Compton Advertising Singapore
Compton Advertising Singapore was part of the huge Compton group which was, in the early 80s, ranked as the 16thbiggest in the world. Its main business was P&G. In Singapore, it also had the Panasonic business which was then one of the larger electronic and white goods advertisers. First the London office and then the whole group fell in a reverse take-over which was resisted by the management. The buyers were a small London agency with no overseas offices called Saatchi & Saatchi. The Singapore office was renamed Saatchi Compton and worldwide the group became in 1984 Saatchi & Saatchi Compton. By 1988, all offices were renamed Saatchi & Saatchi. The Singapore office was first headed as Managing Director by Paul Gaffey, who had years earlier been the Creative Director of Comptons. He selected a young art director as Creative Director. Her name was Linda Locke.
In the early 80s, Fortune Advertising was the third biggest agency in Singapore and totally locally-owned. It was headed by Sonny Ong, a slim, energetic Singaporean given to wearing gold necklaces and gold Rolex watches. As a young advertising executive, he bought over the agency from the retiring owner. His fortune started when he discovered amongst the assets were two outdoor site, one at Gillimard Circus and the other at Newton Circus. At this time, Lee Kuan Yew had stopped further outdoor advertising, fearing Singapore would look like Hong Kong and so at odds with his vision of the city. This made the two sites owned by Fortune very valuable and Ong soon realised the value and immediately put the rates up.
Ong was a keen golfer and also knew how to entertain, both of which were essential business skills in those days. The agency soon handled major accounts including DBS and Cycle & Carriage. To handle conflicting accounts Sonny Ong used his other agency, Asia Ads, so in the end he handled an amazing number of car accounts including Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Fiat and Mitsubishi. His turning point was winning the DBS account against competition from the international agencies. His agency launched DBS from being a Government investment arm into a consumer bank. The tagline line “Closer to you” was familiar to everyone in those days. His other agency worked for ABN, the large Dutch bank.
Fortune was probably the first local agency to employ ex-pats in the creative team. Despite his ‘Chinese’ outlook, Ong recognised that he needed the experience of overseas writers at that point in time.
Ong first employed a Dutch-born writer. Later he took on Allein Moore, an Englishman, who had been Creative Director of Batey Ads.
Patrick Low, Eugene Chong and John Tan, who all made their mark in the industry, worked there under the mentorship of Moore between 1980 to 1983/4. Tan Swee Leong, a well-known TV personality, started the PR arm.
Moore eventually left to join another agency and his team all went their separate ways.
One factor that led to the closure of this agency was that the old style Chinese connections which had helped Sonny Ong win so many major local businesses and distributors, ceased to work with a younger generation of marketing directors. But the saddest blow, as the story goes, was that Ong overextended himself financially investing in property and when an economic crisis hit Singapore, he could not meet his pledge to the media owners, one made by all accredited advertising agencies. Faced with these creditors and legal action, he left Singapore for the USA where he lives today. He cannot return to the island of his birth.
Ong was a pioneer and a man of vision. His agency was one of the few local agencies that for a time competed successful with the international ones. It was left to Batey Ads to carry that banner into the 90s.
This agency probably takes the prize for the most number of name changes. It was established in Singapore as Monaghan Dayman & Adams, a well-respected Melbourne, Australian agency. Due to smart creative team, it soon established itself in Singapore as one of the more creative agencies. Eventually, MDA sold out to the hottest agency in Sydney with the short catchy name of Mojo. It was run by Alan Morris (Mo) and Allan Johnston (Jo) who were familiar with Singapore having come up as consultants earlier to work at Batey Ads. They set up Mojo in 1979. Funnily enough after buying MDA and taking over the Singapore office they never set foot there again. Mo and Jo were successful because they understood the real Australian culture at the time. They themselves were hard drinking beach bum types. Their jingles and TV commercials struck a chord with the Australians. No pommy accents on their soundtracks! Songs like “C’mon Aussie C’mon” for the World Series Cricket tournaments and “I feel a Four X coming on” for a brewery pulled the nation together and made Australians for the first time feel proud to be Aussies. The MDA office in Singapore, located in Peninsula Plaza, was renamed Mojo MDA and was headed by an Australian MD and an Australian CD fresh up from Sydney office was appointed. In 1988, MDA Mojo was named International Agency of the Year. Eventually MDA was dropped from the signboards and the name became Mojo.
On the other side of the world, in California, there was another agency making a name for itself creatively - Chiat/Day. It seemed to make sense for these two to join forces. The agency in Singapore in 1989 was renamed ChiatDayMojo.
The Australian CD could not adapt to the Asian clients and Allein Moore who had by then got a few years under his belt in the region, was brought in as CD, eventually becoming Executive CD when he became a director. In between, the Singapore agency bought over a small local firm called AdMan and Eddie Chan, who eventually became MD, and Michael Ng joined the agency.
Alas the difference in culture between the brash Mojo and more sophisticated ChiatDay agency proved too much and the partnership fell apart. Neither the Australian nor the USA agency were interested at that time in Asia so four members of the local management team in Singapore bought over the shares bringing in, as a partner, the long-term Japanese affiliate agency, Standard which was based in Tokyo. Once again there was a renaming. Chiat/Day/Mojo became CDM and the name Standard was added to the nameplate. Standard-CDM was born. The agency handled Qantas, Australian Tourist Board, Mitsubishi, Yeos, Gardenia bread and several other blue chip accounts.
It had a decade of success but a month or two after moving to new offices in Purvis Street, the agency was hit by the Asia economic meltdown of 1998 and the shareholders were forced to sell to Bozell Advertising, a move all four came to regret. Chiat/Day was eventually represented again in Singapore by becoming part of TBWA.
M.Bold & Friends
There was no Michael or Michelle Bold behind this agency. The founders thought the word ‘bold’ in the company name gave a good impression. Well, they were certainly bold enough to set up an agency in the middle of a recession in January 1999. Despite the Western sound of M. Bold & Friends, it was a local agency. They opened with just one account: Discovery Channel. But they quickly added BBC World, Hewlett-Packard, Chjimes, Ericsson, xs-media and Channel News Asia.
The two founders were Terry Naude and Kevin Kuan. Naude was impressive by his size alone and at the time was in his fifties. He had come to Singapore in 1993 from Young & Rubicam South Africa and then work as several agencies before getting fired from DMB&B where he was Media Director. Naude said the guy did him a huge favour. It was his media expertise which led him to planning and buying regional media for several cable channels. Kevin Kwan took the role of Creative Director. He was the son of Cantonese migrants to South Africa.
Sadly the bold move was not enough and the agency only last a few short years.