The Black Cab Interviews Singapore: Reed Collins, CCO Ogilvy & Mather, Hong Kong

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The Black Cab Interviews have flown all the way from London to Singapore just in time for Spikes Asia – Singapore’s Festival of Creativity, in collaboration with Cogs Agency with production support by The Flying Kick Asia and Shooting Gallery Asia.

In the back of a signature London black cab, Michael Tomes, founder of Creativepool, has been cramming in interviews with judges and top speakers for the duration of the three-day festival.

With his super-high-tech plastic yellow spinner, Michael has been asking questions (some nice and some horrible) of his guests as he takes them around the city.

Today we have Reed Collins, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather Group, Hong Kong, on bringing your rock career with your real career, navel-gazing, and Big Momma's House 2.

About Black Cab Interviews

The "Black Cab Interviews” are series of interviews in which Creativepool’s founder, Michael Tomes, takes the great and the good from our industry on a cab ride around London, New York, Singapore... to talk about their work, careers and what they think about the fabulous industry that we work in.

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Michael Tomes: Reed!

Reed Collins: Helloo, sir!

Michael Tomes: How are you?

Reed Collins: I'm good, thank you very much!

Michael Tomes: Loving the shades.

Reed Collins: [Climbing into Michael's London Black Cab] Whoa. [Sitting down] … Perfect.

MT: Good to see you.

RC: Good to see you too!

MT: Reed Collins. Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy and Mather, Hong Kong. Welcome to the Black Cab interviews!

RC: Thank you very much. Nice to be here!

MT: What are you doing in Singapore?

RC: Spikes Festival. I was judging for the past few days, and looking forward to some talks and the show tomorrow...

MT: So you've worked around the world, from what I know?

RC: I've worked in ... five continents! I'm originally from Australia, and then I left to go to Johannesburg ... it was just a great experience, I was there for three years. And then I moved from there to London to get the kind of old school approach of advertising, you know, get that side of it? And then ... I kind of didn't like London so much, I mean, the weather was one thing...

MT: Yep! You're not the first person to say that!

RC: [Laughs] So I headed off to the big smoke of New York City. And then I worked at a really small agency, Cliff Freeman. That was a really amazing time as well, where eighty percent of what we presented, sold, and [then] we made, so ... it was a really inspirational creative period in my career. And then moving from Cliff Freeman I went to Chicago, I worked at the biggest agency I could possibly find in America. Which was Leo Burnett in Chicago. So that was really good, I stayed there for eight years, I bought a couch. At that time, I didn't own a couch or any furniture, so I bought a couch, I bought a cat--

MT: [Laughs] Wow!

RC: Then, I bought a condo. So it was like, boom-boom-boom-boom. So it was really hard for me to leave, because I didn't want to move the couch.

MT: Or the cat.

RC: [Laughing] Yeah, so I eventually sold my condo, and said 'fuck it'. I was gonna move back to Australia, I had a chance to work at the Campaign Palace in Sydney. Which was fantastic, and it's obviously a really iconic Australian agency. I went to work there for a while.

MT: So, give me a rundown on what you do as Ogilvy and Mather, a massive company obviously - how big is it in Hong Kong?

RC: In Hong Kong, it's probably about four to five hundred people in the group? So it's made up of a lot of Ogilvy companies. And I'm involved in all of that. It's quite fascinating in the fact that it's between three cultures, you've got Hong Kong's rich history, and then there's obviously a lot of Western influence there and mainland Chinese influence and it's kind of like a melting pot of all those elements which is quite rich and interesting. You get to work on stuff inbound to China, Western brands going that way ... and out. Chinese brands going the other way. With a lot of work, obviously ... the local brands need a lot of attention as well. So it's really interesting how it's kind of, you're almost working in a global sense in Hong Kong.

MT: Yeah, so I guess at your level now, you're spending less time doing the creative work and a lot more time client-facing, and--

RC: I try and balance that, yeah, I mean I still get my fingers dirty, probably ... you can ask some of my creatives that, I probably meddle too much. But, yeah, I'm still heavily involved in the work, and the output ... I still write, and things like that. Because that's part of the, you know, most of the fun. Making, not managing. But I have to balance that so I have to do a lot of the shit that other people don't want to do, and suck it up and come back with a smiley face and say 'It's gonna be OK, we'll make something!'

MT: [Laughing] So, I'm gonna play a bit of Deer Hunter with you now.

