Creative Catch-Up: Y&R’s Farrokh Madon

Known as the “rock stars” of the advertising world, creatives can make or break an agency, and be the difference between getting that client you want.

Marketing takes a look at the biggest creative names in the industry with a look at their personal lives, their best and toughest moments in their career, biggest challenges and the harshest things they’ve said or heard in the industry.

Kicking off the column is Young & Rubicam’s chief creative officer Farrokh Madon. A celebrated creative, Madon is known for campaigns such as the famous Raffles Place “Ghost” one in 2009 for GMP, among numerous other achievements.

How did you stumble into this industry?
I had got my university degree. There were some cool ads in the newspapers in India at the time. So I thought, “Hey, why not?”

How do you get inspired when you aren’t?
Look at the world around you. Nature. Man-made marvels. There are so many wonderful things out there. Surely you can make a creative connection with them.

What’s the most frustrating thing about being a creative?
Bad job briefs.

What’s the proudest moment in your career?
There have been a few: Winning the Creative Director of the Year Award, Cannes Lions, AdFest Grand Prix and the only Grand Prix in the history of the Singapore Effie Awards. But I firmly believe the best is yet to come.

A mistake in your career you won’t forget?
A time when I joined a place that had no respect for creativity. Sorry, no names.

Mentor you look up to most?
Sorry, there isn’t a (single) one. However, I am inspired by many people. Mahatma Gandhi, Nadal, Michael Phelps, Jahangir Khan, Rohinton Mistry, my mum and my wife, to name a few. (Not listed in order, obviously.)

What about the harshest thing anyone has said to you in your career?
It was unspoken, but it was done. When I was a young writer, a senior writer invited me to work on a job that he was working on. He then took my headlines and presented them to the creative director before I could show mine. So by the time I showed my work it looked like I was trying to rip off his work that had been approved by the creative director – which, in reality, was actually my work! Machiavellian!

And the harshest thing you have said to anyone at work. And do you regret it?
“If you don’t know what the client wants, you can’t write a good brief and you can’t sell any work, can you give me one good reason why we need you in the agency?”

I don’t regret saying that to an account management person. The fact is, if you aren’t good at your job, it’s time to switch to another in which your skills can come to the fore.

What’s the dream brand you’d like to work on and why?
Nike. For its consistent breakthrough creative work over the decades.

Weirdest thing you’ve ever done in your career?
The Raffles Place Ghost campaign. It was a very brave piece of work. (Both to be proposed by the agency and for the client to buy it.) It is also the most successful campaign I’ve been involved in. It was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper show, Spanish TV, Japanese TV, Korean TV and Indian TV. And yes, it won a fair few gold awards and a Grand Prix. Great effort by the creative and account management team.

What makes the difference between an average creative and a mind-blowing one?
The great ones aren’t afraid to make a mistake. They want to try new things and break new ground.

If you weren’t a creative what would you be?
A writer – everything from books to travel stories and TV shows.

How do you wind down on the weekends?
Spend time with my wonderful family, play tennis, and plan a trip to the jungles in Ecuador.

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