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Alan Chan, Creative Advertising Graduate, Leeds College of Art

11 min, 0 sec read
10:30 AM | 17 July 2015
by Melisa Dagli
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Jun "Alan" Chan is a Creative Advertising graduate of Leeds College of Art. His biggest success during his tenure was being part of a team who had reached the finals of Edcom's international Ad Venture competition. His main aspiration is to make a successful business that specialises in creative media production such as advertising, film, music and print.

What attracted you to wanting to work in the creative industries?

I was attracted to be part of a more creative area mainly because of the course I took, about half a year in it just seemed a more appealing type of education. In more scientific areas of learning it seems quite difficult to apply what you've learned outside of what you're getting taught. Simply put these more textbook focused fields were not stimulating to me, I really wanted something a little more free formed.

”Best to say my brain is likened to a Jazz band with it's main inspiration being people and they happen to be the audience.”

Best to say my brain is likened to a Jazz band with it's main inspiration being people and they happen to be the audience. I find that I enjoyed learning how people act, react and intake what is in their environment and so it seemed a no brainer to choose advertising. It showed me how integrated an imaginative idea can be implanted in to the public consciousness and prior to that how much you can explore into all sorts of areas that are related to your audience.

It’s like a profession where you get to go out on to this scavenger hunt for knowledge. One of my old tutors did say that there was no one more interesting in an dinner party than a person who worked in advertising.

Tell us more about reaching the finals of Edcom's international Ad Venture competition.

The brief was to produce a digitally led awareness campaign showing the young European public the benefits of ESA's (European Space Agency) satellite technology. I was in a group with three absolutely great people (Olga Sillicheva, Pratheep "Pro" Tharan and Sam White) who I know will have great careers in the future. We were familiar with each others way of thinking and so everyone was able to play to their strengths within the group. We were bouncing off ideas but also kept ourselves focused and on track no matter how out-of-the-box our thinking got.

"We were familiar with each others way of thinking and so everyone was able to play to their strengths within the group."

To start with, we wanted to use a certain medium that is universal for every one in Europe to be both familiar with as well as enjoyable. Through research we chose viral videos as our main factor to play around with, linking it back to the client by having ESA's satellite technology playing the necessary component in both viewing and sharing; all in all we were pushing forward with a concept of educating through play. Following suit we went with the proposal of ESA Satellite technology “saves you time on the serious stuff, so you can have time for the silly stuff" which Jean-Paul Brunier of Leo Burnett said was genius on behalf of the judges, so that was definitely a cheerful moment. By the end of the creative process, our idea was to create a platform through which people within Europe can vote for their favourite viral videos based in their country, we called it "Viralite" as in Viral + Satellite.

"Our idea was to create a platform through which people within Europe can vote for their favourite viral videos..."

After just over two months of strenuous development, re-development as well as time management issues, as we all had our dissertation to complete along with work commitments and other scheduling difficulties, we had a finalised idea with presentation ready for competition judging. The presentation was easily the most stressful aspect being that it was the only thing the judges were gonna see from us, and I'm sure all of us pulled all nighters to make sure it was the best it could be.

”Let's say the saying ‘there is no success without suffering’ rang kind of true for us."

Let's say the saying ‘there is no success without suffering’ rang kind of true for us. To make a long story short, we managed to get to the finals in Paris. Unfortunately we didn't win but it was still a great experience we met other like minded people. Also made some great contacts which personally I need to get back in touch with ASAP.

How have you found studying at Leeds College of Art, was there anything that stood out for you?

What I mostly learned is not to be afraid of failure and how important it is to listen to other people and what you can take from them. At Leeds College of Art it didn't feel like what you were learning was stuck within your course. The place was a hub of like minded people with different skill sets; you can make friends with people taking Graphic Design, Photography or even Woodworking and you can get some tips and ideas from them without even asking. It's really a place to let you explore your interests.

My time on the course was such a joy, I think the most defining feature I can think of is how trust based teaching truly is, rather than dictate they direct and what you needed to know you eventually find out on your own. For those who are starting the course in the future, it's likely gonna feel like a very alien experience at the start.

Put your trust, time and focus in and you'll come out with a better understanding of what you can do and what you want to do."

Nearing the end of the three years, you'll learn how important constantly having a large variety of ideas is and how not to make any precious because there's always a better one the night after. You'll start applying that to other creative interests you may have, for instance I write music routinely but I only record one song out of every ten because that one just happened be the best one at time, although you can still go back to the other nine for future inspiration.

