As the esteemed Creative Chairman of BBDO Singapore, Tay Guan Hin is a creative powerhouse and internationally recognized creative thinker. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, he has proven his ability to lead significant agency networks such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Wunderman Thompson, Grey, and Leo Burnett. His remarkable achievements have garnered him recognition through over 300 international creative awards.
We are thrilled to have you on the 2024 US International Awards jury. Please tell us more about your professional journey in the creative field and how you navigate your daily work life.
It's a pleasure to be on the 2024 US International Awards jury. My journey in the creative industry has been both enriching and transformative. Launching my first book "Collide," which became an Amazon #1 bestseller in under 24 hours, was a career highlight this year. This success underscores my commitment to embracing conflict as a catalyst for creativity.
As the Creative Chairman of BBDO Singapore, I've had the privilege of working with global networks like Saatchi & Saatchi, Wunderman Thompson, Grey, and Leo Burnett. I have focused on leveraging digital engagement to enhance brand preference for significant clients like Visa, AIA, Audi, Shell, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, P&G, HSBC, and Unilever. This approach has proven effective in increasing market share and addressing complex business challenges.
I was the first Southeast Asian Singaporean to be a Jury President at Cannes Lions and the first to preside over the Design & Art Direction London. My involvement in prestigious regional events like APAC Effie and Adfest further showcases my commitment to excellence in creativity.
My everyday work life is a blend of personal and professional commitments, from waking up early to sending my daughter to school to staying up late brainstorming the next big idea.
Your involvement in various industry events and awards is quite extensive. Can you give us more insight into your responsibilities and the factors that drive you?
I am passionate about sharing knowledge. As a global keynote speaker at various industry events, including TEDx, Spikes Asia, AdStar, Brand Magic Summit, One Show, and Cannes Lions, I've shared insights with major clients such as the US Grain Council, Tencent, NTUC, TikTok, Meta, and Unilever.
Nurturing future talents is close to my heart. I founded the first student awards in Singapore with Patrick Low and have consistently mentored young creatives. My role as a mentor in various industry events reflects my dedication to innovation and talent development.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What I enjoy most in my job is the ability to influence and inspire through creativity and the opportunity to continually challenge and redefine the boundaries of what's possible in advertising and branding.
With 30 years of experience under your belt, you have contributed to countless projects. Are there projects that are particularly memorable for you?
I've been involved in quite a few exciting projects, but one that stands out is this unique challenge we took on with the Ministry of Health Holdings in Singapore. They wanted to draw the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, into considering healthcare careers, which is no small feat! So, what we did was pretty innovative. BBOO and Livewire created an in-game inside "Fortnite". Now, you might think, "Fortnite and healthcare? How does that work?" But that's the beauty of it. We took the game's battle-focused gameplay and flipped it on its head. Instead of the usual combat, we created a special map set in a virtual version of Singapore's Marina, where players focus on healing each other to win. It's all about caring and making a difference, you know? We also roped in some big-name Twitch streamers to help spread the word. Their influence was vital in getting the message out to Gen Z. Those guys live on streaming platforms. And to ground it in reality, we got actual healthcare professionals involved. They shared their real-life experiences, giving a taste of what a healthcare career is like. The most challenging part was definitely reimagining a battle royale game into something that celebrates healthcare. We had to think about how to make healing as engaging as taking down an opponent. But when did we see players getting into the healing challenges, and when did the conversations about healthcare careers start? That's when we knew we had done something right. Seeing how we connected healthcare to Gen Z in a language they understand and enjoy has been super rewarding. It's all about showing them that a healthcare career can be as exciting and impactful as the games they love.
What are you currently working on? And what else is planned for the upcoming time?
Things tend to slow down a bit for us at the beginning of the year. We've got our hands on a bunch of exciting projects right now, but I've got to keep the lid on the details for the time being. Still, there's this buzz in the air, like we're all waiting for the next big thing. And we're really pumped about teaming up with some forward-thinkers who want to shake things up and make a real difference in the world, both socially and professionally.
