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Spikes Asia 2019: “There’s no running away from hard work” — See It Be It Ambassador Valerie Madon

The Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity is right around the corner and the excitement can’t be contained as delegates from all over Asia and the world are flying in for the three-day celebration. To be held in Suntec, Singapore, the gathering of creatives all over Asia will see this year’s best creative works and hear from the very people that run the industry.

One of the highlights for this year’s event is a very first in Asia — the See It Be It acceleration program, designed for women in creative roles who face diversity challenges in the industry. Ten future female leaders will be provided with executive training, mentoring and exclusive networking opportunities while nurturing a community of like-minded ambassadors who are encouraged and supported to bring the learning back and help others.

At the forefront of all this is the current SIBI Ambassador, Valerie Madon. Under her belt, Valerie has an amazing 20-year creative career, building brands and creative solutions for the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, Singapore Airlines, HSBC, Burger King, VISA, Singapore Tourism Board, Changi Airport, Central Provident Fund, Shell and many others.

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In 2010, Valerie was made the first female chairperson in the history of the Creative Circle Awards Singapore and went on to judge at all major shows such as Spikes Asia, Cannes Lions, D&AD, Clio, One Show and London International Awards.

adobo magazine caught up with Valerie on what to look forward to this coming Spikes and giving back through the See It Be It program.

How did you first start in the creative industry?

My first job was being an assistant to a photographer who specialized in hotel and hospitality photography. My first employer recruited me from my grad show and I was just eager to take on any job. I carried lights and helped him set up his shoots, where back then was still film-based and none of the digital-shoot-as-many-as-you-want photography. It was also in his studio that I learned to code from reading a Macromedia Dreamweaver 1.0 manual because my boss wanted to create his own website.

How has the journey been since? And what have you learned in your experience in the creative industry after all these years?

There’s no running away from hard work and constant learning, especially today when everything is advancing rapidly but no matter how things change over time, creativity is still the elusive gem every brand and business needs. 

Even today with all the availability of data, precision-targeting etc., the ultimate winners are still the ones who can leverage technology creatively. The freshest and smartest idea that still taps into human insights to move hearts and not just minds is what distinguishes best from just good. 

Hence it is important as a creative to embrace this talent to see things differently, which is a timeless quality that we must protect, constantly nurture and be proud of. Unfortunately, not many people will embrace our ideas and see it in the same perspective just like not everyone will like Van Gogh or Picasso’s painting but the key is to never give up. There will be moments in our career when all the stars are aligned, where the right brief meets the right team effort meets the right client and resulting in amazing business impact. Just a few of these moments are what we live for in this business. 

With enough resilience, everyone will get to experience this.

The freshest and smartest idea that still taps into human insights to move hearts and not just minds is what distinguishes best from just good.

What’s something to look forward to in this year’s Spikes Asia?

The line-up of speakers and topics look amazingly diverse which is a reflection of how our industry has changed. 

This year at Spike’s is also the first time it’s introducing See It Be it, an acceleration program. 10 women are selected from more than a hundred submissions to experience executive training, mentoring and exclusive networking opportunities. It is also an opportunity to nurture a community of likeminded ambassadors who are encouraged and supported to bring the learning back to help others.

What are the trends you’ve been seeing in advertising that you feel will be prominent in this year’s Spikes?

It will be a power-struggle between creativity and everything tech namely AI, data, voice, etc. There will always be a continuous focus on inclusivity and diversity as these virtues sadly take a while to permeate any organization.

You’re the Ambassador for See It Be It, which is a first of its kind here in Asia. How does it feel being a part of this?

When the organizers asked if I would do it, my answer was an instantaneous ‘yes’. Regardless of workload and even without checking my calendar, I knew I had to make this happen regardless. It’s more than an occupational responsibility because I felt I’ve reached a stage in my career to give back.

So much has shaped us in our careers and those lessons can help others learn faster. If not for a few significant mentors in my life and even the blessings of working with some of the best bosses, including male ones, I would have never gotten to where I am and I hope even in the smallest ways through my experience that I could help other talents make a breakthrough in this tough journey ahead of them.

Can you share with me one of your most memorable projects working in the creative industry?

The one that some would know of is a product I created with my team in JWT called The Guardian Angel for AWARE. It was the first time we went beyond our ability to create a physical product and it was so well-received around the world, even Queen Latifah showcased it during her talk show. The rights were eventually given to the retailer to continue the business.

My personal favorite which not many may know but more than 3.7 million Singaporeans and PR would have received it, including our Prime Minister, is a data-driven direct mail cover letter for the Central Provident Fund. It was also our pitch-winning idea that made such a difference in people’s lives because we leveraged infographics and data to provide a personalized and simplified complex numbers to show people how their monies are performing or used. This was implemented in 2016 and I still receive it today.

What makes work like these memorable is not just because it’s meaningful and one that even my family and friends really benefit from but also the journey and triumph of working with the government to make positive enhancements that really helps people. I’m sure the team who worked on it with me would be equally proud of it today even though it’s not the kind of work one would have submitted for awards.

When you’re not working, what is Valerie Madon doing?

When I’m not working, I’m cooking and spending time with my family. Sounds really boring and very much like aging but I guess age does make one realise the real priorities in life. My love for cooking was what led to the launch of Licktionary, our own ice cream brand (www.licktionary.sg), which I started with my husband, Farrokh Madon, in 2017. Now that I really have the luxury of a bit more time before I start my new job in Jan 2020, I’m taking the opportunity to paint again.

Painting is therapy for me since 5 and the last time I painted was my first gift to my husband. Now after 10 years of our relationship, it’s probably about time for the second piece.


adobo magazine, the Word on Creativity, is an official media partner of Spikes Asia 2019 Festival of Creativity.

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