Ogilvy's worldwide chief creative officer, Tham Khai Meng reveals the most important campaigns of his career

Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer for Ogilvy

Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy’s worldwide co-chairman & chief creative officer, spoke with The Drum this month about being more creative with the latest tech and some of his best work to date.

Khai is the most successful creative currently working today, according to the most recent Big Won Directory Rankings, having won more creative awards than anyone else in last year.

He revealed the work that he was most proud so far in his career, which included IBM’s ‘Outdoor as Utility’, a campaign done with Susan Westre and Ogilvy Paris, under IBM’s ‘Smarter Planet’ platform. Each of these ideas came with a tangible purpose. ‘Outdoor as Utility’ was a series of billboards created in ways that provided passers by with shelter, maybe a seat and even ramps over stairs.

Khai also highlighted his pride of the work from Ogilvy New York for the launch of IBM’s Watson, the world’s first AI to beat humans in Jeopardy live on TV.

Khai also created this Anglican Welfare Council's ad with Eugene Cheong, aimed at de-stigmatising bipolar disorder by recollecting the histories of three powerful sufferers, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton.

Khai also worked with Chris Ford and his team in Sydney on the Australian Coca-Cola ad ‘Share a Coke’ which took the world by storm as it played on everyone’s desire to be famous by providing personalised Coke bottles for people in more than 70 countries worldwide. It was the most impactful campaign in Coca-Cola’s history. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales dollars in the US went up 2.5% in the first 12 weeks after a more than ten-year steady decline.

Hopenhagen is a campaign Khai wrote for the UN to promote the meeting of world leaders from 193 countries in Copenhagen for the COP15 meeting to discuss and set-forth a plan for the global climate crisis. He hacked the city by painting over the C in Copenhagen with an H to create ‘Hopenhagen’.

Another of his favourites was Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ and ‘Beauty Sketches’, created in response to Unilever’s research that only 4% of women use the word beautiful to describe themselves.

With a desire to re-connect the world, Khai also worked with Bjorn Stahl and his team on the campaign ‘Swedish Number’ for Swedish Tourism Association. This made Sweden the first country in the world to have its own number, which anyone around the world could call and through an algorithm, and be re-directed to random Swedes. To authentically celebrate Sweden’s 250th year of Freedom of Speech, answering Swedes who answered the calls were free to say anything about their country, good or bad, on the random calls they received.

Speaking to The Drum for its Creativity issue, out this month, he revealed his belief that creativity is the most powerful competitive advantage that any business can have.

He said: “The way the world of creativity and technology is exploding, the pathfinders will be those creative and imaginative people who know how to play at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences.

“That’s where real innovation will come from.”

Many other creatives spoke with The Drum within the latest issue about their own endeavors, including Ali Hanon, founder, Creative Equals, Bob Greenberg, founder, chairman and chief executive officer, R/GA, and Justin Drape, co-founder and group chief creative officer, the Monkeys, Sydney.

Words by Hannah McLaren and Stephen Lepitak

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