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Insight: Denstu Jayme Syfu Creative Leaders share their work struggles and survival tips

Three creatives from Dentsu Jayme Syfu: Biboy Royong, Soleil Badehop, and Renzo Valmonte share how they deal with the new-sual:

Metro Manila has been under a lockdown since March. In eight months, every type of pandemic tale has probably been told. Still, economic uncertainty, jobs in jeopardy, mental and emotional health matters have failed to bog down the resilient Filipino spirit.

Dentsu Jayme Syfu is one of the hundreds of agencies that has decided to close its office and make every employee work from home until early next year.


Early lockdown Sprout survey of nearly 10,000 respondents from over 200 companies showed that 73 percent said they had all the tools to enable WFH efficiently.

Well equipped with tools, and with 76 percent saying they were highly motivated by management during WFH, mobility apps were quick to deliver, pardon the pun, and made a killing saving many from deprivation of food, medicine, and other essentials including work items, netizens adapted. In just weeks, everyone was a chef, baker, painter, poet and philosopher, even a fitness guru. The pandemic had people in touch with their dormant artist, unleashing waves of creativity that kept emotional and mental lows at bay.

It was business, and living, as new-sual.

But, what if your job is to be an artist? What if you were paid to make and deliver creative work—at its best? Advertising is one such job that pays for creative excellence to deliver revenue for many stakeholders. While people from all kinds of jobs have embraced WFH, and their newfound creativity, ad agency creative minds tell a different narrative.

Three young creative leaders from Denstu Jayme Syfu, who were promoted pre-Covid this year, have mixed feelings about these days of uncertainty and its challenges, first loving it, then after a while, undergoing a rethink.

WFH For Creatives, the new-sual

The road, whether gravel, ground or virtual, is paved in creative gold. As Biboy Royong, a newly minted Executive Creative Director shares, “What I miss are the things I see on the road, both the good and the not so good. The commuters, bystanders, traffic officers, road constructions, the traffic light, the pollution. Just everything, they’re like different characters in a story on every trip.”



New Associate Creative Director Renzo Valmonte doesn’t stray far with similar thoughts about WFH. Valmonte feels like “I’m navigating through a new world. So many calls. So many screens. Is it day, or night? What is time when work can happen as soon as you wake up—and sometimes doesn’t end even during the weekends. It’s tough. But I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

Ad creatives earn their keep by finding hidden gems wrapped in a product, and by helping people make wise purchases. These gems are mined from people, through daily interaction, keen observation, and deep understanding of all walks of life.

“I usually find interesting ideas in random places, sadly, places that I no longer have access to for now. So it’s a little more difficult to muster up the motivation and inspiration to think up something extraordinary. Not impossible, but difficult,” Valmonte says.

Shares Soleil Badenhop, another new Associate Creative Director “Since the lockdown started, I became more maximized. I wake up earlier than usual, and with all the time saved from traveling to and from work, I get more time to really focus on projects. The only thing missing from my routine is the occasional walk to grab snacks or coffee which also served as my break from the screen where I get random ideas from the outside world.”

Lockdown has not changed much for the worse for Biboy, who considers the creative process inclusive of the paperwork, meetings, and “brainstorming, where everyone has to agree when everyone is available for a video call. Same goes with the clearings, internal meetings, and client presentations.

Add travel time to that list. “We have this thing in the Philippines called ”Filipino Time”, which means “always late”. In this lockdown, everyone is always on time. I guess, it’s one of the things that can be considered a ‘good change’.

Technology, with all its bells and bling, can never provide all the creative solutions that lockdown brings. If there’s something that these creative leaders can agree on, it’s the fact that ideation can sometimes be a little difficult when one is isolated, which is the reality of WFH.

And, that is a touchstone. WFH afforded people to unlock many hidden talents, skills and surprising discoveries. For an industry that demands long working hours away from home and the family, it’s interesting how advertising creatives have re-discovered, even welcomed, home life this year.

Reputed to be all-nighters and late-rousers, ad creatives have rewired to get up earlier than usual to attend a conference call. Trained to read body language and facial expression, ad creatives adapted to brainstorming with “muted and no video” teams, and presenting to clients without seeing actual expressions and reactions. All these while their life depended on the Wifi signal.

Wifi. A word that is a sentence in itself. In fact, wifi is a whole new world where WFH resides. While it empowers enterprise and homelife, it limits human interaction. And, that appears to be the major difference in the creative process.

Life in split-screen

Having the most years as a creative, and in-charge of more younglings, Biboy has more to share. “I have a lot of new colleagues in the office who I’ve been working with for six months now, but have never met in person. Some have moved on to other opportunities, but I never had the chance to get together with them for a chat and drink.

But the additional thing I do now is talk to my colleagues in the creative department. I have to at least know how they are feeling about work and their situation in general. They need to be assured that they are doing great and that their contribution during these times is very valuable. Sometimes, I have to be the one to initiate the talk because most of them are shy in expressing what they feel.”

At home, while work goes on, the house needs heeding, too. Biboy turns on his vintage wisdom. “Work today is like previous TV commercials. You are the character in split-screen. One half is with work, the other half is at home. Sometimes, it cannot be avoided that I have to pitch in with house chores while working.

A few times, because of time constraints, I had to present to clients while caught in the middle of an important errand.  Every day feels like having all these emotions hover above you, and that they can change any time.”

The struggle to keep their creative spark alive is real. How do they resist groundhog days of repetition and boring routine that can be a dangerous barrier to creating brilliant work?

