When people learn I have been working in the ad industry in Singapore for 22 years, most comment that I must have seen lot of changes. As is the tendency of those over 50, I then proceed to bore them with tales of the ‘good old days’. However, as 2001 closes and we begin another year, it may be interesting to reflect briefly on the changes and developments in our industry. Of course, the biggest change in our industry, as in most, was the introduction of the computer. It’s hard to remember when I arrived the top machine in the office was the IMB golfball typewriter. Secretaries used to type all letters and memos at 60 words pm rather than the slow one finger style of today’s executive.
In the 70’s and early 80’s, there was one typesetting house called Kofords that practically served the whole advertising community. Coming from London I found the limited choice of typefaces intensely frustrating. Singapore also had no film set headline service available so good spacing was nigh on impossible. I eventually formed Team Typesetting which introduced the first machine here in 1986. This company did much to build an appreciation of typography here. Grover Tham, who went on to win many awards, began his career there. But it is also with some pain that I remember as I soon lost my investment when my $1/4 million computerized typesetting equipment was outdated by desk top publishing and agency typesetting came in-house.
In those days, the art directors worked with transparencies and sending jpg files via the Internet was just a sci-fi fantasy. Art directors could be found pouring over light boxes for hours searching through thousands of little pictures. The art directors back then, could all draw. They had to, as presentation layouts were sketched in by hand and, except for major presentations, even the type was indicated by pen. Artwork was stuck down piece by piece using Cow gum.
Few commercials were shot overseas in those days. Only SIA had this kind of budget. We had three or four local film production houses but the film was processed and edited in Japan. The length of dissolves, opt-ical and the size of supers was indicated on the actual film rough cut. In those days it was necessary to have a lot of experience in filmmaking as any mistakes were extremely expensive to rectify. Most film production houses had their own mechanical editing machine called a Steenbeck where the film was chopped to length by hand and scenes edited together with tape. The first professional editing specialist in Singapore was a company called The Post Production Shop, which was, and still is, located in Paya Lebar Road. VHQ followed some years later and led the way to the modern editing suites to which we are now accustomed.
There were probably only four or five major stills photographers in those days – Chua Soo Bin, Willie Tang, Philip Little and Mun and Wong come to mind.
I could continue but I’ll end before I end up rambling like an old man. Would
I go back to those days? Not on your life, despite fond memories of some of the char-acters around then. The industry is now more professional and more aware. The ads coming out Singapore, and many of the cities in Asia, can stand up against the best anywhere in the world. I welcome 2002 as a new chapter as we all scramble to fit into a fast changing society. What a buzz!