Hall of Fame: A tribute to the people who have helped build Asian media and marketing
Founder, Batey Advertising
The man who brought the Singapore Girl to life, Batey was seen as the archetypal ‘suit’ in the Asian advertising industry. He made his name with Singapore Airlines, and held the brand in an iron grip for more than 30 years (the agency finally lost the account after 35 after being acquired by WPP). In his heyday, Batey lived by a simple principle: if something works, keep doing it. Being liked was not a priority. He and Sir Martin Sorrell never saw eye-to-eye, and Rick Scott-Blackhall, his partner of 30 years, has described him as “your worst nightmare on the eve of any presentation”. But it was that strength of character that enabled him to play such an important role in putting Asia on the advertising map.
Founder, The Ball Partnership
A cattle breeder by trade, Ball saw the potential in Asia early on. As David Ogilvy’s heir apparent, he decided to forge his own path by buying out Ogilvy’s second network in the region, Meridian, which he re-branded as The Ball Partnership. Like Batey, Ball was single-minded and described by some as a ‘let’s kick ’em in the guts’ character. Also like Batey, he was key to the establishment of the Asian ad industry, picking and cultivating the best creative talent, and forming a formidable partnership with Neil French. Those who worked for him went on to do great things in their own right — that much alone is testament to his stature.
Ex-worldwide creative director, WPP
A polarising figure even in retirement, French is widely credited with having set the Asian creative revolution in motion. He was a shadowy chancer who was by various accounts fleeing the mob and the taxman when he landed in Asia. Yet he inspired the likes of Eugene Cheong and Jureeporn Thaidumrong to go beyond the norm and give Asian advertising its own voice. Between 1983 and 1986, French led Ogilvy Singapore to win 201 of 564 Creative Circle Awards and 46 of 52 pitches. His wit was legendary and shone in his long copy. He was a shameless self-promoter who saw nothing wrong with a bit of scam, but who also raised the bar of industry, built enviable brands and left behind a real legacy.
Creative chairman, Droga5
The youngest of five boys, Droga named his agency, which he founded in 2006, after the labels his mother would stitch in his underwear to distinguish them from those of his brothers. A creative director at just 22, he became Publicis’s first global chief creative officer just over 10 years later. But it was his work at Saatchi & Saatchi in Singapore that built his name in the region. Driven by what he has described as “immense insecurities” to achieve more than the next man, Droga has been noted by his peers for his ability to build people up and get the very best out of them. An idealist, he says too many agencies today compromise their creative principles. “We have to stand our ground,” he told Campaign last year. “If clients don’t like it, we walk away.”
A woman strong enough to tame Neil French (at least for a time) is a special woman indeed. Remembered by some as intimidating, she also inspired great loyalty. Tay Guan Hin, regional ECD at JWT, has described her as the most intelligent and hard-working boss of his career. As head of Saatchi & Saatchi in Singapore, she became the first woman to run an international advertising agency in the country. Her achievements in turning the fortunes of the company around are even more impressive given her prior lack of business experience: she relied on pure instinct and brainpower, winning numerous awards in the process.
Ex-creative director, Ogilvy & Mather Thailand
Great things can only be achieved with inspiration. Owen knew that, and the Australian creative director is credited with driving young Thai writers and art directors to be the best they could be. Rather than imposing his own values on the country’s industry, he recognised its character and drew it out of the people he mentored, forging a highly distinctive advertising culture and a voice that was uniquely Thai. His own work reflected faith in and respect for the Thai culture. He commanded such respect that he came to be seen as an honorary Thai and was known as Paa Barr — Papa Barry.
Founder, Enterprise Nexus
A legend in Indian advertising, Khan built disciples of Indian creatives from two generations. Known for his hot temper and strong opinions as well as his work, Khan started as a copywriter in London and went on to set up some of the country’s best agencies, including Contract and Rediffusion, as well as Enterprise Nexus, which Bates acquired in 2005. His passion was to put a greater sense of pride into Indian advertising. And he did. By focusing on being the most creative, he took on India’s largest agency, HTA (now JWT) with a shop a fraction of the size. There have been others with a similar ethic since, but he remains a giant.
Worldwide chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather
The opposite of the brash adman of yore, Young is seen as a gentleman in every respect of the word. An Ogilvy man since 1982, he took over from Harry Reid as regional chairman in 1994 and built the network into a formidable force. He has been noted for his ability to attend to fine details while keeping a clear-headed view of the bigger picture. Having run Asia from Hong Kong, his efforts were recognised in 2009 when he became Ogilvy’s global chief executive.
Owner, Foo & Pullen
Pullen is the man responsible for bringing Neil French to Singapore. The former group chief executive of Batey, he was never officially a creative, but he has been noted for his unconventional approach to management. In short, he was a rare sort of character that the industry is always in need of.
