Staff Reporters
Nov 2, 2023

Creative Minds: Jonathan Ronaldo on being an unexpected adman, but loving it anyway

This Indonesian creative never thought he'd find himself in ad agency. But with a splash of creativity and a love of expression, it's the work he now credits most for propelling his life forward.

Creative Minds: Jonathan Ronaldo on being an unexpected adman, but loving it anyway
In Creative Minds, we give 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: Jonathan Ronaldo

Origin: Jakarta, Indonesia

Places lived/worked: Bandung and Jakarta, Indonesia

Pronouns: He/him


  • Creative Group Head, Lion & Lion, Jakarta, 2022 - Present
  • Creative Group Head, Wunderman Thompson, Jakarta, 2021 - 2022
  • Sr. Art Director, Ogilvy, Jakarta, 2020 - 2021
  • Creative Department Head, Bridges Eyewear, 2019 - 2020
  • Art Director, FCB, Jakarta, 2019
  • Creative Associate, The 1984, Jakarta, 2014 - 2018

1. How did you end up being a creative?

When I was about to graduate from university, my friends and I had no intention of pursuing so-called 'creative' careers and working the 9-to-5 grind at an ad agency. We simply wanted jobs that would provide enough for us to enjoy life and break free from the limitations of our college days. Most of the fresh graduates back then were working as graphic designers, but in their minds, they were tattoo artists, photographers, or something else entirely. I always found myself torn between painting, cooking, and writing, even up until now. However, nearly a decade later, I realise that the experience of becoming a ‘creative'—especially in the advertising world—has carved a valuable lesson in my heart: Something that I overlooked at first, turned out to be the one that propelled my life the most.

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

Making a zine (a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images) has been my favorite weapon of choice, I like it as a medium of expression for its rawness, it’s freedom and simplicity. I've created several zines with different themes and collaborators, but this one is particularly special because I did it with my wife. We brainstormed and argued about the ideas and whatnot, then she wrote the text, I drew, and made it a book. It’s designed as the first part of a series aimed at helping people who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. The second part, which is still a work in progress, will focus on love (for being the obvious reason people take their own life). Simply put, It’s a space to clash philosophical thoughts with my witty illustration. It’s not award-winning or anything (or even work-related), but I always include it on my portfolio. Because from this piece, you can see what I really want to say as a creative and as a human being. Ps. Liz Landora is our psudonym.

Please click the photo to read the zine. Photo credits: Jonathan Ronaldo

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

My favorites are always changing, but this one is the coolest thing I've seen in a while. It's a series of videos from the latest Clarks capsule collaboration with Sabukaru, and this particular one is the winner for me.

Lesson learned is that people will know about what we trying to sell eventually, some even know before we say it (that's why people are skipping ads, they feel that already know what they're gonna get). Our responsibility as creatives is to make sure it will never be boring.

4. What kind of student were you?

The one who doesn't simply accept what is being taught. I believe that truth has many faces. It's just that we (students, teachers, bosses, subordinates, colleagues, clients, etc) need to train our ability to engage in constructive arguments so that we can collectively and confidently make decisions in a peaceful manner.

5. Who’s on your dream dinner guest list (alive or dead)?

At a table where Martin invites us to Ethan's house for dinner to discuss his latest work-in-progress film, we talk about the madness of the world. Well Nietzsche and Freud do most of the talking and argue with Jodorowsky. Me and Moebius just listen and laugh occasionally with Mr. Marley, while Daft Punk is playing Ethan's record collection (Winona and the Stranger Things cast were also there for some reason).

6. Do you work best under pressure, or when things are calm?

I wouldn't see it as being 'under'..but pressure has worked out some wonders for me. It always forced me to be creative in finding the solution and knowing that the pressure is mostly time-related issues, it forced me to be more efficient. When things are calm, it's best to spend my time traveling where I can finally read my books or get some peaceful rest with my family while also keeping myself inspired. Sometimes work can be good for skill but bad for education.

7. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.

The worst job for me is not a place, but a condition. A condition where you don't believe a thing that you do every single day...but you have to do it anyway, for whatever reason you told to yourself. Especially in the creative industry; I believe that you need to be in a job where you can have that space to explore and say your deepest, darkest, most doubtful thoughts. A condition where you can experiment with ideas, where people around you have the same spirit to find better ways of working. A space to make mistakes and find a way to fix them. To be sure about what really should be done, so you can put your best effort into the teamwork and deliver strong. Been there to see the dark side of the moon, and now I'm on a mission to humanise the creative industry culture in Indonesia, one team at a time.

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

For the past few years, I would say:

The Bear (2022) for a TV series and Silence (2016) for a Hollywood feature film. You can also check out A Sun (2019), it's a Taiwanese twisted drama, beautifully shot, and has some great acting by the cast. Or, you can try to watch The Art of Loving: Story of Michalina Wislocka (2017) which is a German movie about the quirky history of women and love in world war Poland, both of them are Netflix gems. 

For music, I've been listening to a lot of Steel Pulse lately if you like to listen to reggae while working. Or maybe an Indo band called Ali, they have some cool indie-middle-east-rock-dancing vibe.

Books...I just read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran for the third time, and you can just read it occasionally. His beautiful and spiritual poems are like a fresh river that will flow through your heart and soul. For a more casual read, I have just finished reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It was such a page-turner and a funny book about how to bring yourself to be a writer or simply have that courage and confidence to write something...anything. A great book for those who have a passion for writing and life.

9. What food can you not live without? What food would you be happy to never taste again?

Noodles! Chinese noodles in Indonesia are fire! You can try Agoan, Alok, or Cong Sim. Come visit them when you're in Jakarta, even though the places are quite hidden for foreigners, it will be a worthy food adventure in your itinerary.

10. What makes you really happy?

To see the look on people's faces when they are watching or engaging with my work. But ultimately, I think one of the most rewarding moments in my life was when I finished a certain work or a project. When I looked at it, I knew for sure that I couldn't make it this good if I was still the same person as I was a few months ago. The moment you realise you have surpassed your old self, that you have grown. That sense of achievement, for me, is priceless.

11. Analog or digital?

At the current time, I think the digital medium is about how we, as creatives, utilise the vast possibilities of technical advancement that our friends in engineering have provided us with. On the other hand, the limitation of the features that analog has could spark a surprising point of view and triggers us to create more modern and fresher product instead. Certain procedures of using an analog machine also add a strong experiential value to it, some even feel sacramental and deeply personal, which is more reason for me to question it and break it. Somehow, the idea that you can't undo or erase what you have put on the canvas intrigues me more to learn how to do it properly and eventually master it, just like cooking. We haven't invented digital cooking, have we?

Campaign Asia

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