Staff Reporters
Oct 28, 2021

Creative Minds: Ariel Chen takes the 'road of no return'

We get to know the group creative director at BBDO Shanghai through her answers to 11 questions. Learn about how she got into advertising, why she ascribes to the 'Underachiever's Manifesto', and the secret talent that helps her stay happy.

Creative Minds: Ariel Chen takes the 'road of no return'

Name: Ariel Chen

Origin: Tainan City, Taiwan

Places lived/worked: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei

Pronouns: She/her


  • Group creative director, BBDO, Shanghai (2019-present)
  • Creative director, Ogilvy, Shanghai (2015-2018)
  • Creative director, BBDO, Shanghai (2011-2015)
  • Associate creative director, TBWA, Shanghai (2010-2011)
  • Senior copywriter, Leo Burnett, Hong Kong (2008-2010)
  • Senior copywriter, McCann, Taipei (2004-2008)

1. How did you end up being a creative?

When I was young, I would like to observe people and express my own opinions through words. Therefore, my first job after graduating from college was as an editor for an advertising magazine called Adm in Taiwan. I was responsible for monthly planning, interviewing, and writing. The job allowed me to know some of the top creative people in the industry, including ad agency bosses, creative directors, directors, etc. Influenced by the environment, gradually, I felt that advertising is just another platform for personal observations.

One day, I was proofreading a recruitment ad to be published in the advertising magazine and decided to intercept and apply for it by phone. From then on, I set foot on the road of advertising, a road of no return.

2. What's your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?

I like many works, but the most challenging one is always the one I like the most. Last year, for Dove [Chocolate], an all-female crew created the movie Goodbye Ferris Wheel, which is such a case (see "Mars Wrigley's Dove asks China to 'Put pleasure first'"). The most difficult part is to convince yourself first and believe that everything will be fine. And this is a project to preach a doctrine of "joy" to the public in the year 2020 that, in many ways, is not very joyful. Luckily, by the time it was finished, I was brainwashed by myself (and felt joyful).

3. What's your favourite piece of work created by someone else?

Starbucks Brazil's 'I am', for International Transgender Day of Visibility. A small insight reflects the height of the brand. If advertisements could change the world just a little bit, make it fairer and more diverse, it will be more valuable.

4. What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

When I was young, everything was crazy: Looking for a tree in the desert of Inner Mongolia, riding horses in a rainstorm, moving to a hot and strange city to work, publishing books, eating durian, writing advertising copy for a manual bookstore in Nepal, falling in love with someone who didn't speak the same language, and I even felt crazy when I got my hair permed. Now that I think about all that, it doesn't seem so surprising. Instead, remind yourself to feel the madness with awareness in every little thing for daily life, like tasting 60 bottles of wine in three days.

5a. What's on your bucket list?

  • Travel to various countries again.
  • Learn to snowboard.
  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Learn human design chart.
  • Manage my Red (Xiaohongshu) social-media account in a Buddha-like way.

5b. Human design chart?

I think the world is a mess because everyone is more or less "compromising". The human design chart is an instruction manual for life, teaching people how to live out their own design easily. Most of us live within the constraints established by family, school and society without realising it. So we are constantly suffering from 'non-self' (not being ourselves). If people treat themselves better, instead of forcing others to recognise your value, it would be a great public service to the planet.

6. Do you have any secret or odd talents?

Easily forgetting unhappiness but remembering happiness with lots of details.

7. What's the last song/artist you listened to?

Recently I have been listening to Throat Chakra healing music.

8. What’s your favorite music / film / TV show / book / other of the past year, and why?

The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great by Ray Bennett. I think this book is a particularly transgressive view in the involuted era, and it's a brave alternative voice. Human beings suffer because they are too arrogant and narrow-minded, too concerned with personal success that no one cares about. If everyone could focus only on their own needs, society would be more diverse and won't be trapped in meaningless competition. I appreciate the author's irony and inspiration, and it is also a model book with an advertising concept. In order to meet the theme, even the book itself has blank pages at the end, which makes it effortless to read.

9. What movie/show do you never get tired of?

Crime and murder TV dramas.

10. Tell us about an artist (any medium) that we've never probably heard of.

Amelie Chen, knitting artist.

A former art director for an advertising agency and teacher at WPP Academy, she likes to pick up a needle when she's not working on a computer. Naturally, she combines the two tools to create. First, she types a row of words on her computer screen as a sketch—it takes only a few seconds. Then she uses a stick pin to knit the exact words, and it takes two weeks! The huge time difference between the two tools has been a great source of pleasure for her. She started with Helvetica font and tried to bring graphic design elements into knitting to reduce the lovely warmth of knitting and increase the softness of digital design. She began to create to please herself and gradually accepted her friends' orders.

11. What makes you really angry? What makes you really happy?

Injustice and misunderstanding. 

We can all enjoy our lives and leave others alone.

In Creative Minds, we get to know APAC creatives through their answers to 11 questions—three required and the rest from a long list ranging from serious to silly. Want to be featured? Contact us.


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