RC: Great. Who's Christopher Walken?

MT: [Laughs, producing a plastic yellow spinner which, when spun, indicates a number between one and ten] ... With this very scientific and exceptional spinner. All the odd numbers are slightly--

RC: Odd?

MT: Bad questions, slightly naughty questions, I guess you could call them? And all the evens are nicer questions.

RC: [Examining the spinner] What's that 'Q'?

MT: That's a 'nine', apparently. I didn't make this, by the way. I know it looks like I did.

[Both laugh, and Reed spins.]

RC: Five.

MT: What's the worst piece of creative that you have ever seen?

RC: Oh, I've ever seen? Shit. Well, I'm gonna blame it on myself, not other people, but ... my first portfolio, I've still got it somewhere, but it was, like a, billboard campaign with the New South Wales Art Gallery, the West Australian Art Gallery or whatever it's called. The first one was really good. Yeah, what it was, was like a billboard with just little parts of the billboard ... it's been done many times since I had it in my book, but it was minimalist, like little sections of the book were little parts ... it was quite cute. And then I tried to do a campaign, and then I had two more ... I don't remember the third one, [but] the second one was like, just a melted watch. And it just said "Watch the [inaudible - 'something watch']". That's probably the worst thing I've seen. A pun, and...

MT: Not a very good one! [Laughing]

RC: Oh, it was disgusting. Yeah it was horrible.

MT: But you learn from your mistakes. You do.

RC: You do.

MT: Ok, spin away.

[Reed spins]

MT: One. Who was your worst client, and why?

RC: Ohhh... do you take codenames for a client?

MT: Maybe you shouldn't name them, to be fair. Do agencies moan about clients all the time?

RC: Ahhh ... the worst client ... maybe I'll just talk about the theme of a client. There are some, there's not a lot, yeah - but there have been very few [who have been] very memorable in terms of their disrespect for the effort that's gone in. And, I guess mirroring what agency [inaudible] were probably like in the eighties. Just, like 'fuck you', and, you know, it's not helpful. So ... I haven't met too many of those people, but when I do, I want to leave the room. But I'm kind of polite. I don't.

MT: Ok, spin away.

[Reed spins]

MT: Six. What are you passionate about?

RC: Film. I love movies. I love music. Yeah, I've always loved music and movies, so anything to do with making either of those things. I've been a drummer since I was seven, I think? Started playing guitar as well at some point, but drums aren't that good to travel with! So it's kind of my ... rock career, kind of stunted at various stages in life!

[Both laugh]

RC: Pick it up again, and then move countries and leave the drums behind! But yeah, film, from a very early age I loved movies. Seeing craftspeople at work, you know, bringing really interesting, provocative things to the screen.

MT: Do you have a favourite film?

RC: Oh, seriously, I fuckin' love every ... lots of films. So, serious indie movies or art house films, to blockbuster crap like Big Momma's House 2.

[Both laugh a lot]

RC: Oh, anything I can just, you know ... I was insatiable when I had a lot more spare time!

MT: Why didn't you end up making films?

RC: ... Ah, I dunno. Maybe I was kind of, scared, maybe?

MT: Is filmmaking scarier than advertising?

RC: Well, that's where I started, I guess, so I vicariously got to make films through what I do anyway, so it's ... becoming a film maker would be starting again in some sense. Even though I've learnt a lot through production in my own career, but it's a completely different skill set and set of problems, getting a film up, getting it made, and getting it sold, and getting it out there.

MT: Spin away.

[Reed spins]

MT: Seven. What do you hate about the industry?

RC: Ah ... navel-gazing. I hate navel-gazing in the industry. Knocking down others from other agencies, when we're all just trying to make the most of it, you know? Sometimes it all feels a bit too self-centred or self-congratulatory.

MT: Yeah. And that seems to be fairly prevalent as well, I mean it's very easy to knock something, isn't it? It's a lot harder for people, like you say, to [go] 'I really enjoyed that [work you did]'.

RC: It's much easier to throw shit at something.

MT: It's almost as if, if no one's said anything horrible about it, it must be bloody good.

[Both laugh]

RC: [Laughing] Yeah, silence. It equals 'I really love it!'

MT: It must be awesome!

[Dropping Reed off]

MT: Well, we're back at the Mandarin [inaudible]. Thank you very much, hope you enjoyed your black cab interview

RC: Thank you very much!

MT: Enjoy the rest of your time in Singapore.

RC: I will.


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