Opinion

Q&A with Possible APAC CCO Pei Pei Ng: Are we producing work that stands the test of time?

Pei Pei NgPei Pei Ng is one of Singapore’s top ad creatives, with experience at Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, JWT and TBWA. She was recently promoted to chief creative officer of WPP digital agency Possible.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella Asia’s editor Robin Hicks, Ng talks about her ambitions for Possible, her approach to developing talent, and the “fragmented” state of Singapore’s advertising scene.

So Pei Pei, tell us about the creative ambition you have for Possible in your new role as Asia Pacific chief creative officer?

My creative ambition never changes. At the heart of any agency, its all about the big idea. And I think the job is about being able to solve problems with ideas are relevant, human and meaningful.

How important to you and the agency are awards?

Awards will always be important for the agency profile and attracting young talent. But awards are not a matter of life and death. More important is for the work we produce to engage people, and be relevant to their lives. The work should make people’s lives a little bit funnier, more entertaining, and more interesting. It should not be frivolous, it should have meaning.

Of the work that’s being produced on Singapore’s advertising scene at the moment, what do you rate as the best stuff?

Hmm. I can’t think of anything that stands out. I honestly can’t, I’m sorry.

Why do you think that is?

Everything feels very fragmented at the moment. A lot of energy goes into tailoring the work for the medium, but not really engaging people. It’s critical that we connect the dots and tell a cohesive story. Agencies are still doing mostly short burst campaigns. Something might be funny or moving for a minute or two, but lacks involvement between the consumer and the brand over the long term. That really gets to me.

So what is your approach to your work?

It is pretty simple. It’s about understanding the brand first. I’m very particular that the strategy must hold the entire story together. It gives meaning to the work we produce. Working closely with the planners is important to me; I would say about 80% of my time is spent with the planners. From there the idea will evolve.

That’s the way I’ve been taught by my two heroes, Neil French [the former WPP worldwide creative director] and Andy Greenaway [former Saatchi & Saatchi APAC ECD and now Dentsu Singapore ECD]. That’s the way it should work; look around at how people make things beautiful, whether it’s through a painting, a movie or a song, it’s about truly understanding what you want to say, and from there it will come naturally.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Ng’s conservation campaign for Wildlife Reserves Singapore

What did you learn from French and Greenaway?

Neil French

French

Andy Greenaway

Greenaway

Always be able to laugh at your mistakes, and always stay true to what you believe in. Be able to tell stories from every moment, every experience. Collect them, as life is a collection of stories.

Work shouldn’t just be beautiful or temporary. Does what you produce stand the test of time? Those two guys taught me to be huge critics of my own work, and that way push it on to the next level.

Are you happy with the team you have now at Possible? What needs to be done to improve it?

I think as we evolve the Possible brand, we plan to bring in new talent, sure. But finding the right kind of talent is really tough. I spend more time nurturing what I have – nurturing young people is very important to me. But if there’s a gap I’ll go out and fill it. But it’s hard to find people who know the whole picture. Most people in this business only know part of it. I find it exciting to polish the gems I have here, and refine and evolve our talent base over time. Refinement is key. It’s like being in an art shop or a candy store. You find the best matches and put it all together.

What’s your view on the state of creativity in Singapore at the moment?

I think Singapore will always be an interesting creative hub. The type of talent that Singapore develops and attracts will always produce interesting creative pieces. But today, the ideology of advertising compared to the 90s and 00s is very different. Everyone is jumping on the digital bandwagon, but as I’ve said what’s out there is too fragmented. Sporadic conversations can be good, but they serve very little purpose for the client and the brand over the long term. When we fall in love with our favourite drink it should be forever.

What do you make of the ‘I Sea’ refugee app story and the impact that would have had on Singapore’s ad industry?

It really depends on the value system of the agency and the people who work there. And I would say that scam is not new to anyone. Everyone has played their part in the scam world. I’m not saying I’m completely righteous and virtuous – I’m not. And to each their own. But as creative people we need to be responsible for what we do and say, and the impact it can have on future generations. There are consequences for what we do.

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