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joe dy: the lion tamer of mccann worldgroup philippines

After his stint at J. Walter Thompson bringing home the Philippines’ second Gold Lion (and his first ever) at Cannes with the “Icons” campaign for Schick, there was no stopping him from garnering his second one with McCann Worldgroup Philippines where they took home a second Gold Lion with their “Lives 1 of 4 ‘Frank’, …

After his stint at J. Walter Thompson bringing home the Philippines’ second Gold Lion (and his first ever) at Cannes with the “Icons” campaign for Schick, there was no stopping him from garnering his second one with McCann Worldgroup Philippines where they took home a second Gold Lion with their “Lives 1 of 4 ‘Frank’, Lives 2 of 4 ‘Hanna’, and Lives 3 of 4 ‘Nicky’” campaign series for Fully Booked. Even before that, Dy has been recognized in several awards shows both local and international, including but not limited to AdFest, Spikes Asia, New York Festivals, the London International Awards, and Kidlat, to which he is a Director of Competition.

The journey wasn’t an easy one. However, this certified barista, former sportswriter, and two-time San Diego Comic Con attendee had a rough start in the industry—but don’t let his tale of perseverance fool you, Joe Dy was destined to be a magnate in the world of advertising.

How did you get started in the creative industry?

Coming out of college, I was torn between advertising and becoming a journalist— specifically, a war correspondent. An eye-related medical problem narrowed down my choices for me. The same health issue kept me from job hunting early, so, by the time I got started, there were few openings left at most of the big agencies. As luck would have it, Leo Burnett Manila was hiring—for account management trainees. Since it seemed like my last chance to get into the industry, I went for it. During the program, I was asked if I was interested in taking a copy exam. Fortunately, I did well enough to get hired on probation as a junior copywriter.

What fuels your creativity?

Mostly cans of Spam and Jollibee take-out, I suppose.

After two decades, I still get a kick of out great ideas. Whether it’s a brilliant insight brought to life, mind-numbing execution, or the collision of both, I still get a chill up my spin that makes me jump up and down—literally, on occasion— whenever I encounter an insight or an idea that really excites me. This job can bring you loads of frustration, but if you find something about it you love, it’ll get you through any hardship you encounter.

Over the many years you’ve been in the creative industry, what changes have you noticed? What else needs to be done?

It’s not a new answer, but the massive leaps in technology and innovation, as well as the digital revolution, continue to force the creative community to keep up— which I think is great! [However], there is cause for concern comes when we fall into the trap of making technology the “idea,” which I think is lazy. Technology can drive or enable the experience in ways never before imagined, but it is what you do with it that determines its relevance, and that takes creativity.


Philippines’ second Gold Lion (and his first ever) at Cannes with the “Icons” campaign for Schick

What professional achievements are you proudest of and why?
Once, I queued up at an office building, and this stranger in line sees a spot I did airing on the LCD screen. She turns to her friend and mentions, “That’s the only ad I don’t skip whenever it plays on YouTube.” To this day, I can still remember how it made me feel at the time. I think real reactions from people you’re trying to reach remain the best reward we can get. We tend to take it for granted now when we see feedback on brands’ Facebook [pages] and YouTube’s comments page, but to hear someone you don’t know mention it without prompting, in a casual environment, was especially gratifying.

That, and two Cannes Gold Lions. Those are still pretty hard to come by.

This is your second Gold Lion. Can you describe your experience? Did it feel different from your first?

For this particular Gold Lion, the campaign was over half a year in the making. I actually found out about the win by accident because I hadn’t opened my email the morning our office was informed. Truth be told, I was already content with the shortlist citations at the time they were announced. I’m more proud of the team, and for McCann, than I am of the achievement itself. As maudlin as it sounds, I was most happy to see all the people who put in all the hard work get rewarded with one of the highest honors our industry can give. We asked a lot from the creative team, the accounts team, and the production team, who [all] worked on this campaign, so they deserve all the accolades it earned. It also felt great to repay Raul Castro, our CEO/CCO and the agency for the support they gave us with a huge win for the network.

What about the job do you enjoy the most?
On more than one occasion, I have found myself engaged in very serious debates that went something like this, (not exact quotes) “How much alien is funny and how much is too much alien?” or “Will having the biker on a rhino be better for the message the brand is trying to convey?” I’m still grateful to be in one of the few industries where these kinds of discussions are considered intelligent and professional. At the end of the day, each new brief, each new truth, each new task can present a unique challenge and it’s fun to see where it brings you. No matter how bizarre.

Do you have any advice for budding creatives?
After I started job-hunting, most of the openings for agencies had been filled by the time I got in gear. Eventually, it was down to just two options. One was for a small shop, which took my response to their copy test and said, “Wow, this is great! It’s good enough to present to client and shoot. You can start right away.” Meanwhile, after reviewing my copy exam, Leo Burnett presented me with a proposal: I would have to undergo a trainee program, and if I survive, they may hire me on a six-month probationary basis. They made it clear that they have higher expectations and the process meant I would need to prove myself repeatedly on several levels. To borrow from creative legend Paul Arden’s book, the first choice was telling me how good I was, but the second option was asking me, “How good do you want to be?”

Burnett appealed to me more than the easy route, and I decided to join them. I think that choice has served me well in the long run as it started me on a path where I found myself constantly pushed, knocked down, and whipped into shape. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to get blinded by money and promises. Choose growth over validation. Choose to be in a position that forces you to be better.