I Left Advertising but it’s Embedded in Me

This whole week has been an emotional roller coaster ride for me personally. I did a lot more reflections since my last post, one that I’ve never revealed to anyone but ended up in the cyberspace one fine morning.

That whole revelation about how I treat myself like someone with autistic was not something I had in mind before this. I only realised it when I wrote it here and then more things made sense for me. It’s probably the most accurate description I could tell other people who has to deal with me in the future, like I’m wearing a warning label. 

The thing is, my mind would process logic and facts easily. Emotions cannot be proven, or rather has too many variables to play with and it only makes it too complicated to conclude. This is why Science of Deduction is my favourite go-to method. But this also means I need to spend significant time reading.

And usually, people who thinks logically will eliminate emotions altogether. Often, they are perceive as emotion-less for this reason. I however, function on a different spectrum. While my mind prefers to work with facts and logic, I have very high empathy. That means, I can easily understanding emotions if I put myself in other people’s shoes. The only setback is that, I can’t prove with facts unless it’s been tested already. Because whatever I say would be limited to my own observations and experience

Mind_Heart

This is me figuring out the bridge.


 

My biggest problem for the longest time is to bridge these two and up until two days ago, I’ve been functioning on separate entities.

Jessie tagged me on Brain Picking’s post about Drawing Autism which made me connect more dots about my childhood tendencies. Like a lightbulb, I had my “Aha!” moment lighted brightly. Not that I’m certain about my self-diagnosed but it gave me some form of clarity I’ve been searching all my life. I’m still on that path where there are infinity dots left to figure out but this week really untangled one of my life’s biggest mystery ever.

Which then answers a lot about why I found so much difficulty working in the advertising industry dog years ago. At the time, when I quit the industry, I accepted that I wasn’t fit for the environment, wasn’t as creative as the agency and industry demands and overall, just not awesome. I accepted that as an Art Director, I suck and I’m ok with that because I use my design background to beautify not to manipulate. 

In countries where branding is a strong market, there is such role as Art Director specifically for design and I was convinced, if I were to come back, that would be the role that fits me best. 

Advertising is a dog eat dog world. You have to love it, have passion for it to not only survive when climbing up the ladder but be the best of the best. Because at the end of the day, it’s a small world where everyone knows everyone and words will spread if you’re good or otherwise. 

I started off way at the bottom, from scratch as a DTP Artist in SpencerAzizul Advertising and worked my way up for half a decade. I had some of the best mentors I could ever asked for. Erman being one of the most influential people always sat me down and talked about things that ignite his passion and also which direction I should take. Today, (I feel) he is one of the more prominent minds in the industry and I have no doubt that the Creative Director role is in his pocket sometime soon. Calvin’s another guy who always have this crazy ideas that feels like it’s so out of reach but very possible. Since I was an intern, a small potato – he would go to my table and get me to collaborate with him. I never really understood why because there were so many other talented people in the office. 

“I like your stuff! I think it would be exciting to do this” Cal would say this often when I ask. So did Soon, previous ECD of ours. He used to tell me this a lot but as always, I just didn’t understand why.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I kept thinking everyone’s out of my league in this world. But I worked very hard to be part of this family, at one point I can instantly name the typefaces used (Erman’s very particular about spacing, kerning and typography). I can still name them today but it might take a wee bit more time. 

Then, there’s always the “what’s next?” questions popping up here and there. Slowly this family of 3 years started to disintegrate for better offers and careers. And it slowly made me question where I should be. Naturally, the next step from being a Graphic Designer, especially in Malaysia is to be an Art Director. It’s common sense. There’s no two ways about it when it comes to making a mark for yourself.  

Like his idol Sagmeister, Erman creates typography using anything and everything. I love his instagram feed @ermanbasiron

Like his idol Sagmeister, Erman creates typography using anything and everything. I love his instagram feed @ermanbasiron

Y&R was probably a reality check. Despite spending more than 2 years there, I never really found myself in it. Not because the agency wasn’t good. I just didn’t know how I can be myself in this world. I would dread the word advertising, like a nightmare I had to wake up everyday because it was dissecting one job brief after another, changing campaigns as per client’s request bla bla bla..

When Sasha and Sathi came on board, that feeling sort of pushed aside. I felt like I could do this again with them around even though part of me still couldn’t grasp this responsibility as an AD. We would brainstorm day in day out, trying to be different but still included in the many guidelines given. It wasn’t an ordeal I thoroughly enjoyed but because I had a kick ass copywriter who I could connect with and a funny group head, I immersed myself in this black ocean. 

