Staff Reporters
Sep 14, 2023

Creative Minds: Rey Tiempo on life lessons from gaming legend Daigo Umehara

Work and play, play and work—the Digitas Philippines head of experience and innovation is a master at turning fun into creative success—the growing tally of metals from Spikes to Cannes speak for themselves.

Creative Minds: Rey Tiempo on life lessons from gaming legend Daigo Umehara
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: Rey Tiempo

Origin: Rizal, Philippines

Places lived/ worked: Makati and Manila in Philippines

Pronouns: He/him


Head of creative, head of experience and innovation, Digitas Philippines, Publicis Groupe, Philippines
Chief creative officer, VMLY&R Philippines
Executive creative director, Dentsu Philippines
Creative director, BBDO Guerrero
Senior copywriter, Leo Burnett Manila, Philippines
Junior copywriter, Basic Advertising

1. How did you end up being a creative?

I went to law school because my family convinced me (and I convinced myself) that it was the right career choice. I started getting very creative at skipping classes because I was out playing gigs with my bands—I play bass, guitars and sometimes vocals. After much encouragement from my brother (who was already in an ad agency and was my inspiration!) I got very creative again and started approaching (begging) ad agencies for a job. My brother introduced me to ad agency culture and how fun and exciting it all looked to sit around all day arguing (like law school). Still, it eventually led to some of the most extraordinary ideas!

Having studied literature, I naturally gravitated towards copywriting. I have now proven that in this industry, you can get paid by, yes, sitting around all day and arguing, but also by just… playing! And I have been doing precisely that for 20-plus years now.

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

By far, my favourite project is 'Unbranded Menu.' I was lucky to work with a team of fellow hardcore gamers. Together, we were able to tap into what only thousands of hours of playing could have ever produced—a gaming-endemic idea that was honest and true to the gamer experience. The work brought home the first-ever Cannes Lions for the Philippines in the inaugural Entertainment in Gaming category and Grand Prix of the Year at Mad Stars and Grand Prix at Spikes Asia.

McDonald's Unbranded Menu | "Just some of the McDonald’s food-alikes in games I have been playing," says Tiempo

This success is rewarding because to me, it truly feels like a culmination of all those years pushing for gaming work. It’s also quite thrilling, because I know this is just the beginning of a whole world of potentially “uncharted” (yes, that’s a gaming pun!) possibilities. 

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

Wieden+Kennedy’s 'Clash from the Past,' which won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in Gaming this year. It’s a testament to how powerful our work can be when everyone is aligned and just wants to have pure fun! The dedication to play is astounding and the level of craft is unmatched, it blows my mind every time I delve deeper into the work. From the incredibly detailed mockumentry, the nuance of every gaming era, to the clever eCommerce efforts and the lovely collectible merch, to the incredible mini-games that reflected the fake erast’s all just simply a love story to everything we gamers love about video games and the huge impact they make to our lives.

4. What or who are your key creative influences?

For writing, forward-thinking ideas, emotions, storytelling, and a sense of child-like wonder: Ray Bradbury. For mastery of medium, the use of magic to influence reality, and general controlled craziness: Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. For building spectacle and awe in interactivity and pushing the boundaries of what can be done within limitations: Fumito Ueda, Yoko Taro, Shinji Mikami. For understanding the universe and the role of consciousness in reality: Robert Lanza and the Brahma Kumaris teachings. And for general bad-assery in music: James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett.

5. What kind of student were you?

My education and values were shaped by DC (truth, justice and all that), with a healthy dose of Mario, Son Goku (happy-go-lucky, persistence, triumph against all odds), and the now defunct radio station LA 105.9 (which played local band recordings, sonic warts and all). I’ve always had my head up in the clouds, so I was shocked that my school, one of the esteemed Science High Schools in the country, awarded me the Alumni Achievement years after graduating. Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful and quite proud, since it was rare to have a creative industry rep onstage (imagine having scientists, inventors and R&D engineers with someone who… makes commercials.)

