Staff Reporters
Sep 29, 2022

Creative Minds: Calvin Choong has an entire room of collectible toys

Get to know the creative group head at Zeno Group whose son is the only respite he needs at the end of a bad day.

Calvin Choong
Calvin Choong
In Creative Minds, we ask APAC creatives a long list of questions, from serious to silly, and ask them to pick 11 to answer. (Why 11? Just because.) Want to be featured?

Name: Calvin Choong

Origin: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Places lived/worked: Canberra and Kuala Lumpur

Pronouns: He/him

CV:

  • Creative group head, Zeno Group, 2020-present
  • Senior copywriter, BBDO, 2018-2020
  • Copywriter, Naga DDB Tribal, 2016-2018
  • Copywriter, Saatchi & Saatchi Arachnid, 2013-2015
  • Junior copywriter, G2DI/Grey, 2012-2013

1. How did you end up being a creative?

By luck. I took up advertising on a friend’s suggestion that I might like it. Luckily, he was right. After graduation, I got my first agency job as a suit. It was good luck in disguise because I knew right away that I should be doing something else. I lucked out again when I met my first creative director, who took a chance on me despite a non-existent portfolio and what he described as ‘a lack of flair’. That all happened about a decade ago and in the years since, more good luck followed in the forms of great bosses, mentors, and peers. But I worked hard too.

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

‘What Fan Are You?’ for Tiger Beer. It was my first proper campaign and also where I got my first taste of ideating, scripting, and filming. What’s more, I got to ‘co-lead’ it because I was one of only two football fans on the team. I’ve worked on other things since but it’ll always remain as, if not the favourite, then one of my favourites for how fun and memorable it was.



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

‘Who’s Adam King?’ by Guinness. I’ve always liked how sleek it was and even today, I still watch it occasionally for entertainment and inspiration. I never did find out who were the people behind it, though.



4. What kind of student were you?

The did-just-enough kind. I disliked studying but I had the sense to put in the hours to get the grades I needed. And it all worked out okay… except for math.

5. Who do you most admire?

People with grit. Those who just power through no matter how difficult it is to do so. It’s a trait I wish I had more of and I admire those blessed—or cursed, depending on how you look at things—with it greatly.

6. What career did you think you'd have when you were a kid?

A cop. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood watching TVB police dramas with my late grandma. Those were some good times but the influence… a bit less so. It was cool to dream and role-play, though.

7. Do you have any secret or odd talents?

I pick up sports quite easily. Football is my thing but I got competent at basketball, badminton, ping pong, and snooker fairly quickly when I played. I’m sure I could’ve been an athlete… if I was taller.

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

‘The Boys’ on Amazon Prime. For its scary and corrupted villain, believable revenge-driven heroes, and above all, how the world its set in is dark, horrible, and depressing. It’s a breakaway from the utopian worldview of most series and movies and I love it.

9. What's your guilty pleasure?

Toys! Pay day? Gundams. Bad day? Transformers. Good day? Ultramen. At the moment, I’m dedicating an entire room to display them in my soon-to-be-completed new place.

10. Do you have a catchphrase?

Meh lei geh?, which is Cantonese for ‘What is this?’. I use it for everything; when I’m annoyed by something, impressed by something, or genuinely confused by something. It’s very versatile.

11. What makes you really happy?

My kid. When he hugs me, when he pulls my hands to show me something, when he surprises me with phrases I didn’t know he knew, when he jumps in joy on the way to the toy store. I can have the worst day at work and I’d instantly feel better when I see him.

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