Keeping the right brain excited and inspired

Creativity, and the fear of mediocrity, keeps Badenhop on her toes. “The creative process is not easy as it seems; as creatives we fear mediocrity. We don’t want to get stuck in our own heads. That’s why we do a lot of brainstorming,” she shares.

She admits to missing the long brainstorming hours where she and partner dedicate half a day or after work hours to really sit down and toss ideas, experiences, stories, opinions.

“That’s something you can’t really get out of Zoom calls nowadays because in video calls, you’re aware of the time; you see your computer screen and you’re easily distracted” she muses.

Valmonte seconds this, “I guess the process is mainly the same. You rack your brains for what can be done. But I definitely miss the interaction, the energy of other people. That, and the number of different food sources.”

Without long commutes, no time maneuvering stuck traffic, WFH allows more time for searching, digitally looking for new material—something Renzo takes advantage of. “By taking in as much creativity as I can–whether it’s immersing myself in a game or diving into a new story in the form of a film or book or looking up new recipes online or even just browsing through memes. If I myself can’t travel to different places at least my brain can.”

Experience goes a long way for Royong, whose inspiration comes from reality checks, from empathizing with those suffering from uncertainty. “In the Philippines, 10 percent of the Filipino population are OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). A lot of them were repatriated and displaced.

In the transport sector, the Philippine jeepneys were not allowed to ply the streets until recently, and only a few routes have been allowed to re-open. Most of the jeepney drivers were their families’ breadwinners, and as a result of the lockdown, their families have suffered.

Distance learning is another major problem the educational system is facing. These are unique issues that can push creatives to pitch their ideas in bids to come up with solutions.”

He continues, “We have this concept called ‘Bayanihan’, that Filipino mindset that collective action is the best way to move forward by helping those in need. The more people willing to help, the lighter the burden becomes. This was evident when the lockdown was put into place. A lot of individuals, private entities, clients, and organizations came together to initiate assistance programs and relief missions of donations of food, cash, PPE’s, medicines, etc. This is what inspires me a lot. The willingness of my fellow Filipinos to help each other. We just have to initiate the spark.”

Badenhop keeps it simple. “I keep my right brain inspired by just appreciating the little things: making my own iced coffee in the morning, cooking my own lunch and dinner, and even washing the dishes after. I consider these my mini breaks from working.”

Reverting to childhood hobbies and discovering new ones have also worked for the young creative. “I’ve picked up my guitar again and composed a song after 12 years. When I was young, I had an entire notebook of song compositions, and I even recorded my own demos. It feels great to write a song again.

“I started writing some personal poems early this year, writing more often during the pandemic. I also added more toys to my collection thanks to the money I saved from coffee runs and dining out; I love toy figures and if this pandemic won’t be over soon, I might dig up my old sculpting tools too and maybe start making my own.”

Creativity v Quality, locked in

Is there really another layer, an element to productivity being in the creative industry? Maybe. While 73 percent of respondents said they had high quality collaboration with remote colleagues, does creative output differ significantly in lockdown interface?

Badenhop is determined to persevere. “We try our best to still create quality work because at the end of the day, we want to create work we’re proud of. My only mantra right now is to do something that makes me FEEL. I’ve always been about creating work with heart. Right now, everyone is going through something, and the pandemic has been numbing. So, my goal is to just make myself feel something when I do the work whether it’s happy, inspired, angry, or even crazy, and just hope that others will feel the same thing too.

One of the other things that inspire me to work from home now is having your inspirations right in front of you. You’re reminded every day on why you need to do work that matters.”

Royong is not letting the lockdown get in his way, either. He’s come off some straps, and brings a wider perspective. “The creatives are affected emotionally and mentally by the uncertainties brought about by this pandemic. But somehow, they have already adjusted and were able to move forward. It is amazing to see their ideas unfold and adapt to the current situation.”

However important creative output is and its levels of excellence, Royong does not believe it is one-sided. “Clients are also more sensitive now in considering consumers’ needs. They are more likely to go for ideas that are not “hard sell”. Some creative ideas have also evolved into what we may have never thought of in ‘normal’ times.”

Experience, Advice, and Inspiration

It is always refreshing to hear solid, experience based advice from young creative leaders. The heart and passion so real, nothing contrived, it’s easy to connect. As the study shows, when asked if WFH helped them concentrate on work, Gen Z at 68 percent, fared less than their counterpart Gen X and Millennial at 73 percent, and Boomers at 72 percent

Badenhop advises younger creatives that, “It’s learning how to accept and to move on. As creatives we want to do so much so fast. We’re so passionate and sometimes it disappoints us when we can’t do all of the things we want to do. This year taught me all about acceptance, understanding things for what it is and moving on to the next great idea or next goal. If you fail, forgive yourself. If you succeed, then good job! But always be moving on to the next best thing where you can improve and learn more.”

Valmonte has a more practical approach. “Try something new! Always fun! Now that time is pretty much in a standstill, do your best to use it to keep on doing what you enjoy doing. If you like cooking, now’s your chance to experiment all you want to in the kitchen. Film buff? Watch all the movies. Artist? Start a gallery.”

As creative lead, Royong guns for more introspection.
“To the young creatives: What we think now is not what we thought would happen six months ago.

What we feel right now makes us brave.

What we experience now is the motivation we need.

The limitation is the opportunity to go wild.

This pandemic should be the reason to be relentless.

What is going on around us is the brief you are waiting for.”

Partner with adobo Magazine

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