Product Design
  • Interview Excerpt: Eugene Cheong, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, Singapore

    Check out the work of Eugene Cheong.

    I want to see five great things. Too often students try to bulk up their books, which only shows a lack of judgment and good taste. Ideally, I’d like to see a couple of posters. They are the ultimate test. Any fool can blow up an idea, but it takes a great deal of skill to boil a thought down to a few words and a single picture.

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    How important is finish? Could sketches be enough?

    Creative directors have [an] incredibly short attention span. Present your ideas in the most efficient manner and forget about all the crafty bits. As long as the idea comes across crystal clearly, roughs are fine. Of course, platform ideas need to be explained. The best way to do that is with a concept board, which, funnily enough, is not too dissimilar to a good old-fashioned press ad.

    You’re known for long copy. Do you think it’s necessary to have that in a book?

    I don’t think I necessarily want to read long copy during an interview, but evidence that a person is comfortable with words is important. Writing is refined thinking. A writer is generally more adept at constructing an argument, laying out a story, and, consequently, changing a mind.

    So, good writing is evidence of good thinking, which is always useful.

    Good writing is a learned skill. If you want to write well, you must do two things above all: read a lot and write a lot. You can only learn to write by imitation and practice.

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    Are there common mistakes that juniors make?

    The biggest mistake young people make is underestimating how brutal the world is out there. A semi-glamorous business like advertising attracts wannabes like flies to a rotting corpse. They buzz into the business in one dark endless swarm, but after 20 years or so, only a handful survives. It’s a super competitive business. In Brazil, if you don’t make creative director by 35, you leave the industry to do something else. I think laying pipe or digging trenches is easier than writing ads. When you first start out, there is no life, apart from work. You have to be able to take rejection without taking offense. If you don’t love it, you won’t stick around for very long.

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    I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and in all that time I’ve only seen one beginner with a decent book. That’s not surprising, I suppose. After all, you only learn to do ads once you are in the business.

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    eugene cheong

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