You have won more than 300 creative awards yourself. What does an award represent to you?
Getting an award is like hitting the dopamine in creativity. It's like a shout-out for daring to push the limits and make something unique. You know when you see someone snag an award for something awesome they've done? It lights a fire under my butt to up my game and shake things up.
Plus, awards help build this vibe of innovation and growth where I work. They're like a gold standard that shows us what we can aim for and gets everyone psyched to step up and move the whole industry forward.
And let's not forget that awards are magnets for talent! They pull in the most imaginative folks out there, creating this space where we're all pushing to win while helping each other out. It makes you want to bring your A-game to work every day.
In your opinion, what makes a "good" corporate video? Alas, what are you looking for in a winning entry?
Do you know what makes a corporate video click with people? It's when it feels natural and hits you in all the right places. It has to be all about what the company truly stands for, without any fluff or predictable clichés. I mean, who wants to watch something that feels like an AI churned it out, right?
It's about being bold, too. Imagine a video that goes out of the same old road. It's the one that throws in a curveball and makes you sit up and think, "Hey, that's new!" It's about getting inspired to do something, not just nod and move on. It's like when a brand tells you, "Come on, let's do this together," and you want to get up and join the movement.
Keep it simple but throw in a surprise so it sticks with you. The story must be clear but deep enough to make you pause and mull it over a coffee.
And it's not just about patting themselves on the back. A killer video should show off the innovative stuff a company's doing and how they're planning to rock the world. It's like saying, "Check out the footprints we're leaving behind – pretty neat, huh?" And this gets people talking and dreaming of what's next.
Are there any tips for potential entrants? Production-wise and presentation-wise?
Getting your work to stand out in a sea of submissions is definitely a blend of art and science. Think of it like this: judges are swamped, right? Your piece has to catch their eye in a snap. That's where you need a killer hook. Imagine something so visually stunning, a story so touching, or even an idea so out of the box that it grabs them the second they see it.
And let's talk about PR. It's not just about crafting something extraordinary; it's about making sure the right people are buzzing about it even before it competes. You've got to stir up interest, get people talking, and weave a story that sticks with the judges so when they see your work, they're already a bit in love with it.
As the Executive Head of Video, Xavi Sanchez manages the production of Footballco's massive 1 billion monthly views, making it the top soccer content and media company worldwide. Before joining Footballco, Xavi built his career in sports marketing agencies. As a Creative Producer and Director, he oversaw strategy, creativity, and production for high-profile clients like Real Madrid, Formula 1, and the NBA. He was also commissioned to create content with soccer legends like Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Neymar Jr or Luis Suárez.
It is our pleasure to have you on the jury for the 2024 US International Awards. Can you tell us more about your job and everyday work life?
As the Executive Head of Video at Footballco, my job is to lead the strategic direction and execution of all video-related initiatives across our diverse publishing brands. This includes overseeing teams of talented people specializing in audience development, creativity, and video production.
Which aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
What I find most rewarding in my role is the opportunity to blend creativity with strategy, crafting compelling video content that not only engages our audience but also aligns seamlessly with the brands we represent.
Looking back at your career, do particular projects stand out to you on a personal level?
At Footballco, we’ve had very successful campaigns recently. One project that I’m particularly proud of is our involvement in Pixel FC, celebrating a summer of women’s soccer, bringing together a world-class brand like Google with incredibly talented female content creators and presenters in the context of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup delivering millions of views across the tournament.
Given your extensive project experience, do you follow a specific work mantra?
I've had the privilege of working on a range of projects, from ad campaigns to editorial series. And throughout my career, I've consistently centered my efforts on the intersection of audience, publisher, and brand interests, adopting a holistic perspective. After championing this approach, I have found that development of IP and brand recognition through audience-first content is the best way to achieve that organic performance balance between the three parties.
Footballco is the top soccer content and media company worldwide. Could you shed some light on the strategies you intend to employ in strengthening its position as a global soccer publisher?
