A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok

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A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok

The Thai advertising and media industry has many female leaders in top positions, but somehow on the creative side, it’s rare to find a female at the pinnacle. Jureeporn Thaidumrong was definitely the first. Today there is certainly a second emerging out of the new younger generation – the stylish Thai female creative superstar – Damisa Ongsiriwattana. Damisa, or Lek as she is known, is a rare gem, and Campaign Brief Asia’s Nino Sarabutra recently caught up with the Co-Founder/ Executive Creative Director of the independent boutique, female lead and female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok.


Damisa was born into a Chinese family where her mother only wished for male offspring because they could take care of themselves and raise the family and carry on with family business. While a daughter could only grow up to be a follower and supporter of her husband.

“I grew up with a belief that I would not work in our family business. I was determined that I would take care of myself without my family’s support. As of today I am the only one of all five siblings that works outside of our family business,” explains Damisa.

Damisa went to a girl school before studying advertising at Thammasat University in Bangkok. Her family didn’t want her to do her masters degree outside of Thailand because she was a girl, but Damisa was determined.

“I had to beg them to let me go. I told them just to pay my tuition fees and I will take care of the rest. I had Jureeporn Thaidumrong and Thirasak Tanapatanakul (two of the top Thai creatives at that time) as on-line private direct teachers in my last year of my masters degree in advertising at the San Francisco Academy of Art.

“There were three top Thai creatives at that time, Suthisak was the other one. I chose Judee and Thirasak, then the university contacted them. In the days before Zoom or Facetime, the classes were on emails and telephones with expensive phone cards. It took me about four years to finish my masters.”

Upon her return to Thailand, Thaidumrong was about to leave Saatchi & Saatchi to start JEH United and she joined the start up agency.

Her first job was at JEH United and she met Un Wuthisak Anarnkaporn as her first partner. A year and a half later they joined O&M, then moved on to Creative Juice G1 to work with Thirasak. Un left after three years to pursuit his directing career. Damisa stayed more than four years at Creative Juice G1, before moving to JWT.

“At JWT I have my first chance working with a female brand Oriental Princess, even more with the focus on online. It really opened the door to the world of digital for me and I realized I enjoyed working on female brands. One client who inspired me that there is an advantage in being a female creative told me that it’s so nice to work with female creatives as you don’t have to explain what’s the different between eye-shadow and eye-liner.”

Damisa spent nearly five years at JWT working with Oriental Princess and Cute Press plus some other products that focused on online.

“Early interactive work on the Oriental Princess ‘Reflection’ campaign consisted of a microsite as consumers were still on desktop and not mobile. For this I have to thank Satit Jantawiwat for his super advanced digital skills and also the Oriental Princess client. It’s a campaign that made me see that a women’s world does not need to be just pink.”

This campaign was an online mini-series with 4 episodes challenging the audience to unmask 6 beautiful suspects in a criminal case. The series launched in 2012, got 80K views and helped the brand reach 185K subscribers on YouTube. The agency won a Gold from Spikes Asia, a Silver from AdFest and a Silver at the APAC Effie awards.


Another campaign for Oriental Princess that Damisa is proud of is ‘Secrets Leak’. It’s a campaign that talks about women’s beauty secrets.

“The insight comes from the statistic that women can keep secrets for only 32 minutes,” she explains. “The concept was that every 32 minutes there would be new secret leaking. It’s a brave and fun story. One of the early Thai beauty brands that dared to talk about breast enlargement in their commercials. We won Gold from LIA, and Shortlists from Cannes Lions and Spikes Asia.”

Following this period of her career Damisa returned to O&M to work on their new Entertainment unit, and learnt that long form content is not easy to execute in a big agency.

“It took long time to produce – man-hours were also a big problem. And then you have to sell the product. It ended up being long form advertising.”

Unsatisfied, and knowing that she had worked at all the great Thai agencies, Damisa thought it was time to get out and do her own thing.

What lead her to launch a female agency?

“There was some data released by ADWEEK that year that 86% of decision makers when buying products are female, even if the products were for men. But in the US, only 11% of creative directors were female. So, I thought there’s definitely room for female agency.”

SOUR Bangkok launched with zero clients. They released their launch news and positioning out in the press and clients started calling from day one.

She explains: “Phawit Chitrakorn, who I met at O&M and is now CEO of GMM Grammy (the biggest music and entertainment company in Thailand) called and asked me to work together. ‘Anything, any project, any content that targets young women.’ That was a brief. We presented a few ideas to him, and he said ‘I love everything. Let’s do it all.’ We couldn’t do everything, so we started with 13 episodes of ‘Girl from Nowhere’. Phawit is a great supportive business partner, not a typical client. He helped with planning, financing and finding script writers, but never touched any creative details. It took us a year and a half to finish, and nearly two years before it went on-air.

‘Girl from Nowhere’ first launched on-air on GMM 25, but it was so successful that ‘Girl from Nowhere Season 2’ was created for Netflix. It was one of the very first Thai original series on Netflix. It was top trending in 13 countries and in more than 25 languages.

It won numerous awards including a Merit at One Show, Best Original Digital Drama Series from the Asian Television Awards, Best Drama Series & Best Actress from Asian Academy Creative Awards.

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


SOUR also took care of the promotional work on the series.

“One of our partners, Bangkok Writer who works with Tourism Authority of Thailand called and asked us to work together to promote tourism targeting women. The result was ‘Palette of Thailand’ – new palettes of make-up that will inspire women to travel from Oriental Princess and Tourism Authority of Thailand.

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


“Following the success of ‘Girl from Nowhere’ and ‘Palette of Thailand’, clients started to understand what we meant by our female targeting and our women focus. Now they come to us not expecting just ordinary ads. We are not only a creative partner but their business partner. We are not just providing end solutions – we are helping them from the start.