Some people isn’t cut out to be something. And that’s ok.

It was a mantra I kept playing in my head because while everyone was rushing to get their scams executed before submitting for awards, I ran away from that mentality. But you see, when you’re in an international agency, (winning) awards is part of that dream and the more great ideas approved for submission, people acknowledge that you’re great. I don’t understand that need nor do I have a hunger for it. 

Yet, in the midst of all of that confusion, I was always attracted to the digital world. I just didn’t know what to do with it. I often go blank and poor Sasha had to help polish me with ideas so that we can just do something for the team. Everyday, I feel more helpless than the day before.

I sent in my first resignation to Sathi but he talked me out of it (much like how it was in my previous agency). I gave it another chance and a year later, that throb kept beating harder. By this time, I felt so detached from advertising like it was a foreign language I could never learn to understand. I felt very sad to leave a team who shaped me but I also felt relieved because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by holding this title I felt was undeserved.

I went back to basic, to where it all started – design. Only this time, it was freelancing. I did a month or so stint as a freelance Art Director a couple months after I left for a smaller agency because I needed the money but as soon as I woke up into that world again, I began to feel resentment.

“Wasn’t this why I left my job in the first place?” kept ringing in my head. Conscience has a brutal honest voice. That’s my conscience. 

Once that job ended, I felt free again. Lesson learned that whenever I do anything for money, all these negative emotions will be infested in me and for that, it became my compass. The greatest reminder in my professional life.

Then I got to collaborate and work with a state tourism agency. I wrote many things about this chapter in my life here but the moment Fazly gave me veto power to handle the social media, I found my purpose. I didn’t understand what it was, no one knew what to do with it or had any idea for that matter. 2011 was when social media grew very fast in the local waves. I did a lot of reading, countless of hours researching, understanding and mind mapping this unknown world until we came up with ways to change the way tourism industry function in the cyber world.

Despite the (many many many) setbacks in that 3 years I invested to this work, the results were far more than any of us could’ve expected. Especially when it started from nothing. We did something with our hands, eyes, mouth and feet tied. While the visual might seem exaggerating, that was exactly how we felt. But courage, passion, tenacity and motivation to do better and have bigger purpose than what is given, we became better people. 

I merged my knowledge from the ad world. What I know and experienced, I put my entire mind, heart and soul combined with other great souls to achieve what we came to change. It wasn’t easy and it will never be easy but the fact that I found my purpose, obstacles are just hoops we have to jump, run, crawl or push over to overcome.

Coming to Hyper Island was the best back up plan I made. Despite knowing that I would give the same amount of heart being a psychologist, this is something bigger. Design, branding, marketing, art direction and copy will always be my core knowledge no matter what I do but perhaps I finally know why I had a hard time back then was because..

I needed time to read and research about a subject before I can contribute any ideas or find solutions to. I didn’t give myself time for that and that’s why my performance was below par. I kept chasing to be as good as other people but I will never be like most people – I can’t just come up with great ideas without fully understanding what the problems, clients, subjects and possibilities are. I compute differently and way more complex. I need to form a clear understanding before I can jump to the next level.

I asked myself last night with this knowledge at hand, would I make a better Art Director if I was given a second chance? Perhaps. But it also depends on the agency’s culture. 

Maybe service design agency would suit better. 

in the end, no matter where we go, I think this ad sums up everything well and also a reminder why we should be doing what we love more. There’s no perfect world but we can change the way we perceive things. I may have left advertising but it’s apparent that advertising didn’t ditch me, no matter the years that went by.

A very smart classified as for Saatchi & Saatchi done by it's CD, Sathi. (a/l means son of in Malaysia)

A brilliant classified ad for Saatchi & Saatchi Malaysia written by it’s CD, Sathi. (a/l means son of in Malaysia)

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2 thoughts on “I Left Advertising but it’s Embedded in Me

  1. I’m really happy you wrote about this. I have also been spending a lot of time reelecting and analyzing the way I I think, what makes me happy, what I love, experiences, and wrapping it all together. I find it is tough to break through, see the light, and understand the answer. Hyper Island looks like an amazing program! I hope I’m so lucky to find a perfect program for me.

    • I know what you mean Jess. For a long time, I didn’t understand why I’m not as “creative” as other people in the field although I don’t think that’s the main issue.

      Writing this allowed me to figure out what happened and see how I can do things differently. It’s apparently a Hyper Island thing after all that so called therapy sessions doing all kinds of activities to dig deep.

      I hope by January you will get the right program! I’m excited for you 🙂

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