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So You Want My Job? Cheil Hong Kong CCO Paul Chan on his career so far

Cheil Hong Kong's Paul Chan talks us through his career

Welcome to So You Want My Job? where each week we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. And, along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can help inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.

This week, we grill Paul Chan, chief creative officer of Cheil Hong Kong and the sixth best chief creative officer in this year’s World Creative Rankings, about his route into the ad industry.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Honest.

How did you get your job?

I stumbled into it, really.

Growing up in the UK, I’ve always loved advertising.

But it was never on my radar as a career.

It wasn’t until six months into my first job (as an editor) that I came across a D&AD annual by chance.

And that was it. I was mesmerized.

From that point on, I became quite single-minded. Advertising was the only thing I wanted to do.

Problem was, I didn’t go to ad school.

I had a marketing degree and I could write.

But I didn’t have a book of ads.

So I bought an early edition of ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’, ‘The Copy Book’ and a couple of D&AD and One Show annuals.

After reading them many times over, digesting everything from cover to cover, I sat down with a big fat marker pen and a sketchpad – and spent the next few months working on a book of made-up ads (which I still have to this day).

With my book in hand, I then called up every creative director in town, politely asking if they had any openings for an entry-level copywriter.

That’s how I started.

It’s how I got my first big break in advertising.

OK, so what do you actually do? How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?

You don’t want to bore people to death. So I tend to keep it simple and just say I’m in advertising.

I work as a creative in an ad agency.

And our job is to create ads that help build brands and businesses.

Do your parents understand what it is that you do?

Sort of. I’d say they know as much as the aforementioned taxi driver.

What do you love most about your job?

I’m still proud of the fact that we’re paid to think laterally, solve problems and create ideas.

I still love that thrill of cracking something.

I hope that never disappears.

How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would be their route?

There’s no single right path.

But you could still do exactly what I did.

Grab an early edition of ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’ and ‘The Copy Book’.

Steal a few D&AD and One Show annuals.

Digest everything and try to get a real understanding of what makes a great ad.

Then focus on your book.

(Actually, you don’t need to steal the annuals. They’re all online nowadays).

What advice would you offer to others entering the advertising industry, especially at this weird time?

Be a sponge.

Work harder than everyone else.

And work with people you love.

What traits best suit you for your role?

I’d say the ability to remain calm under pressure.

The ability to think strategically (you can’t get to great creative with meaningless fluff).

And the ability to spot BS.

The Drum is celebrating this year’s standout performers, and their work, in a special series of editorial features collected on our World Creative Rankings hub. And you’d like to get your hands on the entire World Creative Rankings dataset, you can order our full PDF report.