Creative Profile: From Singapore to Germany, police officer to NGO founder, Naresh Subhash found his home in advertising

Creative Profile: From Singapore to Germany, police officer to NGO founder, Naresh Subhash found his home in advertising

In this new feature, Creative Moment showcases creative talent from across the industry.

We will talk to new, young, up-and-coming talent, as well as established creatives who have a great story to tell—how they got to where they are today, and advice they might like to offer those starting out in the industry.

It's a chance to show-off some of the outstanding thinkers, creators and makers who are shaping the creative industry of the future.

My Story

My Story

Naresh Subhash, art director, Made Brave

Most people joke saying I lived many lives, and indeed I have.

I was a filmmaker, bible school student, police officer, strategist, brand manager, copywriter, NGO founder, interior designer, an artist… etc.

My road into advertising was not the ordinary one.

My love affair with creativity began when I was five. My grandmother and I had this ritual we would do every afternoon when I got back from school, watching reruns of “I love Lucy”. It was our special time when no one else was around and it was just the two of us.

One day, we encountered the biggest British Airways campaign ever shown in Singapore. The Face started playing on our television screen, Yanni’s “Aria” blaring out of the speakers, I was transfixed, spellbound by what I was watching, and I remembered wondering “how did they do this? What is British Airways?” and just as I had thought that, the ad ended with the most audacious line “The world’s favourite airline”.

I was hooked.

Every time the ad would come up on the screen, I would come running from wherever I was in the house to watch it. Then my grandmother uttered, “if you like it so much, study hard and go and make one for yourself”. Neither one of us had a clue of what that entailed. But that ad planted a seed in an overweight five-year-old, 10,000km away in Singapore. Since then, I haven't allowed myself to lose the awe and magic I felt when watching that ad.

But, getting my feet through the doors was a struggle.

I didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew I loved drawing, telling stories, collecting model aircraft and colour blocking my clothes. But, it was when I qualified for University that I was caught off guard, suddenly, time felt like it was up. I had to decide.

In Singapore, a university degree defined your career, your future, the person you were supposed to become. I was now torn between the dutiful and successful son’s role of majoring in Political Science or bringing shame to my family and reading a film degree.

In act of defiance I took film.

Naively, I believed it would lead me to that British Airways ad—it was BFA in digital filmmaking, that wasn't going to happen. But, what it did do was lay the foundations for a career in advertising, it helped me discover a world of art history, modern art, contemporary art, storytelling, design and craft. It also gave me the opportunity to travel abroad and pursue advertising modules in Germany which later found me landing my first job as a Strategist in a full-service German-speaking agency. With “Hallo” being the only German I knew, I learnt how to hustle.

I took every opportunity to put myself out there, taking night classes in German, working for small start-ups—anything and everything I could do to get more experience. The setbacks were ego-shattering, and it was financially challenging.

It was only after a couple of years of hustling, that I discovered Falmouth and 70,000 Singapore dollars later, I had a masters’ degree in Advertising. At that time, not everyone was using digital books, we still had physical portfolios that we carried from one agency to another. My creative partner and I had to rework our physical book 10 times before we got our first placement.

Today, I’m an art director in the UK and working across some of the most amazing brands.

I still feel like a recent grad, always remembering that nothing was given to me and everything I have built is because of hard work. The thing is, you don’t come into advertising because it pays well.

Sustaining a career in this industry needs passion and commitment to building brands and playing a part in shaping culture.

It’s not glamorous, and no one EVER clicks on a banner ad, but you do it because you are building something bigger.

I have yet to make anything on the scale of the British Airways Ad, but that isn't my goal anymore.

My best advice? Keep. It. Simple.

It's these three little words that really do sum up everything we do in advertising/communication.

Consumers have lives, they have worries, they have bills to pay and personal drama’s to face. They have no time to unpack an ad, just because xxx agency did it, in all fairness, they don't even care for it. 

But, finding a simple truth, using simple words, and drawing them in with art direction that captures their attention is half the battle, the other half is convincing them that the brand does indeed belong in their life.

Out of all the campaigns you have worked on, which one stands out as the most memorable and why?

Brita’s Bottle rant with Joanna Lumley.

This was the best piece of work for me because of the people I worked with and the story behind it.

What started out as a brainstorm between two creatives who were hustling for a brief and two directors, turned into an ad that got people talking. With all this talk about how single-use plastic was so bad for the environment, we wanted to get to the core of that emotion and simply say “ single-use plastic is shit” and what better vehicle than Joanna Lumley.

The ad really came together because of Johnny Briggs and the social team at iris, who took it to the next level.


What do you want to see in your next brief?

Bravery. 

The willingness to be on the same level as the audience, and being able to understand that the brand only exists because of human insights. 

All too often the brand wants to be set aside as one that exists outside the human experience, peddling their products and not the lifestyle that compliments it. 

Let's change that and I think we are.

Best strapline of all time?

“Big on Quality, Lidl on Price”.

Now I may be biased, but my best friend wrote that. So yeah, still trying to top that. But, not everyone’s Antonia Jackson.

What piece of creative work, that you didn't create yourself, blows your mind?

Leica’s La Vida Leica by F/Nazca Saatchi and Saatchi. 

Recreating the history of photography and the power it has in one simple campaign blew my mind. 

Emotionally arresting and the art direction is spot on.

If you weren't in the creative industry, what would you be doing and why?

In finance or real estate. Have you watched Selling Sunset on Netflix?

What advice would you give others wanting to make the move towards a career in the creative industry?

Find your craft.
Being a hybrid is great, but being a master of something gives you longevity.

Find your tribe. 
You need to find like-minded people who are going to challenge you. If all they are doing is being in awe ALL THE TIME or bringing you down - dump them.

Find your voice.
Your voice is going to be something that everyone’s going to have an opinion on. But own it, regardless. Because your voice is important and it’s what makes you, you.

Remember your worth.
Never do anything for free, no matter how junior you are. It’s not worth selling yourself short for anyone.

Have more than one creative outlet.
So if you're a Junior art director, do something that has nothing to do with your day job. 

Why? Because it will help your mental health.

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