When I joined Footballco, I had a clear mission to build company IP in three key areas: fan engagement, creating entertainment formats independent of match rights, and fostering recurring collaborations with some of the world's most prominent soccer players. This mission has proven successful, attracting partnerships with esteemed brands such as Dubai Tourism, Google, and Adidas. These collaborations have added unique value to our millions of viewers worldwide.
As we look ahead to 2024, we plan to double down on these successes. We're committed to strengthening the bridge between our global soccer audience and these influential brands, positioning Footballco as a truly global soccer publisher. While I can't reveal all the details yet, we have exciting projects and initiatives in the pipeline that will further solidify our position and provide even more compelling content and experiences for our audience and partners alike.
As a jury member, you have a say in who will be bestowed with our awards. What does an award symbolize for you?
An award, to me, is a recognition of excellence. It symbolizes validation and acknowledgment from peers, industry experts, or the community. I refuse to see an award as an end goal but rather as a motivation to continue doing good work and benchmark it with what's to come to never stop pushing higher.
In your opinion, what makes a "good" corporate video? Alas, what are you looking for in a winning entry?
A great corporate video conveys the brand message without forcing it into the audience. Good branded videos are watchable, whereas great branded videos are shareable! Always ask yourself: If I was not related to that content in any way, would I watch it till the end? Would I ever rewatch it? Would I share it? If it's a yes, then it's a great video.
Are there any tips for potential entrants? Production-wise and presentation-wise?
Make me (the viewer) feel something and assume that you have to earn every second of my attention. Attention is the currency of this era, and you have to fight for it against 101 different forms of entertainment - don’t take it for granted.
Ewa Ewart is a journalist and an award-winning filmmaker who specializes in groundbreaking and influential documentaries. Born and raised in Poland, she spent most of her career based at BBC TV in London, England. She has traveled and worked in many countries, producing and directing programs ranging from investigations and political to social observational documentaries.
We are thrilled to have you on the jury for the 2024 US International Awards. Please tell us more about your work background and your everyday work life. Could you also tell us what you enjoy the most in your job?
My journalistic background is in TV News. I learned about documentary filmmaking at the BBC in London. Back in the 1990s, it was a golden era for documentaries. There was money, and we traveled the world making films on various fascinating and relevant subjects. It was an inspiring stretch of my work as a filmmaker, and it lasted a good few years. I am now a freelancer and enjoy the freedom of freelancing offers. However, raising funds for a project can sometimes be daunting and time-consuming. I never had to worry about getting budgets for my films while working for the BBC.
What do you enjoy the most in your job?
I love the documentary format for many reasons, but one is of critical importance: documentaries offer you enough space to tell what happened and why it happened. It was the main reason I eventually had enough of news. This format often leaves the viewer with many unanswered questions. In a documentary, you have time and space to create in-depth context for complex events and make them easier for a wider audience to understand.
You have made plenty of films - are there projects that stand out for you personally?
When I work on a film, it always seems unique and the most important thing to me. But there are some films I made that I still feel attached to personally. “Children of Beslan” is one of them. It is the story of the tragedy that happened on September 1, 2004, when a group of heavily armed Chechen rebel extremists stormed into School No 1 in Beslan, Russia. For three days, more than a thousand children and adults were held hostage in a sweltering gym, denied food and water, and forced to keep their hands over their heads. The siege ended three days later when Russian Special Forces stormed the school to free the hostages. A series of explosions and an exchange of gunfire killed over 350 people- half of them children. I chose to tell this story with the words of those who survived- young heroes; the youngest was six, and the oldest was 12. I worked on that film for nearly a year, traveled many times to Beslan, and got close to these exceptional children. This experience is still very vivid.
What are you currently working on? And what else is planned for the upcoming time?
The year 2023 is proving to be busy. I will have made two 60-minute plus documentaries by the time it ends. "Until the Last Drop" is a film about rivers and people, their relationship, and interconnectedness. It tells a story of despair but also of determination and hope. The film exposes how human activity is a leading cause of a growing freshwater crisis. However, it shows we can also be part of the solution and tells the inspiring story of how people fight until the last drop to protect rivers worldwide.
