The One Academy recently played host to a Master Forum by Hex Ng He Xiang – Creative Group Head at TBWA\Kuala Lumpur, titled ‘Stumbling onto Advertising: How Jobs Choose You’. Since graduating from The One Academy’s School of Advertising & Graphic Design in 2006, she has worked at Bates, Lowe, Leo Burnett, VLT, Grab and now at TBWA\. As a graphic designer turned copywriter, she has created effective work for brands such as Petronas, IKEA, Maxis, BMW, Astro, McDonald’s and Samsung. Her talk centered on her discovery of something she really loved, and how it developed from there.
For this talk that she was invited to give, she tried to remember what it was like to be the ones sitting in the audience, as a student she once was. She recalled that at one point, there was a sense of panic while figuring out what she wanted to do after finishing her studies. As she was studying, she discovered that she really liked copywriting. She also shared little stories about her adventure in advertising over the past 11 years.
She said that one can plan anything and everything that they want to do, as planning is important in order to progress somewhere. But at the same time, luck and timing also add to the equation. So, one just has to be open-minded about their destination in the future. Always plan with an open mind, because nothing is set in stone. Keeping an open mind lets you discover the many different areas that you could go into.
She had a plan that went the other way, but it was okay with her because it actually turned out great, and that led her to stumble into advertising. She had a specific plan to do packaging design, but soon discovered that there are multiple facets in advertising. That was when she met and fell in love with copywriting, which is writing in advertising. She then focused more on marketing and advertising-related classes instead of design which she realised was not her strength.
“But it doesn’t mean that all your other classes don’t matter. All classes matter, because every class will teach you something different that you will eventually need to use when you start working. You might not discover it now, but you will as you go along,” she added.
There were two very influential people in the industry whom Hex really wanted to learn from; they were Jeff Orr of TBWA\ and Yasmin Ahmad of Leo Burnett. As she was deciding on which job offer to take, the news of Yasmin Ahmad’s passing came. It should have been a clear choice to go to TBWA\, but up until today, she had no logical explanation as to why her gut told her to pick Leo Burnett. The company was a mess after the passing of their creative director, but that was when she saw many opportunities because someone had to pick up the mess.
“As a creative, your gut really plays a very big role. Without gut feelings, a lot of things could go wrong. You have to trust and train your gut feel,” shared Hex.
It was at Leo Burnett, under new executive creative director Eric Cruz, that she discovered her love for digital work. She liked the ability to mash tradition and culture with digital to make something new. Her big break came when her script was picked out of the many submissions for a Petronas festive ad. The idea that she came up with was about the resilience of Chinese people around the world. She wrote the script to include Belgium, London, India, China, Thailand and Malaysia, not actually knowing that it would be picked. Five days later, she was on a plane to shoot the film in aforementioned countries for 21 days.
“Mistakes are inevitable. It’s common to make mistakes, but make it fast and get out fast. Don’t linger, because it doesn’t benefit anybody,” she said of her brief experience at Grab, while it was a great place to work at, it did not fit what she wanted to do at that time.
That led her to join the agency where she is today, accompanied by a leadership role. She is now shouldering more responsibilities, working for TBWA\ and its collectives, Creative Juice\ and DAN (Digital Arts Network) simultaneously. While it is not easy, it is interesting at the same time. She learned how to plan her work effectively so that she has time to be creative. Her team now leads U Mobile and Nando’s – two of their biggest and most challenging clients.
She shared that one has to be flexible with their plans and surroundings. She assured them that their journey in the industry will definitely be interesting and challenging. Be kind and nice to everybody, because there is no such thing as working alone in this industry. All in all, Hex’s advices left the students with a clearer understanding of the advertising industry.
“If you go through a difficult phase, it’s not always the worst thing that could happen to you. It could be an opportunity. You just need to know how to turn it around,” Hex concluded.
Photo 01: Hex Ng, Creative Group Head at TBWA\, shares her career experience in the Master Forum.
Photo 02: Hex is presented with a token of appreciation by Mr. Chan Kon Loong, Deputy Course Director of Advertising & Graphic Design.
Photo 03: A group photo of Hex and the audience after the forum.
Photo 04: Students seeking Hex for advice at the end of the session.