Staff Reporters
Jun 29, 2023

Creative Minds: The 'torchbearer' of Ogilvy Greater China reminisces about old times

After four decades with advertising behemoth Ogilvy's Greater China division, TB Song is often hailed for introducing China to Cannes and Cannes to China. In this special edition of Creative Minds, the ad veteran shares his early experiences, his passions and his pastimes.

Creative Minds: The 'torchbearer' of Ogilvy Greater China reminisces about old times
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: TB Song 
Origin: Taiwan
Places lived/worked: Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing 
Pronouns: He/him


  • 1994 - 2023 chairman, Ogilvy, Greater China
    (TB Song has been with Ogilvy since the 1980s in various positions).

1. How did you end up being a creative?

It all began by chance. Initially, my major was in banking management, and I hadn't studied in creative design or any marketing communications-related fields. In the early days of my job hunt, I took an exam for a bank position. While awaiting the results, an opportunity arose for me to apply at a local advertising company.

I successfully passed the interview and made the conscious choice to embark on my career there. The vibrant atmosphere and the sense of enjoyment drew me in. Interestingly, two months later, the bank reached out to offer me a job and informed me that the salary would be three or four times higher than what I could earn in advertising back then.

Honestly, I pondered over the offer, but ultimately, decided to remain in the advertising industry. Surprisingly, I have never left since then and have dedicated over 40 years of my career to working at Ogilvy.

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

In 2021, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Ogilvy opening its first office in mainland China. Reflecting on our journey, we have produced countless remarkable works. While I don't have just one favourite piece, just to name a few, such as works we created for IBM, Motorola, China Mobile, and Bank of China remain etched in my memory. These campaigns were revolutionary and exceptional, as they truly embodied the essence of advertising at that time and had a tremendous impact on the industry. The time and effort we invested as a team is incredibly memorable.

Allow me to share another story, which remains one of my most unforgettable encounters: meeting our legendary founder, David Ogilvy. I had the privilege of meeting him twice. During our first encounter, I shook his hand and introduced myself. The second meeting took place in New York when Ogilvy Taiwan won the prestigious David Ogilvy Award for our client, Mr. Brown Coffee’s, launch campaign. Although he admitted not fully grasping the campaign, he acknowledged its significant contribution to the client's business growth of 30%. He believed it must have been exceptional work and therefore granted Ogilvy Taiwan the esteemed award. As David Ogilvy famously stated, "We sell or else."

3. What kind of student were you? 

During my college years, I must admit that I had a fondness for playing hooky. (Let's be honest, who hasn't indulged in that at some point?) I would sneak away and find solace in my favourite hiding spot, where I would immerse myself in reading. Those moments were undoubtedly the most enjoyable times for me, and I took full advantage by delving into a wide range of literary treasures.

I craved various genres of masterpieces: novels, social sciences, economics, anthropology, philosophy, and psychology. Interestingly, even if I didn't comprehend every aspect of the books I devoured, I kept reading them relentlessly. I found the exploration of the unknown incredibly captivating. It was like embarking on a journey filled with surprises and pleasures at every turn.

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

I never really knew what I wanted to do as a grown up; at the same time, never could I have imagined that I would spend almost 50 years in this industry. 

5. What advice would you give to 10-year-old you, if you could? 

Have fun and enjoy it. 

6. What’s your favourite music,  film, TV show or book recommendation of the past year, and why?

I have a deep passion for jazz, particularly big band jazz. While it may differ from the more commonly known small jazz bands consisting of two to three players, big band jazz embodies a greater sense of diversity, especially when compared to classical symphonies.

When it comes to books, my absolute favorite is a novel called "2666" by Roberto Bolaño.

The 900-page novel is considered one of Bolaño’s most epic works

In my opinion, it stands as a true masterpiece that I have encountered in recent years. This voluminous book spans approximately 900-pages, offering a rich and immersive reading experience. Interestingly, while some critics argue that "2666" surpasses even the renowned "One Hundred Years of Solitude," it hasn't received the same level of widespread recognition.

If you're intrigued by this writer’s works, I would suggest starting with another novel "By Night in Chile." This will give you a taste of his unique writing style and allow you to gradually immerse yourself in his captivating literary world.

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

There are two film directors whom I deeply admire, and I would like to share my favourite works from each of them.

Firstly, "A City of Sadness" directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien stands as a profound masterpiece. This film beautifully captures and documents the emotional narratives of my generation as we navigated the ups and downs of life.

Secondly, "Yi Yi - A One and a Two" by Edward Yang holds a special place in my heart. It is a remarkable piece that resonates with me on a profound level, portraying the intricate stories of individuals as they navigate the complexities of existence.

Both of these films have left a lasting impact on me, serving as powerful reflections of my generation's experiences and struggles.

8. What's your guilty pleasure? 

Music, books, cigarettes, and wine—these are the elements that make up a significant part of who I am. Books and music always help me focus and relax. Cigarettes and wine, rather than labelling them as guilty pleasures, I view them as essential components of my personal expression and self-care. Everybody requires their own "me time," and for me, indulging in these passions is an integral part of that cherished personal time.

9. Do you have a nickname? Why? 

Yes, I do. It’s TB, which comes from the initials of my name pronounced in Hokkien dialect as Tia̍t-Bîng. 

TB as one of the Torchbearers for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

10. Early riser or night owl? 

Night owl.

11. Extrovert or introvert? 


Campaign Asia

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