My current film – working title "Magda"- is of a very different kind, based on the main character's video diary. It tells her extraordinary journey while living with breast cancer. It is a moving and inspiring story of a woman who decided to live and took up the challenge of fighting the disease.
You were awarded several awards yourself. What does an award represent to you?
I always accept an award as a recognition for the work of my entire team, who helped to create the film. It is never my film or my award. It is always a team effort, and teamwork is the most rewarding aspect of my job. An award means that the film's story proved to be timely, its topic relevant, and, above all, that its execution was almost flawless! And I, of course, enjoy the red carpet a lot.
In your opinion, what makes a “good” documentary? Alas, what are you looking for in a winning entry?
For me, the power of a “good” documentary lies in compelling characters with charisma with whom the viewer can connect emotionally. You can have the most exciting story idea, but the film will inevitably flop if your characters are dull and unconvincing. It works the other way, too. Sometimes, the story is not the most engaging, but nevertheless, it is still important and deserves to be told. A good character will help to rescue a somewhat uninspiring narrative.
Do you have any tips production-wise for documentary filmmakers and potential entrants?
Ask yourself what kind of film you would like to watch – it is a good place to start and will likely lead you to the right topic for your documentary. Set a good time to start the development of your treatment and let your curiosity wander far and wide. Look for relevant subject information in the most unlikely sources, apart from the obvious ones. You will likely stumble across an unusual idea to make your points in the film and discover unique characters. Remember that less is more, and be disciplined with your focus. Always have a plan B. More than anything else, tell yourself that you will make a great film!
Brunswick Creative Campaigns and Content is one of the names that has risen above all others in this year's edition of the US International Awards. The 2023 Agency of the Year and its work stood out as a shining example of artistic brilliance amidst fierce competition and a pool of exceptional contenders.
In this exclusive spotlight, we invite you to delve into the mind of Talya Davidoff (Senior Producer) and Alex Corn (Creative Director) as they share the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs, that have shaped their extraordinary journey. Join us in celebrating their remarkable achievements and gain insight into the creative genius that has earned them this prestigious accolade.
Congratulations on your Specialty Award “Agency of the Year”! What does it mean to you, your team, and everyone involved in this project to receive this award?
It means – everything. The two films we put forward are pieces we’re incredibly proud of, and they are representative of the passion, dedication, teamwork, and creativity we put forward in every single project. We’re a firm that works together across many different sectors, specialties, and time zones to tell our clients’ stories in the most powerful and creative way possible. This award helps validate our efforts!
Can you please describe the moment you and your team found out about your big win?
We missed the live announcement! But found out over email and were blown away. We were hoping for our submissions to get recognition, but Agency of the Year – that’s something else. We immediately shared the news with our colleagues and our clients, enjoying a snowball effect of major excitement.
You submitted two films to this year’s awards edition. “Letters and Lines” for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery provides insight into Kenturah Davis’ process of portraying Ava DuVernay, who was honored with the Portrait of a Nation Award. The film “Mark Rouse and His Eyes” for the American College of Surgeons and the Surgical Care Coalition is about an oil painter who lost his vision to diabetic eye disease and covers the critical access to quality surgery, especially in hindsight of healthcare cuts.
Can you run us through the creative process behind the winning works you entered into the 2023 US International Awards?
Our work for the National Portrait Gallery started at the end of 2021 – and included support with video, digital, media engagement, public engagement, social content, etc. “Letters and Lines” was one of seven films we produced and one of two that focused on the artists themselves. It was meant to explore Kenturah’s unique process, her relationship/reflections on Ava DuVernay, the honoree she was commissioned to portray, and her specific approach to the portrait. The way we filmed was meant to mimic the way she creates.