Ex-chairman, Ogilvy & Mather Asia-Pacific
Reid is remembered as a larger-than-life figure who was instrumental in helping Ogilvy & Mather achieve the stature it has in the region today. He was humorous and approachable, yet highly respected by everyone who dealt with him. Having set strong foundations for Ogilvy, in 1994 he went on to run FCB Worldwide — an early example of a leader with broad experience in Asia transitioning into a global role. He retired in 2004.
Executive chairman & ECD, Ogilvy South Asia
The moustachioed legend seems to have been around forever, such has been his impact on Indian advertising. He has arguably played the biggest role of anyone in raising Indian standards to world class. It has not been easy, and Pandey continues to work tirelessly, still breaking new ground for brands such as Vodafone and Fevicol. But it is not hard work alone that has led him to be one of the country’s most successful and recognisable creative people — it is his ability to connect with others. A decade ago, he was already being accused of rendering servicing superfluous through his rapport with clients.
Former ECD, The Ball Partnership
Chu stands out as one of the first Chinese people to achieve great success in Hong Kong advertising. He changed the way people in the city thought about advertising by employing a distinctively simple visual style and emphasising executional excellence. At the time, few local creatives attained senior roles, but Chu knew he could change that. He had the self-belief to open his own agency, Synergie, which later merged with The Ball Partnership. He died an untimely death at the age of 53 in 2007, but Eddie Booth, chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett Greater China, says his impact is still felt today.
Chairman & CEO, GroupM Australia
A one-time dispatch boy at McCann-Erickson, ‘Steady’ took two years to progress from delivering mail to making media decisions for clients such as Coca-Cola. Becoming regional CEO of Mindshare in 1997, he was the brains behind the establishment of more than 20 offices across 14 markets. He later established GroupM. When he stepped down as CEO in 2008, the network was worth around US$4 billion in the region. While Steedman talked about spending his retirement renovating properties, he couldn’t stay away and was soon back as chairman and CEO of GroupM Australia, which has seen strong growth as a result.
Founder, The Campaign Palace
Hunt co-founded The Campaign Palace with art director Gordon Trembath, inspiring a generation of advertising talent by pursuing a more radical creative path. Becoming Australia’s most awarded adman, he retired, only to be drawn back into the game to set up Lowe Hunt & Partners in Sydney in 1999. He has said his career has been sustained by “the eternal quest to do great work”. In an interview with Campaign in the UK shortly after re-emerging from retirement, he said simply: “I am critical of agencies that don’t do great work as I don’t think they have any reason for being.”
The creator of classic works of literature such as Sarong Party Girl — a colourful examination of a very Singaporean anthropological phenomenon, Aitchison entered the world of advertising to fund his true passion, writing. He can be seen as a ‘creative’ in the purest sense. As an adman at agencies such as Batey and The Ball Partnership he had a chequered career, setting a benchmark for scam, but also producing breakthrough award-winning work that was a genuine contribution to the Asian industry. Under the pen name James Lee, he sold more than 1.5 million copies of Mr Midnight, a series of children’s books.
Founder, Peter Beaumont & Friends
The late Peter Beaumont is credited with having single-handedly built the Malaysian advertising industry from scratch. The agency he founded in Singapore in 1964, Jackson Wain, was to become the first outpost of Leo Burnett in Asia and signalled the start of a long relationship with the Publicis Groupe network. Beaumont described himself as a “battle-hardened survivor of many years of bitterly fought campaigns — most of them in advertising”. He has also had some harsh words for the industry, describing global campaigns as little more than “bland, unfocused exercises in corporate posturing”.
Ex-EVP, Edelman Asia-Pacific
A former British army officer, Spurrier entered the world of public relations in 1968, moving to Hong Kong to join Grant Public Relations three years later. He soon became known for his resourcefulness and pioneering spirit. One notable coup came off the back of convincing Hong Kong Land and Jardine Matheson to outsource their public relations requirements. Spurrier set up a partnership with Tony Turner for that very purpose, before almost instantaneously selling it to The Rowland Company,. He stepped back from his role at Edelman in 2008 to become non-executive chairman.
Ex-chairman, Leo Burnett Thailand; creative director, Greyhound
The founder and creative driver of successful contemporary fashion and lifestyle label Greyhound, Inkawat is also noted for having taken the Thai ad industry beyond an information-based approach towards a more emotional form. An inspiration to many, he helped raise the appeal of the industry among young Thais and instilled an appreciation for the industry’s craft. Eventually needing creative fulfilment of a different kind, he struck out on his own in the 1980s to establish Greyhound, which has since mushroomed into a respected brand in numerous countries.
