News of BBDO shutting its operations in Malaysia stunned the advertising industry last week, with many industry players and former agency leaders expressing their shock at the closure of the once iconic ad firm. As a result of the closure, 21 individuals were laid off and the agency will exit the market in the next three months, A+M understands.
Chairman and CEO of BBDO Asia, Jean-Paul Burge, told A+M that the move came as China was growing in importance both as a market and as a regional hub, whilst Hong Kong and Malaysia are not. As such, the agency would be focusing its creative resources and work from that market into Beijing and Shanghai."
BBDO in Malaysia has over the years worked with brands such as Libresse, Anmum Essential, Pepsi, MINI and Maxis. Globally some of its renowned clients include Visa and Fonterra. A+M speaks to some of the talent BBDO Malaysia has produced over the years to share their best times at the agency.
Amit Sutha, CEO of Universal McCann, UM Studios and Ensemble Worldwide
Time frame at BBDO: 2008 - 2014
Position at BBDO: Head of strategy, head of Proximity
Three clients you most enjoyed: KFC, Maxis and Pepsi
Best thing about working there: There was a certain energy in the team; a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie. The quality of work produced and the long, satisfying relationships we had with clients was proof of that. Amazingly, most of us are still very good friends despite having charted our own professional paths.
There was this retail space below the office where a string of restaurants and/or pubs kept opening and closing. The space was sort of, jinxed, nothing ever worked there. However for us, it was an extension of the office, a place to hang, think, ideate or party. P.S. Now it is a Starbucks and that one seems to be doing really well.
Jennifer Chan, executive director, Malaysia, Duxton Group Consulting and executive director, Chai-Ramsay Brand Consultants
Time frame at BBDO: 1997 - 2012
Position at BBDO: Group CEO/chairman emeritus, BBDO/Proximity Malaysia
Three clients you most enjoyed: I was the group CEO of BBDO/Proximity Malaysia for 15 years. It was a great delight to work with a wide spectrum of clients. Each client is special and unique. They were all terrific! How could I choose?
Best thing about working there: During the 15 years I led the agency, the best part was the people, the people, the people. People who were talented, passionate and hungry! Hungry for great work, results, fame and excellence!
That’s why BBDO Malaysia went from a fledgling staff of 20 to a top agency of 200. It was consistently profitable, ranked eighth most creative agency in the world by the 2009 Gunn Report and the top 15th most awarded agency in the world – twice! It became known as a "petri dish for talent" throughout the BBDO network! I’m very proud to have been part of that journey and extremely proud of all those who travelled with me!
Ronald Ng, global chief creative officer, Isobar
Time frame at BBDO: 2004 - 2009
Position at BBDO: Chief creative officer
Three clients you most enjoyed: Tough question because we had so many - KFC, Maxis/Hotlink, Olympus, MINI, Pepsi, Drypers, Fonterra, the list goes on. I’ll give a shout out to one large and one smaller-sized client, so here goes.
KFC: Huge account with about 300 job briefs a year. SK Wong, Jerry Loo and team were the best clients you could ask for. It was hard to get work approved as every brief and creative required approval from YUM global but Jerry and SK always protected the work they believed in. Our favorite campaigns include O.R. Stolen Burger, Zinger Maxx You’ll never let it go and Never Eat Rice which worked in Bahasa Melayu, English and Cantonese.
Olympus: It only called us for big product launches so we got a handful of opportunities per year. Then GM Yong Kee Nyap and MD, the late Tan Tick Boon, always gave us the same challenge - make this camera famous. They truly believed that creativity had a direct correlation to sales success. I love that our work had people going to camera stores asking for the Kung Fu camera and Kamera Siti Nurhaliza. And of course, the Washing Machine Live Demo that won Olympus the Advertiser of the Year award. Few clients would approve and personally activate such a high-risk demonstration especially in front of a live audience,
KFC and Olympus were tough and demanding clients. But we took risks together, had each other’s backs and mostly importantly, enjoyed working together. The best clients deserve the best work!
Best thing about working there: The only reason we delivered on "The Work, The Work, They Work" was because of "The People, The People, The People". There are too many to name. We had a special group of misfits who cared for each other and the work they signed off on. I left for BBDO New York in 2009 but till today, many of us remain close friends and I’m sure the next post-COVID reunion will be a big one.
Mun Tuck Wai, creative consultant, IPG Mediabrands
Time frame at BBDO: 2006 - 2010
Position at BBDO: ECD
Three clients you most enjoyed: KFC, Olympus and MINI
Best thing about working there: When I look back at the work we’ve done, they bring back memories of the people that were involved. And the many journeys we went through to create amazing works. The late nights at mamaks, the 30 ideas, the smoking room, the nicknames we called each other, the celebrations and the rejections will never be forgotten. We were so much younger, crazier and hungrier then. Every piece of work that we did, came with a different story. Without these stories, I wouldn’t have colleagues who end up becoming my best of friends. BBDO made the BBoDOh friendships possible.
