The AdFest 2015 closed this year with the announcement that Neil French had been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was a well-deserved recognition of an advertising man who was not only one of the best English language copywriters to work in Asia but added a spark to the advertising industry in Singapore in the early 90s. His irreverence enlivened the ad community and his personality ensured all who met him or heard him would remember the encounter. Any abrasiveness soften by his charm. He is now retired and lives in Spain.
Sadly, there are people in the industry who are too young to remember him. Unfortunately, it is a similar pattern and other creative figures who were once prominent in the Singapore ads scene, like John Hagley, John Archer, Peter Soh, and Linda Locke are also fading from memory. Like the advertisements we create, ours is an ephemeral business.
It is people like Lee Kuan Yew who will be remembered, probably for centuries. He has just died at 91 years of age. People in Singapore stood in queues for up to eight hours just to file past his coffin and pay their respects. He is considered the Father of Singapore. Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar may have built the foundations, but LKY transformed the trading post into its current position as an economically sound and stable nation. His Government did restrict posters and neon signs in the early years and ensured movies and TV commercials were censored but these restriction were gradually lifted. The advertising industry policed itself and was left alone. The opportunities offered to talented or skilful foreigners to work in Singapore benefitted both parties. The people mentioned earlier repaid this with imaginative advertising and design.
We are all mortal and LKY has passed but he has left a legacy which we humble practitioners in the craft of advertising cannot hope match.
However, I can offer you a form of immortality. I am collecting anecdotes, stories, photographs of staff or events, just memories of advertising in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I’d also welcome any old ads. These do not have to be award-winning examples but any ads that were published in Singapore during that period or before. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.