A playful yet thoughtful character, Santisiri has long been a champion of the single strong, simple idea. Along with Inkawat, he founded the Bangkok Art Directors’ Association. He has always challenged himself and those around him to think differently, and his ideas have sometimes been described as “outrageous”, surely a good thing. His love of the industry is such that he stepped out of retirement to found Nude Communications, which subsequently merged with Jureeporn Thaidumrong’s JEH. But his interests extend beyond the world of advertising, and he looks far and wide for inspiration: he has also had a stint as a Buddhist monk.
Founder, Jack Vaughan Creative Services
Throughout a long, distinguished career, Vaughan was always motivated by a basic desire to write creative ads. That simple aim led him to be seen by many as Australia’s best advertising writer. Having worked as a creative director at The Campaign Palace, he now operates as a creative outsource to other agencies. Speaking to Media 10 years ago, the writer Jane Caro explains why she believed Vaughan stood out among his peers. “His work has always been extremely thoughtful, intelligent and with a lightness of touch,” she said. “He has taste, in the best sense of the word. He never goes for the outrageous or shocking for the sake of it. You look at him and think, ‘you don’t have to be a wanker to work in advertising’.”
Filmmaker/ECD, Leo Burnett Malaysia
When Ahmad died in 2009, it was not just the advertising industry that mourned her, but an entire country that had been touched by her work. She was much more than an advertising creative. Never afraid to speak her mind despite living in one of Asia’s most conservative countries, she became known for tying the Petronas brand to broad and often controversial social messages. Work such as ‘Tan Hong Ming’, which drew attention to Malaysia’s lack of racial harmony, cannot be described as advertising, but rather filmmaking with the ability to move people and make them reconsider their attitudes. As Chris Jaques, CEO of M&C Saatchi Asia-Pacific, once noted, “she had an incredible depth of feeling and it showed in her work”.
Founder, Wadsworth Media
Wadsworth was a giant of Asia’s media industry in every sense. Standing at 196cm, Wadsworth was an outstanding athlete in his younger days. After spells in various business in the UK, he moved into the media industry with the Financial Times, before moving to Hong Kong as general manager of the Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1960s. He went on to pioneer the media representative business in Asia with Wadsworth Media, representing a wide range of the world’s top newspapers and magazines. Eventually, Wadsworth Media merged with SLM, where he held the position of honorary chairman before retiring to France in 1997.
Founder/director, Film Factory
Hong Kong’s TV and film industry might not be much to write home about today, but Ng’s brilliance as a film director once helped position it as the pinnacle of Asian TV production. He set up the Film Factory in 1983 to start directing the commercials he wanted, later expanding to Thailand. The ability to breathe life into storyboards will always be appreciated, but it is Ng’s intellectual approach to the whole process that helped set him apart from the crowd.
Ex-Worldwide creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Isherwood resigned from Saatchis in 2008 after 12 years at the top of his creative game, saying that he needed to reinvent himself. Before that, the Australian had used all his distinguished creative faculties to help reinvent the company. He helped propel the network to centre stage at Cannes year after year. But there was something beyond that that people respected: Isherwood’s integrity. He became known for his belief that there is honour in the ideas business; that harnessing creativity and the power of ideas is in the client’s best interests.
R Balakrishnan (R Balki)
Chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas & Partners
Under Balki, Lowe Lintas & Partners has proven to be a lot more than ‘a Levers agency’. From Idea Cellular for the Aditya Birla Group, to Havells India’s diversified portfolio, the agency’s creative output has contributed immensely to making these brands not just top of mind, but also making them consumer favourites — as market shares and brand scores reveal. Social campaigns such as Pullia Raja for Aids awareness, socially relevant stances for brands like Tata Tea and endearing adaptations of ‘Dirt is good’ have consistently found resonance in the market. Despite a string of successful Hindi feature films behind him, both as director and producer, Balki continues to tell stories in the shorter advertising format compellingly, and guide his team to do the same. While Abhishek Bachchan has earned the nickname Sirji thanks to Idea Cellular’s campaigns, there’s only one Sirji that adland knows.
Chief creative office, India sub-continent, Leo Burnett
Sridhar, affectionately known as ‘Pops’, was most recently heard this August at a design convention in Goa, speaking on ‘Humanity’. If Leo Burnett’s work on brands such as Sony’s television game show Kaun Banega Crorepati has set standards on one side, critical acclaim has come for ideas and craft displayed for brands such as Luxor highlighters, on the global stage. Pops has been interacting with the Leo Burnett teams in the region and other parts of the world for around six years now, well before he was given the additional mandate to head creative for SriLanka and Pakistan, as well as India. His purview now includes three creative agencies and a digital outfit, Indigo. He has already plunged into the next big challenge — now that a team is in place in each market to handle clients’ advertising challenges. A lot of his time in the past one year has been spent understanding the changes in advertising and helping the agency’s teams across the India sub-continent (and some other neighbouring markets) prepare for the future. The next one year will also be spent doing just that, he says, believing himself to be on a critical mission. He is convinced that the storytellers of print, who managed to engage audiences through television, will lead communication in the digital age.
