Globally Acclaimed Creative Advertising Veteran, Guy Winston

Author: Fatma Khalil - Chief Editor

“I had the most enjoyable 6 months of my life working at JWT in Pakistan. The level of raw talent was amazing and the hunger and passion to learn from designers, writers and executives was refreshing. The welcome was warm, the fun was infectious, the country was stunning  and the food…the food was amazing, particularly in Lahore. My favorite experience was at Cuckoo’s Den, entering the shambolic building filled with canvasses and paintings, climbing up narrow stairs to the rooftop and eating in the shadow of the stunning Badshahi Mosque at sunset. Someone please ask me back!” Candidly expressed the former Regional Creative Director  – Asia Pacific/Africa region,  JWT and now Digi Advertising Myanmar Ltd owner in Yangon, Myanmar – Guy Winston, when we recently had the pleasure of talking to this ultimate veteran in the industry of creative advertising across the globe and an institution in himself : 

You have experience working in multinational agencies in established markets such as London, New York, Sydney, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok as well as the emerging markets of Pakistan and Myanmar. How did the complexities and unique communication demands of this growing region differ from the developed world?

As with any market, you always have to be aware of local sensitivities, traditions, religions etc and either tailor regional work or create new work within those confines. But also you need to appreciate the level of interest and engagement with advertising from consumers and create work that, whilst being fresh and having cut through, is easily understood. You can’t be clever for the sake of being clever and risk missing the mark. You need to be concise and clear.

Being a remarkable big idea creator, how do you ensure for the best work to get to the market and gain the trust of senior clients in your creative insights?

I have always demonstrated to clients that my first priority is growing their business and that any idea is intrinsically linked to their product. Over time you gain their trust and they are willing to take risks and approve work because they feel that you are more of a partner and share their need for market place success. Years ago, I worked with an account guy who always started a client meeting by asking the most senior client how his business was going. I saw how engaged the client became and so I started doing the same thing. I have found that clients appreciate a creative person being interested in their product’s performance and I  also believe that knowing and understanding the business problem or opportunity is integral to providing the correct creative solution.

Why are you so passionate about training and mentoring your team members? What’s there in it for you?

When I started, there was no official agency training, it was simply on the job training. I had the benefit of starting as an assistant art director, no longer a job title! But it meant that for about a year I didn’t actually produce anything, I just followed a senior art director around, watched how he behaved at shoots, how he interacted with photographers and directors, how he sold work to clients and spent hours doing pencil traces of layouts for all the different magazine sizes, learning typography and all the other art director skills. It was advertising school and it was brilliant. Due to financial pressures, that just doesn’t happen now and I feel that young designers and writers, however talented, deserve to be taught those things. It makes them better thinkers and more valuable to agencies and clients.

For the last few years, the majority of your work has been about Social and Digital media communications. How have you ensured that it is a part of a big, brand building idea, each time, on these exciting new era advertising mediums?

Don’t get me started! This is a subject that drives me mad. An idea is an idea, no matter what the medium. From a creative point of view, the same thinking and skill that goes into creating a powerful billboard or print ad goes into writing banner ads or social posts. The same magical skill of writing an engaging TV commercial goes into writing an online film. You simply have to be aware of where your communication is being seen and to whom you are talking. There is a lot of nonsense talked about whether people are ‘digital’ creatives or ‘traditional’. It’s about ideas. You are either an ideas person or not.

In the past year, you have successfully led pitch teams and won projects from mega clients such as Huawei, Samsung, LG, Heineken and Singapore Tourism. What has been your surefire ingredient to win and what was that high like?

I don’t have a surefire ingredient unfortunately, otherwise I would be doing this interview from my yacht off the coast of Greece but I do love the thrill of a pitch! I like the teamwork, the long hours, the mad, last minute changes, it’s fun. But like any brief, you have to fully understand it, find a really great insight and then get a great idea. The only difference really is that in a pitch you need to trust your own judgement and your team’s opinions a lot more than usual  as you don’t get to bounce ideas off the client and get direction during the process. And I can never tell how we did after the meeting!

The upcoming trends in graphic designing that you foresee or excite you are…?

I like the fact that there is an enormous variation of styles, of looks and trends in graphics today. It’s like the music scene, there is room for many different genres so I hope that continues.

Your all-time favorite work of art?

Oh there are too many, from every every art movement and time period ever! But if I won Lotto I think I would buy a Roy Lichtenstein, even a tiny sketch.

Had you not been an artist, you’d have been?

A drummer in a band. I still try but can’t give up the day job.

One priceless advice you’d give to a budding creative leader would be?

Practice what you preach, don’t let your ego get the better of you, remember what you are good at and why you were made a leader and stay nice. And always give more than one answer to a question.

What level of creative does ‘Whitepaper’ sound like to you, given that it’s a newly launched advertising-centric blog?

You have done your research and are clearly interested in a view of this industry from a creative point of view so that is great. However I think this industry is guilty of talking about itself way too much. You just don’t get the levels of self aggrandizement, self promotion and waffle from ‘industry legends’ in any other professions that I can think, it gets embarrassing. But I think that practical advice and insights from experienced practitioners is always appreciated.



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