Creative LIAisons: Harold & Kumar go to Vegas

31 October 2016

Campaign Brief Asia Editorial

Y&R Singapore senior creative team Viraj Chouhan and Boon Tan were sent by their agency to the London International Awards' mentoring program, Creative LIAisons. Here's their rundown of their time attending this amazing opportunity.

Well, we aren't really named Harold and Kumar, but we realised we fit the bill when we walked into White Castle during our week at Creative LIAisons. It was a week packed with learning, eye-opening talks and an incredible room of young talented individuals.

Our first day in Vegas started with us coming to terms with the fact that we were actually in Vegas. Las freaking Vegas. It was surreal to be in Sin City surrounded by the larger-than-life casinos and bigger-than-we-imagined lights. Every block has a different story, every building has its own character and we were lucky to learn about advertising in such a visually overloaded place.
As we all gathered at the Beethoven room in the Encore, it slowly started to sink in how lucky we were to be selected to be here. Despite the jetlag from a 24-hour flight, as the talks began, our eyes and minds opened wider and wider. The highlight from the first day? Ted Royer. Matt Eastwood did drive home the message of passion trumping talent and Chris West helmed the jury on nomenclature, but it was the Droga5 CCO who blew us away with his agency's work and his unconventional session.

Liaisons_5.jpgDay 1 came to a close with the whole bunch of us weary but creatively awakened. More importantly, we were all prepared for drinks that evening. While watching all the eminent creative leaders of the world is an experience by itself, chatting with them 1 on 1 is one of the best opportunities that could ever be presented. As the night wore on, we headed to our rooms with more friends made, more stories heard and the lights of Vegas burned into our iris.

The next day brought with it another set of inspiring individuals who we all aspire to be like. One of the most inspiring talks was Malcolm Poynton, who gave us a crash course in the history of branding, starting with Pearson's soap (now known as Pears). It's not every day that you get to understand the genesis of the field you are in and how the lessons of the past apply even today.

Liaisons_2.jpgWith the evening free, me and my partner walked the streets of Vegas. The talks had left us with much to think about and the city is a constant barrage of stimuli. But we meandered towards Bellagio, lost more money than we'd care to admit and managed to watch a street performance that made us think. (The best nation... is donation, apparently.)

As Day 3 dawned, we realised this wasn't going to be a sit-back-and-absorb session. The Innvervate workshop kicked off with Dr. Saras and through the day we learned some important entrepreneurship lessons, which I'm sure we'll use some day when we start our own little agency. By afternoon, we were split into teams of five and asked to innovate a solution ourselves. Out of the 20, 6 ideas would be presented on stage to the impressive Daymond John.

Liaisons_3.jpgLuckily, we were one of the 6. We've all sold ideas to clients, but this was the first time we were sharing the stage with a bonafide shark. Thankfully, we returned unharmed and much wiser for the experience. The day left us feeling we could truly create ideas worth doing, worth investing and worth showing to the world proudly. Little did we know, the next day would be a reality cheque with our name on it.

Friday dawned earlier than the other days and we were handed the opportunity of sitting in the jury room as they picked the winners for this year's LIA. Being an avid lover of the moving medium, I went into the film jury that was being presided over by Stephan Vogel. To get an insight into what wins and why, is an experience I will never forget. As a team, we now understand the importance of packaging an idea. We see the immense strain of going through 800 ideas and cutting them down to the 80-something best of the year. We now know what the jury goes through and, hopefully, we can translate it into metals of our own next year.

Liaisons_4.jpgOur week in Las Vegas came to a close on a Friday night. By now Creative LIAisons had swallowed us whole and sent us back into the world with a deeper understanding of what it takes to make it in advertising today. The city toyed with our senses and the sessions kicked our brains into awareness.

There are so many stories to share, but not all can be published in a public forum without drawing the ire of our bosses. So, we leave you with this learning from Malcom Poynton: "You could be the best horse and carriage guy in the world, but the railroad will still kill you."

In other words - adapt, learn and reinvent yourself. Well, we've learned in Vegas, reinvented our way of thinking with LIAisons and we're in the process of adapting to our own timezone. Hopefully, the next time we visit LIA will be to collect our own metal.

Viraj Chouhan and Boon Tan are a Senior Copy and Art team at Y&R Singapore.