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Creative Catch-Up: McCann’s Ali Grayeli

Ali Grayeli took on the role of  executive creative director at McCann Singapore in June this year after a year as senior creative director in the agency. He took on the role following his move from Shanghai where he was ECD of Ogilvy & Mather and OgilvyAction China.

More here on Grayeli’s route into the ad industry.

How did you stumble into this industry?

After a misspent youth thinking my band would make it big, I woke and realised it had no hope in hell.

So in 1994, I packed up what I could remember from art school and moved from Vancouver to LA. I lied my way into a job as a coder and designer for a small interactive shop. Yes… digital since 94! Knowing zero about coding or interactive design made for a great start. That’s when it dawned on me I could sell anything.

Harshest thing anyone has said to you

“Ali take it from me… you have zero talent.” This was said to me by a co-worker at first job.

Meanest thing you’ve heard someone say to anyone on the job

“Hey idiot, just go get some f*cking muffins for this f*cking meeting since you can’t seem to get anything else f*cking right!” – CEO to business developer in an open seating office.

Meanest thing you’ve personally said to anyone? And do you regret it?

“Look, you’re NOT Nike. Let’s take a second and let that settle in.”

Proudest moment in your career

Meeting my wife at an agency in Shanghai.

A mistake in your career you won’t forget

I make spectacular mistakes hourly!

Weirdest thing you’ve ever done in your career

Tickle a grown man.

How do you get inspired when you aren’t?

Ask to be tickled back?

Mentor you look up to most?

My mom for her courageous battle with cancer. My dad for giving up everything he had built to move us to Canada in 1979 as revolution broke out in Iran.

Learning from them how to dig deep and keep moving when life gets really really really sucky has saved me many times.

Everyone needs to learn that skill… for everything else there’s probably a YouTube tutorial so mentors are becoming optional.

What makes the difference between an average creative and a mind-blowing one?

Mind-blowing creatives have lunch alone . This eliminates the dangers of speaking your mind and scaring people.

Most frustrating thing about being a creative

Re – explaining ideas to people who can’t seem to hear them.

A dream brand you would like to work on and why?

Hair Club For Men. I don’t know, just feel a connection.

How you wind down on the weekends

I hang out with my wife watching movies from China with no subtitles. I don’t speak Mandarin… just zone out and enjoy the company and hope at some point I open my mouth and voila, I’m fluent. No such effect yet.

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