Some of the most important pre-production work was a series of interviews with Kenturah. Understanding her approach and the tools she used – but also her energy and her values. She likes her portraits to be in motion – as the subjects themselves, people, are always in motion, changing, and growing, so we chose moments to shoot. Her process is meticulous, repetitive, and meditative, so we captured close-up detail shots. For the basis of her portraits, she captures her subjects on film using double exposure and slow shutter. We wanted to honor this subtly, so we shot with film using double exposures and added some double exposure to the digital in post. She speaks slowly, with intention, and works to keep a peaceful working environment – we matched the music and pacing of the film accordingly.
As for “Mark Rouse and His Eyes”, we’ve been working to stop healthcare cuts for about two years now, and it’s important to us. It’s one of the few ventures where you can see real, positive results, and how they affect people. That’s why we designed the film series this way, we wanted to show the on-the-ground effects of preventing cuts to Medicaid.
When we start the process of a patient film like this, we usually ask “What does it look like if these cuts happen?” It’s often a nebulous answer, “they might live three years less, they may have pain here or aches there.” With Mark Rouse, the answer was easy: if these cuts happen, Mark stays blind. His story is remarkable, and we wanted to tell it without getting in the way. But blindness itself is often misunderstood. Most people think it’s all black, a total lack of sight. But really, it’s a spectrum. It can be heavily obscured, with tunnel vision, blurriness, and distortion. We wanted to literally show that. Our creative conceit became that we would start the film replicating this kind of blindness, and as the story progressed, the imagery would become clearer, along with the narrative.
For the shoot, the DP had free reign to “mess up” the image as much as possible to really play around with it. He used Lens Babies, crystals, fishing line, streak filters, you name it. We also wanted to play around with a lack of perspective, so the interviews were shot against flat backgrounds with no real guidelines and off-framing.
What were your expectations when entering? Did you assume, you would be in the race for a Specialty Award?
We were thrilled at the opportunity to get recognition for our work – and for the clients and people they feature. We did not even consider being in the race for a Specialty Award. But we are thrilled to have received it!
Now, please tell us something about yourself. Can you give us a brief bio and disclose your background?
Talya: I love telling stories – and I love film as the medium to share them. I studied English, Poetry, Psychology, and Theater – which honestly create a perfect blend of the human, psychological, and artistic elements of storytelling! After graduating, I worked in TV for a few years (for shows like HBO’s “GIRLS” and WB’s “Blindspot” and “Mr. Robot”), which gave me incredible firsthand experience and a strong work ethic. From there, I transitioned to an agency career at Brunswick, where I’ve been for the past eight years. Our team is small, which means we all get to play many roles – writer, director, line producer, and creative producer. Our clients span many industries – from healthcare to non-profit to fashion to tech. Each project is an exciting opportunity to learn something new and find new ways to share them with the world.
Alex: I moved to NYC in 2004 to go to film school and haven’t looked back since. When I was learning, film was the only way to shoot, but around 2007, 24p and HD started to come up, and I decided, right then, it was the future. I became a go-to for HD and digital knowledge during this period, which fueled my network pretty well. I worked as a shooter and engineer, mostly in TV and fashion - and I found a lot of the jobs I was on were run poorly. So I started producing them instead. From there, I started working for what was then MerchantCantos, now Brunswick Creative. I started as a producer/shooter but eventually worked more as a director, and now I am very proud to be a Creative Director on the film team.
What are some of your works that played a major role in your professional career or that deem to be important to you?
Talya: Working in television, especially on GIRLS, was a seminal experience for my production career. It was a show trying to make a difference in how we portray people in terms of physical appearance and personality. And working in television – that’s a tough but rewarding and very educational experience.
Since then, the most important pieces (to me) that I’ve worked on focus on the healthcare industry. There are about 14 doctors in my family (parents, grandparents, first cousins, aunts, and uncles). They each care deeply about helping their patients live better lives, which is why I feel so connected to these stories. Among this work are a series for a foundation working to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, a film for the American College of Surgeons that salutes the surgical profession, and many films for Philips Healthcare about the technology they produce and partnerships they create to help improve lives.
Art is as important to culture as medicine is to health. Thus, the film “Letters and Lines” most certainly joins the rank of films most important to my career.
