with my third mentor cannot just be measured with time.
With Sonal Dabral, it started off with a phone call on one fine afternoon. The chit-chatting continued with a few more calls and then came the super surprise. I got a chance to assist him on a few projects he was working on. I mean do I have to say more. I have got exclusive lessons on ideation, editing, crafting and still counting.
It’s always very easy for him to pick the weakness in a creative piece and give it a quick solve. He speaks insights. There is a method to the way he operates which makes me believe that observing his creative process is the best way to learn from him. And I am working hard on it.
Even after so many interactions, we still have another session lined up. Yeah, I know I sound greedy, but then so be it. Maybe he’ll just gift me an internship letter after that. You never know.
Reminiscing over these sessions, I feel I have been the luckiest. Although the program isn’t over yet and more surprises are on the way, but like I said earlier I have already yielded much more than I expected. And to close the loop I’ll go back to where I started from. Since I have been a part of it, so I can vouch for it with reason. Mentoring programs are what we need to direct young talent to become leaders and further make better mentors.
BBDO Guerrero Makati City Art Director, Jasper Cajilig and current Creative LIAisons Mentee shares his experience of the LIA young training course so far.
No one’s ever ready
I enjoy spoilers, and occasionally watching the ending before starting the first episode. It’s a weird quirk, but I prefer knowing to stay in control.
In Advertising, nothing prepares you for what’s ahead. It feels like a scene from a dystopian film in which characters must make their way out of a maze. Every day, you get new briefs and have to work with different people. Surprisingly, I enjoy it. However, it’s both anxiety-inducing and thrilling.
Through Creative LIAisons, I met my personal heroes who braved the unknown and made their own plot to success. It’s not every day that I get to speak with them, so I took the chance, and they offered a few tips they picked up along the way.
Merlee Jayme discussed the complexity of the industry and how, in order to thrive, it’s critical to master the language of the people I work with, from clients to fellow creatives.
When it comes to ideas, she expressed that no amount of packaging can cover a flawed idea. To bullet proof it, it must be true, thrilling and with purpose for it to transcend any barrier.
Eugene Cheong taught me to never wait for an opportunity; instead, I should proactively find one for myself. Each year we get thousands of briefs, but only five are good ones. I should get them out of the way quickly, focus on the good ones or come up with new ones that will push my creativity further.
He also explained why I should surround myself with like-minded people. Advertising is all about teamwork, and if we’re all on the same page, we succeed together.
Ronald Ng discussed the importance of having a positive insecure mindset. It’s about pushing my work till I’m confident enough to share my ideas with the rest of the world.
He then emphasized that the number of years I have in the industry should never diminish my value as a creative. While I only have three years to my credit, I am more than capable of doing something beyond what I can imagine.
After wrapping all three sessions, I took a pause to contemplate what I needed to continue and relearn before I resume. Although the meetings were fleeting, learning from Asian leaders who have experienced similar issues in the past, as I do now, was both enlightening and reassuring. It’s a reminder that if they can, then so can I one day.
The industry will not always present itself to my liking and I may not be ready for what’s looming around the corner, but I’ll use what I’ve learned as I plot the next chapters of my career, and see how it unfolds in the future.