Ex-ECD, JWT Hong Kong
Ng can be compared to Mike Chu in his contribution to the Hong Kong advertising industry. In the late eighties and early nineties, he led JWT to become one of the most successful local agencies, winning a truly impressive number of awards and garnering widespread respect as a creative leader. Ng showed that it was possible for local creatives to thrive in a multinational agency environment. In addition, in an industry known for its gargantuan egos, Ng has remained modest and down-to-earth. He is remembered for declining the showy corner office offered to him upon becoming executive creative director, choosing instead to simply add another bookcase to his regular one.
In his book Sorry for the Lobsters, Neil French recalls his apprehension at working with Isaac, a suit from that “dull” agency Lintas. His fears diminished after a session in which Isaac proved himself able to drink with the best, and were put to rest at The Ball Partnership thanks to Isaac’s perseverance in selling a stellar concept to a reluctant client. It was the former British Prime Minister Ted Heath who spurred Isaac towards Asia in the 1980s by delivering a talk on the challenges and opportunities of the “rising East”. Few people thought of leaving London’s Adland at that time, but Isaac can be seen as an ‘early adopter’ who really did commit to the region, only stepping back from Bates last year.
Tham Khai Meng
Worldwide chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather
The brother of Tham Khai Wor, the Straits Times marketer who was brave enough to bet on Neil French’s XO Beer campaign, Tham Khai Meng has achieved a lot by any standards. Taking over from French as Ogilvy’s regional creative director in 2000, he built on the creative standards that had been set and led the company to win the Asia-Pacific Agency of the Year title for eight years in a row. He took up his current role in 2009, moving to New York where he shares an office with Miles Young. He lives in Andy Warhol’s old home — a 19th century firehouse.
In the mid-1980s, Orpin, together with creative director Mike Chu and film director Louis Ng, changed the face of Hong Kong advertising with the groundbreaking Puma Sportswear campaigns. Those iconic, grand-vision campaigns won cupboard-loads of awards — Kam Fans, New York One Shows, D&ADs and Cleos — and revolutionised the quality of production and design-style in Hong Kong.
Executive chairman and CEO, McCann WorldGroup India and president – South Asia
“You have to get the poetry of life into advertising.” That is how the adman-cum-lyricist — who has seen the successful run this year of the feature film he scripted, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag — prescribes the symbiotic co-existence of multiple talents in a creative person. But it is not all poetry for Joshi, who fully acknowledges the opportunities arising from data, made evident by McCann’s acquisition of End to End Marketing Solutions earlier this year. He believes that combining data with great ideas can double one’s strengths. At the same time, he quotes Albert Einstein to remind us that the most valuable thing in the world, is intuition. From ‘Thanda matlab Coca-Cola’ to the brand’s most recent ‘Bewajah khushiyan lutao’, there is no dearth of music in the brand’s lingo thanks to Joshi. On the other hand, the agency continues to churn out an appreciable volume of good work for brands such as Aircel, ACC, TVS, Saffola and the like. Most recent among his work celebrated on the Cannes stage was the outdoor campaign for Western Union. But our picks remain the ‘Happydent Palace’ — and more of that is our ‘Sunshine wali aasha’ (reasons to believe).
Executive advisor, Drill
Over the course of his 40 years — yes, 40 — at Dentsu, Kagami has overseen some of Japan’s most successful advertising, from a campaign for JR East that also transformed Christmas into a romantic holiday for couples and a marketer’s dream, to Softbank’s long-running mixed-race family saga featuring a talking white dog as the father. But Kagami’s contribution to the industry extends well beyond Japan, and he continues to highlight the strength and diversity of Asian advertising internationally as a speaker, introducing Japanese TV commercials in many overseas conference seminars including at Cannes, Clio China and NY One Club. He is also an acclaimed author and translator of science fiction.
Global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations
As a journalist and producer, Graves was part of a team that launched Asia’s first TV news network, Asia Business News (ABN), which later merged with CNBC. He was a fixture in Asia for years, hosting debates with the likes of Lee Kuan Yew but also experiencing the sharp end of Singapore regulation when the Wall Street Journal was temporarily forced to suspend operations in the market. He joined Ogilvy PR in 2005. Asia is often seen as underdeveloped in its PR offering, but for Graves it served as a springboard to bigger things. Having helped build the network into the largest and most awarded in the region, he took on his global role in 2009. The next year, he became a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential US foreign policy think tank.