4As Beyond the Brief Advertising

“It’s exciting to have your finger on the pulse of culture”: Beyond the Brief with Chay Lee, TBWA\Chiat\Day


By Haley Velasco, Freelance journalist

November 7, 2017 | 5 min read

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)?

Chay Lee, TBWA\Chiat\Day

Chay Lee

Chay Lee is the content director for TBWA's cultural insight channel, Backslash, in Los Angeles, California. His team and him create videos for employees and the larger network that analyze different trends in the ad world.

Backslash was created with 200 “culture spotters” to provide employees with a daily two-minute video of cultural and trends insight. According to Campaign, the content will span topics such as the use of virtual reality for medical purposes and the wave of “modern nudism,” from naked bike rides to restaurants serving only nude diners.

Lee’s past was in news, including producing at Fox, Univision, C-SPAN and NBC, as well as a former on-air news reporter at ABC. As a graduate of Howard University, his passion for music led him to produce projects for channels such as VH1, Fuse, and Revolt TV. Lee has also produced branded content campaigns for Chevy, Coca-Cola, and New Amsterdam Vodka.

Lee’s passion for producing content, in addition to his passion for music, shows how he is living beyond the brief.

Who is your hero and why?

It may sound cliché but my hero is my dad. I feel like he really knows how to deal with people and learning how to do that has helped me tons in my career. He taught me that everyone has a lens that they view life through. If you can get to know them and figure out what their lens is, you can relate to anyone.

What is the moment you knew you wanted to be in advertising?

I started my media career as an on-air reporter for ABC and then later producing for places like MTV, VH1, and Revolt TV; my whole career has essentially been telling stories. Once I got into branded content, which again is was figuring out how to tell various brands' stories though content, going to an agency just seemed like the most natural step. Everyone has a story and figuring out how to creatively tell it is what advertising is all about.

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

The program I work on is called Backslash. We essentially curate all of things that are happening in culture, distill it down and then turn it into content for our company. We get information from our network of employees who work in one of our 200+ offices around the world. It’s exciting to have your finger on the pulse of culture and getting to decide what the whole TBWA collective gets to see. To know that we essentially are responsible for making sure our network of over 12,000 people knows what is happening in culture so they can be better at their job is really cool. Plus, I feel like I’m always the smartest person in the bar… I feel like I know what’s going on everywhere.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

"Treat other people the way you want to be treated." I know it's an old one, but I believe if you follow it you will get along so much better in life. If you really evaluate how you interact with every person, ask yourself "Would it be ok if other people treated you the way you treated them?" You will have much better relationships overall as a result.

How do you practice self-care?

I'm really big on self-affirmations. I'm always writing new ones down that I keep in my wallet or tape to my bathroom mirror. I think the way you talk to yourself is very important and so I try to speak positive things to myself daily.

How would you define “A life well-lived”?

A life well-lived is one where you are able to live out your passion. My dad is 63 and he just started working on his art full time and couldn't be happier. You may not be able to do your passion full time but if you can say you got to regularly do the things you felt that you were made to do, then I think you are winning.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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