Another thing I wanted to mention about Creative Advertising is how it focused on professionalism, by the end of it you have created professional looking work not just because you had to but because you wanted to, same goes for portfolios and presentations. As of now the course is pushing for even more integration with the professional world not just with connections, live briefs and competitions but currently they are building the course up as a genuine student led agency named "String Agency". Hopefully I'll get to see it grow to be something great in the future possibly dominating the industry as the biggest name in advertising by students.

Which company would you love to work for after graduating and why?

I never have a single favourite of anything so I'm going to say my main three in no particular order;  Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather and DDB mainly because of their ties to Hong Kong advertising. I did my dissertation on Hong Kong advertising and so I got a taste of what they did over there. As a person who goes to that place on an triennial basis since birth, I have seen first hand what advertising was back then along with recently; I might as well be blunt and say that when I was young, HK advertising was boring. All it was was product, brand and face on the same simple poster layout, it's like that joke that every comedian had decades ago making fun of how similar all perfume ads were.

Back to Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather and DDB, I love what they are doing within the city and asian advertising in general, there is definitely improvement within the quality of HK advertising. I'm really happy advertising has some more thought put in over there now.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you'd have known earlier?

Yes and I'll regret it till I'm old enough to forget. I found out during my second year how important that staying somewhere new was but I spent my first and third year back where I'm from. As I said before listening to other people is important but so is building relationships with them as well.

I’m sure somebody out there said something along the lines that all aspects of life is only enriched by others.

I’m sure somebody out there said something along the lines that all aspects of life is only enriched by others. Just ask any third year intern in any company about their new friends, stories they have and they've learned and see how much they enjoy talking about it. Important thing to note, how much they smile and laugh as they reminisce. That's always something important for not just how creatives should be perceiving their work but really kind of a life lesson, what does it take to be remembered and missed.

Which advert/campaign has caught your eye in the last 6 months and why?

I'm in love with the Trivago "We know everything about hotels" ads. An advert like this just works because you just want to follow it as it takes you through this 30 second cinematic story. I'm sure some film makers can stretch out these same plots to 30-40 minutes and they do the same story in under one. That's what I love most about them is that it stays as long as it needs to and holds your attention till it ends. I'm sure I've read somewhere that the public's average attention span has lowered so an advert like this just seems perfect for times like these where everything is wanted at a quick almost immediate pace.

Sell yourself. Why should someone hire you once you finish uni?

The way I function is to search for things that keeps my interests up, to share it and apply it however seems fit. I want to show people that there is more to see then what is outside your window. I believe I've learned more just by listening to people in a workplace then I really did in a classroom. I love to observe to understand; simply put I enjoy investigating, understanding what can be useful. It is how other people interpret their situations that I think is really the basis of making good work that attaches to them.

"I love to observe to understand; simply put I enjoy investigating, understanding what can be useful."

I also enjoy having access to be creative as well, I know personally that I'm creative no matter the area, adaption is a key factor to my creative process which optimises my ability to generate ideas, especially to connect more to the target audience. Whenever I get a chance to delve in to something be it digitally or physically I am always inspired because I know that there is insights in anything. I can feel just as involved with various differing tasks. In essence, giving me more to digest just pushes me to create more ideas and uncommon connections.

In terms of skills, I've garnered some praise for my methods in presenting ideas with my key abilities being that I'm able to explain an idea confidently, clearly and concisely whilst sticking within the set timeframes. I have also been told by my peers on how entertaining I make my presentations, with an interesting balance of professionalism and showmanship. As a creative I employ the use of multiple creative thinking techniques I have picked up on in order to push any idea to it's fullest within the given time, visualising the initial ideas prior to any form of execution as a way to test how well the ideas can work. I can comfortably use Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier or indeed any editing software given as a means of execution or simply for visualising a concept.

"My biggest asset may have to be my knowledge of the asian market. I've lived, seen and know first hand part of their lifestyle."

For what I can bring to the industry, I got to say that my biggest asset may have to be my knowledge of the asian market. I've lived, seen and know first hand part of their lifestyle; I acknowledge history understand what they like and dislike, their history, traditions and trends. The world they make for themselves has hardly been explored and it's new ground for some agencies but there is definite market growth over in places such as China and Hong Kong. I would love to be part of pushing the level of advertising along with other creative industries within such a prosperous environment.

What I've got left to say for now is that I hoped I've kept your interest through this whole interview and that you got something out of it, who knows maybe I'll see some of you readers later on probably through more social reasons.

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