Tim kicked off his incredible advertising journey at Hal Riney, San Francisco, where he worked as one of the most passionate, driven and nicest art directors we know. After stints at a couple more agencies in the States – including FCB and BBDO West -- the journey continued on the other side of the world in Bangkok. Here, Tim spent time honing his art direction and management skills at McCann, TBWA, Ongoing, Leo Burnett and Naga DDB, winning his clients’ respect as well as the industry’s before making the leap as managing partner at SWAT BKK.
It’s a career that literally spans the globe and offers a much-needed worldly perspective on advertising…and ageism.
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
Not at all in my 30s. However it has always been on the back of my mind, as I have seen a few friends who had to leave advertising because of it. Although, at the time, I didn’t think much of it. Thought of it as part of the evolution in this career path – Tired of the pressure. Leave. Simple.
However when I was an ECD at one of the network agencies, I was asked to balance the creative budget and to cut people from the creative department. That’s when I really thought about how this career is suited for younger people.
Is ageism something that’s affected you? What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business? Do tell.
Luckily it didn’t affect me, as I was always active and moved around quite a bit: 2 continents, 3 countries, 10 agencies in all. I was too busy solving new clients’ business problems, adjusting and leading the creative team. Although I feel ageism is less obvious in Asian cultures, as we embrace the teamwork mentality.
Some brainstorm sessions could consist of a CCO, ECD, and Junior teams.
"I feel ageism is less obvious in Asian cultures, as we embrace the teamwork mentality."
Tell us about your own creative journey. What are your thoughts on where you are now, compared to your mindset when you were in the beginning of your career?
When I started advertising I wanted recognition from winning industry awards. Although that idea changed when I started working in Bangkok and had to oversee the creative output of a few global and regional accounts.
I realized that awards didn’t impress these clients, but understanding of their brand and consumers did. That’s when I started to put more energy on using creativity to do effective work for the clients. Luckily, in Thailand, that also meant the audience had to like the communication. So some of the effective work I did went on to do really well at award shows.
"I realized that awards didn’t impress these clients, but understanding of their brand and consumers did."
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Yes. From my experience of working in big network agencies and small independent ones, I knew I was more comfortable in smaller and more creative agencies. Also I didn’t like managing the numbers, especially when I have to cut people from the creative department.
So I opened one.
What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?
Craft and respect. Don’t pursue this profession for the money. Do it because of the passion and it makes you happy. Learn from everyone around you.
Also, respect everyone – especially the clients. Learn to understand advertising from their point of view. I always imagine if I were the client, would I buy my own work. Is the campaign worth putting the million of dollars into it?
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
I would remind them to stay curious. Be honest of their ability. (Compare themselves to the juniors just entering the industry.) If they need to relearn, then do it. If they are not as excited about advertising, maybe it’s time to start looking for something else.
"If [older creatives] are not as excited about advertising, maybe it’s time to start looking for something else."
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
At the moment I am still excited about advertising. It keeps evolving, even though the money coming into agencies is shrinking. I am excited to see where it will go.
What keeps me motivated now is the new role of Managing Partner. I’m having fun learning how to find clients and run my own agency.
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
No. I don’t think unionizing will happen in Asia. Most definitely not in Thailand.
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
I’m grateful for all the accounts and clients I’ve worked for. I learned that creativity can be applied to any business. So one day, if I stop doing advertising, there will always be other business where I can use my creativity.
Who do you look to for inspiration?