Donevan Chew, ECD, BBDO
Time frame at BBDO: 2018 - 2020
Position at BBDO: ECD
Three clients you most enjoyed: Fonterra, Rexona, Clear
Best thing about working there: I am really fortunate to have met the Asian Creative Council members over a few regional meets - Suthisak Sucharittanonta, Josy Paul, David Guerrero, Leong Wai Foong, as well as all the ECDs across the region. They are an amazing bunch of creative minds, yet humble and inspiring. Their friendship, I will truly cherish. And my team here at BBDO Malaysia - I spent over a year building and nurturing this team. I am proud to see each of them grow as creative talents. They were the ones who made me look good at the regional meets – having some work shortlisted as potential Cannes Lions contenders.
I enjoyed working with Team Fonterra Malaysia led by Karen Ong, Irene Cheah, Claire Khoo and Siew Poh, who trusted me as their creative partner and were always willing to listen to my point of view. We have created numerous successful campaigns for Anlene, Anmum and Fernleaf. Together, we have turned some brands around and taking others to greater heights. Team Rexona and Team Clear at Unilever led by Callista Fernandez and Natalie Goh respectively are a team of bright, young marketers who are bold and willing to take calculated risks. As we challenged the conventions of their business, they challenged us for better ideas. And that's how great work happens.
VJ Anand, head of creative, Asia Pacific, VaynerMedia
Time frame at BBDO: 2009 - 2012 and 2016 - 2018
Position at BBDO: Digital creative director for Proximity and ECD
Three clients you most enjoyed: Visa, Anmum Essential and Libresse
Best thing about working there: BBDO has always been a legendary agency in Malaysia, especially when Ronald Ng and Mun Tuck Wai were helming it, known for their amazing work on KFC, which I used to adore. But my time as ECD, I fondly remember because I walked in to an agency that lost a huge piece of business in KFC and there was only one person on the creative team. Everyone had left. So I had to hand pick my team and grow from a team of one to what became a team of 25.
For the two years that we were there, we pitched a lot, won loads of new businesses. We had new clients and we re-pitched U Mobile and worked with a very daring client including Jasmine Lee, Schrene Goh and Jenny Chin.
Pebble Goh, VP, creative director, BBDO New York
Time frame at BBDO: 2004 - 2008
Position at BBDO: Art director
Three clients you most enjoyed: MINI, KFC and Pepsi
Best thing about working there: It was truly the teamwork that made the dream work at BBDO Malaysia. It was a lot of hard, HARD, work but it was also MAD fun. My co-workers are my friends for life. Despite the years and miles apart, when we all get together, we fall back into conversation so easily, as though no time had passed. As the rookie kid that started out my career there, I am so grateful and appreciative to everyone that took me under their wing, no hesitation. They say the strength of a tree is based on its roots. So, thank you BBDO Malaysia, for giving me the best foundation a young creative could ever ask for.
Kevin Le, ECD, Reprise Digital
Time frame at BBDO: 2004 - 2010
Position at BBDO: Associate creative director
Three clients you most enjoyed: KFC, Olympus and MINI
Best thing about working there: We shared the same ideals of pushing the work as far as it can go. We were resourceful. We’ve always managed to find ways to get seemingly impossible ideas produced. We rolled up our sleeves, and sucked in it when we had to churn out 50 ideas per brief, although with a lot of cussing in between. We were tight - we spent more time with each other than with our own families. But I digress. I just loved pranking the poor schmucks.
Adam Miranda, co-founder and ECD, Fishermen Integrated Malaysia and Singapore
Time frame at BBDO: 2004 - 2009
Position at BBDO: Copywriter
Three clients you most enjoyed:
KFC - Every job was an opportunity for really entertaining ideas.
Pepsi - We got into the Malaysia Book of Records with this client.
MINI - You couldn’t do anything boring for this client. An unwritten law.
Best thing about working there: I didn’t want to miss a single day of work in more than four years at BBDO Malaysia. It wasn’t just an agency, it was clubhouse. Something crazy might happen or I’d miss out on the next opportunity to do something amazing. You couldn’t have asked for a better agency. Real, inspiring leadership, surrounded by hungry, talented, idea-loving colleagues, who became more than friends. Malaysian advertising in those years was at its heights. And for us to reach the top, says everything. When I started my own agency, Fishermen, it was no secret that I modelled it on my BBDO experience.
Tiffany Haruka Teh, senior marketing manager, Universal Music Group
Time frame at BBDO: 2013 - 2016
Position at BBDO: Account manager and associate account director
Three clients you most enjoyed: U Mobile, MARS (Snickers, M&Ms) and Fonterra
Best thing about working there: The people, the people, the people. The passion for the work and being part of the whole creative process and how everyone gets involved was very inspiring. The teamwork, the late nights and the commitment to deliver great effective work. Being thrown into the deep end but not knowing that was what we need to grow and bloom! The friendships made during my time there and the mentors, bosses i had were experiences to cherish for a lifetime!