The return of Creative Godfather

  • Business
  • Saturday, 19 Jul 2014


NEIL French, the advertising icon who once had global creative oversight for the world’s biggest advertising holding company WPP Group plc, is returning to Malaysia next week to speak at the Creative Allstars conference.

In an e-mail interview, the UK-born personality credited with starting the creative revolution in Asia about two decades ago, recalled the times in Singapore and then Malaysia.

“In Singapore, I arrived at the ‘moment critique’ just when the agency had lost three big clients. So when Rod Pullen became boss, we decided we had nothing to lose, and could offer our remaining clients visible and original work, which would by definition stand out and be successful, thus attracting new business. And that’s how it worked out,” he says.

“As far as Malaysia was concerned, it was only later that I managed to visit, and immediately met the suits, Stephen Bong and The Immortal TL Yeap and later Datuk Rishya Joseph, who were clearly all mad, and would not be scared to present work which would initially frighten the clients. Scary work gets noticed and therefore works.

“Only later did I concern myself with the talent needed to carry out the actual work. And found there was a vast untapped reservoir of talent.”

Asked what he will share at the conference on Tuesday, he quipped: “The above! And although I’d like my website to be available, I hope not to make the thing an archaeological journey, it may be necessary to give examples. I’d much prefer to answer questions than spout rubbish.”

How important is it for a creative person to be good at sales too?

“If possible, it’s invaluable. But not everyone is a salesman. The important thing is to gain the confidence of your clients, then the work sells itself,” he says.

On what he is doing these days, he says: “I’m a shopkeeper. Plus I’m supposed to be writing another (fiction this time) book, but have already missed several deadlines! I’m also a director of, an amazing site dedicated to stealing other people’s ideas, and a content site which, (if it works) could redefine personalised entertainment and pornography. And finally a new and highly secret agency concept which could redefine the way the ad industry works.”

To register for the full-day conference in Kuala Lumpur, call Ruby on Monday at (03)7726-2588. Online registration is at

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Business , Neil French , Rishya Joseph , WPP


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