The hard work has paid off. Over the past 5 years SOUR Bangkok has been awarded Agency of the Year at AdFest 2021, Campaign’s Southeast Asia Boutique Agency of the Year for 4 consecutive years (2018 – 2021), and was ranked as one of Thailand’s Top 5 Best Performing Agencies by Campaign Brief’s The Work.

So how did COVID-19 impact on the agency?

“We were not impacted at all. More clients came to us because they couldn’t produce any new tv commercials to promote their products. Also, many small local brands that heard of us called. They needed new solutions. We were very busy throughout the pandemic. Everyone got a bonus – no pay cuts or anything.”

Humour plays a large part in great Thai advertising and Damisa said that her former creative partner Un Wuthisak Anarnkaporn from FACTORY01 is today very much the beacon of Thai humour.

“It’s a straight face dry humour mixed between western jokes and Thai insight,” explains Damisa. “His campaigns have been hot for the last two to three years, winning many major awards and he is now sought out by many agencies around the world. The waiting list to book him is very long!”

An issue that many female creatives face is juggling family life and children. Is this her experience?

“I think it depends. From my experience, some of my friends are very good in both running business and being mothers. Once while judging at Cannes, my friend brought her toddler with her and took breast feeding breaks during the judging. I thought she was so cool and she looked happy doing both at the same time. If it’s me, I’m sure it will affect me. I know I’m not good at time management and I cannot focus on both. If I have children, I want to raise them myself as a full-time mother. Like when I work, I want to fully focus on my work. So, currently I choose to focus only on my work.”

“I love married life. I feel that I have a life partner whom I can share my views with and my vision in both private and professional life. If you meet the right partner you’ll have a clear path of life and moving your career forward. At the moment I don’t think about having children for two reasons: Firstly, I love what I’m doing so much and I’m afraid of ‘losing myself’ when I have children. Secondly, I’m not certain I can raise my children well in today’s world, the environment is getting worse and society is getting more complicated.”

Why there are so many women leaders in the Thai ad industry?

“I think Thailand has a wife fearing society. The wife is the leader of the family. Thai women are strong but they don’t get up and fight in an aggressive manner. There is high soft power in female leadership in Thailand, I think. Even Judee has her ‘soft way’ of negotiating. It’s a privilege to be a woman in our industry. Especially if you’ve proven yourself to be at the top, you will feel that people respect you. It’s a Thai character. I never feel inferior being a woman in this industry. Sometimes though, in a big international meeting, a women’s opinion can be skipped over – not only mine, but women from other countries as well. We need more women in this industry. In every meeting there are not enough us.”

“I think the success factor for every gender is setting goals and committing to them. My commitment is I want to be successful in this job. I want to be an inspiration for the industry. Judee was my role model. I have been single-mindedly focusing on my goals and following my beliefs. My advice to young female creatives is that you can be strong, work hard, and fight for others. When you are successful, you can support your family. You will be special without trying to be special.”

What are your top three favorite works, globally and locally?

“Internationally, it is Dole ‘Piñatex’. As a creative idea it is rather passive, but as business idea it created such a big transformation for the brand. Starting from a sustainability point, Dole works with Pinatex to transform the big waste from the production of canned pineapples into alternative fiber that replaces leather for vegans. It’s embraced by big fashion brands including Nike and H&M.”

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


“Another is Women in Games ‘Gender Swap’. The issue of gender equality is getting mentioned and addressed by many brands and companies. Some execute it as a serious topic, others do it in an emotionally way. This campaign found an angle, an undeniable fact and told the story in a fun, cute and naughty way.

‘Celebrity Tweets’ is another campaign that was a game changer for Twitter. Lately, Twitter is a platform for hate speech. Especially in Thailand. And many brands tried to avoid using Twitter except for campaigns that use celebrities as their fans’ base. But this campaign encourages the tweeter to succeed what they have tweeted. It’s very simple but impactful.

Damisa said Thai campaigns that have stood out are:

Lottery Movie Posters is a campaign that changed Lotto tickets that all Thais know into a simple and smart medium.”

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


Also standing out is Krungsri First Choice “Metaverrrrrrr” is a Cannes 2022 winner. “I like this as it is a different kind of Thai humour to the style of humour that we have long been familiar with. Especially with the promotional brief that needs to sell the product in every second, and must use celebrities which most creatives hate. This ad told a story in a fun, un-skippable way without feeling forced. It is so smart.”

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


From her own agency she is proud of ZEN “Bento Boss”. This campaign transformed a promotional brief into a food movement and created further partnerships for the client.

“Only a day after the launch, key business executives and food pages contacted ZEN to get involved. It used customized look-alike Top Thailand’s CEO sculptures made of rice to target CEOs from all over the country, inviting them to join #WorkLunchBalance Movement and encourages their employees to have quality lunch breaks outside the office, to help them come back with more productivity.”

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


In terms of new work from SOUR Damisa highlights:

SangSom Bar: “A Thai client that we are proud of, and a brand that has been winning global awards continuously. This year the company wanted to go toward sustainability but for its’ target we need to keep them entertained. This one is a sustainably fun and engaging idea.”

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


Whoscall – The Sound of Safety: “This work has won many awards for both its advertising and media stages. Whoscall is a free application that not only identifies caller ID, but also identifies any scam caller. Whoscall wants to save Thai people from the widespread call center scams and we worked with VGI media on BTS to created awareness about scams in the fun and light hearted way.

A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok


Nino Sarabutra (pictured below on left) with Damisa Ongsiriwattana (on right).


A girl from somewhere: Damisa Ongsiriwattana on her female targeted agency, SOUR Bangkok