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

I was crazy enough to accept the role of the Philippine 4As Creative Guild President in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Amidst all the craziness, uncertainty and fear, we mounted the first-ever all-online event, Creative Fest Now. At that point, nothing of that magnitude—in the local industry – had ever been done before. But the work was worth it: Creative Fest Now was a celebration of creativity and stories that endured during one of the harshest challenges in recent history. It brought together a Filipino animation director in Hollywood, the first-ever Filipino Global Creative Head, gaming and esports movers and shakers; a hacker turned cabinet member, internet sensations; a blind art director from one of the biggest toy companies, who’s also a motivational speaker, and of course global creative heavyweights from the advertising community.

 7. What really motivates you?

Music! I love forming bands (I have six at the last count) and writing music. Solving myself out of a particularly challenging verse-to-chorus transition has helped a lot when writing and interpreting briefs.

I am proudest of two musical projects: Mistula, a virtual band I co-created with my wife. It started when she acquired these ultra-poseable, super customizable ball-jointed dolls, which we turned into our “band members.” I take care of all the music and lyrics; my wife (an industry creative who leads her agency) handles all the imagery, photography, and even maintains a live blog for Mistula’s frontman, Uno!The other project is Pork & Bean, an experimental kid-pop duo I formed with our daughter, Bean (guess who Pork is?) She writes all the lyrics and music and even creates all the artwork. I am really just her hired musician. We started it when she was seven (she’s now 12), and it has since turned into a full-blown project and kept both of us creatively busy, especially during the lockdowns.

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


For film, it’s Barbie: one of the most layered pieces I have ever experienced in recent years. We went to see it with our daughter; her generation is so lucky that this film exists.

For music, it’s Metallica's '72 Seasons.' When a new album is released, my daughter and I pore over every song and lyrics and analyze riffs and structures. For TV series, it’s Apple TV’s Severance: brilliant pacing, genius premise, and top-notch acting. I am surprised this does not get discussed that much relative to other extra-hyped shows. By far, it’s the best series for me in recent years.

For games, Ghostwire: Tokyo—my personal Game of the Year last year. I wouldn’t even call it a game; it’s a cultural experience. A visually stunning and immersive love letter to Japan’s many delightful contrasts. Also, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. If you’re creative, this should be a must-play. It exercises your lateral thinking to the fullest. Go get it if you haven’t yet.

9. Do you have a catchphrase?

“Playing while working.” A mantra that resonates even more so now with my push on gaming work. Throughout my career, I have incorporated playtime with work until work didn’t feel like work anymore. My scripts, headlines, stories, and ideas were (and always will be) comic book plots, song structures, video game themes, Bradbury future and fantasy-scapes, superhero and supervillain archetypes—a bottomless pit of play every day at work. I’ve started testing out my mantra with graduates looking to enter the industry. And I see their faces light up as if it’s the most ground-breaking thing—when it really is the most obvious thing in the world.

10. What's your guilty pleasure? (Don’t limit yourself to food, this could be anything you indulge in.)

I’ve been collecting—books, comic books, video games (retro and current), guitars and basses, and gaming peripherals – since forever. My latest obsession is arcade sticks and special controllers used in fighting games. They don’t actually make you play better; if you suck, you will still suck no matter what controller you use! I especially like collecting custom-made models, and I have been fully supporting local manufacturers.

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

Daigo Umehara

Daigo Umehara is a legend among legends in the Street Fighter community. But… an artist? To me, yes. His understanding of consistently winning and imparting that knowledge to others has turned into an art form. To me, his most important lesson (one that I have stolen countless times and have applied to presentation decks and talks!) is to NOT concentrate on winning but to instead pour all efforts into getting better. When you strive to get better at what you do, then you probably won’t notice it… but you’ll eventually start winning. Gold!

Campaign Asia

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