10 minutes with Calvin Soh

calvinsoh.jpgEach week Campaign Brief Asia sits down with a prominent creative talent from our region and gets to know them better. This week in this regular "10 Minutes With" column is Calvin Soh - Vice-Chairman, Chief Creative Officer-Asia, Publicis.

What did you do before getting into advertising?
I came out from my military service and my dad wanted to mortgage the house to send me to Australia to get a degree. I declined and worked as a telemarketeer, camera salesman, lifeguard and fast food chef.
How did you first get into advertising as a career?
I tried getting a job as a journalist but without a degree in Singapore, it was impossible. So it was stock broking or advertising then.
Who gave you your first big break?
Ogilvy. Wrote in to be a writer but again, no degree so they stuck me in traffic. Within two years I was account manager and employee of the year.
What is your career highlight to date?
While in Fallon NY/Mnpls, presenting to the senior boards of Citibank, United, EDS etc who didn't care if I had a degree or not.
Nominate the two best ads/campaigns that you have created?
Easy. My father's obituary ads. Everything I am and learned was in there.
Is there an ad that makes you green with envy?
The Bernbach ads from the 60s. I'll be proud if I could do them now.
Do you have a 'worst mistake' or a most embarrassing moment in your advertising career to date?
In my first year as traffic and as a suit, I was working 24/7 and had a pager (remember that?) constantly going off. I was going to office in jeans and bermudas. My dad was a civil servant all his life and couldn't understand it. He thought I was an illegal horse racing bookie. So he called my boss to make sure I was working there.
Is there a person you have enjoyed working with the most?
A very talented, inspiring, witty art director in my second job at Y&R. I married her.
Who is the most interesting, or most inspiring, or funniest person you have ever met or worked with?
It's a cliché but honestly, my children Dylan and Ava make me laugh the most. Them and Fox News.
What's your favourite leisure activity/hobbies outside of advertising?
My furniture, my art projects, my liver.
Favourite holiday destination?
Wherever I can take take the family.
Favourite hotels?
Anyone with the automated bum cleaner/dryer combo.
Tell me something about yourself that not many people would know.
I was born short and blossomed very late. So I had a Dudley Moore/Woody Allen childhood. I had to be funny to avoid being beaten up. On top of that, I inherited the family heirloom - a large bulbous nose like a barge transporting sand illegally to Singapore. So to be more attractive, I picked up the Saxaphone and played it for over a decade. It was a wasted decade.

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2 Comments

Anonymous said:

I really admire Calvin....not because he doesnt have a degree (which he loves to point out) but because he is one of only 2-3 creatives I know who has done some really good award-winning ads that have actually run and made a difference.

Anonymous said:

Most of us Asians have that same bulbous nose.

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