Seeing the Silver Linings in Advertising Professional Douglas Goh on Lessons He Learnt

Professional Douglas Goh.

The One Academy students were graced with a sharing session recently by Douglas Goh, a graduate from The One Academy who is now taking the Singapore advertising scene by storm. He had previously held executive posts in prestigious agencies such as Leo Burnett, BBDO, McCann Erickson and Ogilvy, before being poached by a renowned Singapore agency. He has been the Creative Group Head of TBWA Singapore for about 3 years now.

Before commencing his talk, he pointed out the inevitable “doom and gloom” slides and stories that will help him to tell it like it is, without any sugarcoating. Being thrown straight into the working world upon graduation, coupled with his personal and professional struggles, Douglas had it hard during his junior years within the industry.

One of the hardships he faced was the lack of understanding of what he actually does for a living, especially when it comes from those closest to him. “When I had won a Kancil Award for the very first time, my parents asked me if I had won a car,” said Douglas, putting things in perspective. The Kancil Awards refers to Malaysia’s most prestigious and biggest advertising awards competition.

Those in this line of work were commonly misunderstood. The preconceived responsibilities of a person from an advertising background, according to Douglas, are limited to creating and installing signage and taking pictures for other people, among other notions. One of his “biggest challenge” used to be explaining his occupation to his own family.

Besides receiving flak from his own family, the workplace was also a very demanding environment. On one hand, his family questioned him about the late hours and low pay, and on the other, bosses and clients were being too much of a handful. On top of everything, it was and still is crucial to embrace the countless failures in projects and learning from them, besides knowing how to navigate through volatile communication situations.

Douglas Goh during the sharing session.

Douglas Goh during the sharing session.

However, students at the talk were not disparaged by Douglas’ words, but instead, felt motivated as they learned the potential that the advertising world has to offer, and the pertinent role they play as part of a civilization to bring about change, regardless big or small.

In September 2015, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) joined forces with TBWA to launch the ‘Wear a Plaster. End the Silence.’ campaign in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Week. The campaign’s idea was to open up conversations and get people to talk about suicide, a topic that is considered taboo in Singapore.

The mechanism of the campaign encourages Singaporeans to stick a black #howru plaster on their arms and then posting them on social media. Although they will not directly reduce suicide incidents, the plasters will draw more attention and awareness towards this topic that is affecting the society at large.

As TBWA Singapore’s Creative Group Head, Douglas reported it as a massively successful project despite facing some drawbacks such as expensive media spaces and endorsements. “With only an initial budget of S$10,000, the campaign blew up and touched the hearts of many Singaporeans, most of them teenagers. Those who weren’t able to get the official plaster started drawing them on their hands and posted online,” he said.

On a larger scale, advertising has helped propagate one revolution in the Middle East that is Arab spring. During the waves of protests and demonstrations, it was reported that social media, Facebook in particular, was used to raise awareness about the revolution to the outside world, besides being used as tool of communication and coordination by the people. With this, and a few other instances, Douglas reminded students that advertising has the potential to transform ideas into big solutions which can change the world.

During the Q&A session, Douglas reminded students that although they might have brought about great change and success, the key is to stay humble. “The higher you win, the harder you fall. Truth is, you can win awards left and right, but it is hard to keep up with your achievements. So, remember to stay humble and that you are only as good as your last award,” he said.

A group photo at the end of the sharing session.

A group photo at the end of the sharing session.

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