Alex: Two moments in my career stick out as huge lessons I’ve taken with me as time goes on. The first paid job I ever worked, I was a gaffer on a very well-funded NYU student thesis. I was working under a now pretty well-known DP who I won’t name. I was super fresh and wanted to play with every toy in the box. We started to light a scene of a guy sitting and reading. He looked at it, went to the side table next to the chair, and turned on the lamp. He looked at the stand-in, read the meter, and decided this was the key light. I was kind of flabbergasted, and when I asked him why we weren’t going to add more, he said, “It’s doing everything I need.” I’ve taken that with me to everything I do – assess honestly, don’t overcomplicate, only use what’s needed. If it looks good, it looks good.
The second is a job I did on a whim. Sony asked me to test out some prototype cameras for them, the F5 and F55, before they were released. The big deal with them (among other things) was that they had this super wide color gamut. My wife is Indian, and I’m a big fan of Indian culture, and this was right around Holi, a festival where everyone throws brightly colored powder at each other and has a blast. I decided to gather a few of my camera friends and shoot a local festival in exchange for coverage. It ended up being so successful Sony put it at the center of their campaign for the cameras, getting placement in Tribeca and Sundance. Before that, that sort of reach seemed kind of impossible, but it taught me good work will get recognized and to just be confident. It sort of permitted me to dream big, as cheesy as that sounds.
What was the most challenging project you worked on so far?
Talya: The piece for the American College of Surgeons was quite challenging in its locations. We filmed four surgeons over four days at GW Hospital: a working hospital, in a very busy location, during the pandemic. Each day began at 5 am and posed the challenges of navigating surgeons’ ever-changing schedule, staying flexible and nimble to keep a small footprint on an emergency room floor, ensuring everyone has signed release forms, keeping the integrity of a surgical set-up in simulations, and maintaining communication among the surgery staff, the hospital’s marketing staff, and our client, the ACS. We filmed approximately 9 hours of footage, uploading each night after wrap, and turned around the edit in under two weeks. And it was so, so worth it.
Alex: Right at the start of the pandemic, we did a commercial for a private jet company. It was July 2020. I was stuck in a small NYC apartment with my wife and our toddler. It was a stressful time. We got word that we needed to pull up our timeline and shoot our spot in three weeks. We didn’t even have a script. Well, after six weeks, 11 shoot days (3 of which were aerial using camera jets and real planes) in 9 states, using a cast and crew of about 60, shooting stills and film in tandem during dawn and dusk, meaning 18 hour days, produced remotely from my apartment, in the height of the worldwide pandemic, and for about $1m, our spot hit the air. It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.
Can you describe your creative process for us?
Talya: It starts with connecting to the client, understanding what they want and what their audience wants. Making sure they feel comfortable, staying transparent, and keeping them updated along every step of the way. Figuring out the more tedious logistics (who/what/where/why/can we film? What library of assets do you have? etc.), as well as the intended emotional impact and messaging. Then it’s researching the (often complex) topic at hand, becoming as much of a mini-expert as the time allows. From there, it’s gathering all the pieces and thinking about the best way to tell their story. At this point, it’s time for my favorite part of the creative process: collaborating, collaborating, collaborating with my teammates. This is vital. We all have different backgrounds, reference pieces, passions, and tastes - all of which help boost the creative process enormously. And from there, we make an award-winning film ;)
Alex: I think Talya summed it up pretty well, especially becoming a mini expert and collaborating. The only other thing is that I like to see if there are any angles to the story that are untold or unexcepted and if that can be used to tell the story better. But the most important thing is to honor the truth.
In your opinion, what makes a “good” corporate video? And how important is branded video content for brands?
In our opinion, a good corporate video does a few things. Firstly, it tells the truth. Or a truth. It should feel like it’s coming from an honest, unique point of view. Furthermore, it reflects a style and perspective chosen with the client and its messaging in mind. And lastly, it understands its audience having an accordingly tone and aesthetic.