Staff Reporters
Nov 17, 2022

Creative Minds: Why Tien Nguyen loves B&W and everything in between

Get to know the associate creative director of VMLY&R Vietnam who is into novels, tattoos, Charles Dickens, the late Queen, and Leica cameras, in no particular order.

Creative Minds: Why Tien Nguyen loves B&W and everything in between
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: Tien Nguyen

Origin: Ho Chi Minh City, Veitnam

Places where you've lived and worked: Click Media Vietnam, VMLY&R Vietnam

Your preferred pronouns: She/her


Associate creative director, VMLY&R Vietnam, 2019- now
Account director, Click Media, Vietnam, 2011-2019

1. How did you end up being a creative?

I feel like it was more of a natural progression than ‘ending up’! I worked as an account director for several years and realised that managing a client relationship is a very creative job. It’s not just about revenue, as it seems from the outside (and I hate numbers by the way), it’s about how to make every conversation you have with the client more interesting, more fun, more exciting, and build that partnership of trust. I realised I didn’t want to deal with the number bit but bring out ideas to convince the client and to directly execute them. And that’s my journey to becoming a creative.

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

It’s something I’ve worked on very recently—an internal global campaign for Mental Health Awareness Day for VMLY&R. It reminded me how much I love words and how powerful words can be.

We had a few different ideas but finally landed on ‘The ABCs of Joy and Balance’ which we’ve written out poetically. I love the rhythm of verse; it makes the reader giggle and sometimes create their own unique version based on their individual experiences and imagination.

Here’s how it goes:

“Ask for help liberally. Be honest about your capacity. Care for things in the here and now. Dedicate time to yourself and be proud. Enchant the newcomers. Fight for the late workers. Grab that coffee, meet a friend for lunch, help those who seem constantly dealing with a time crunch. Inspire yourself with ideas and learning. Join a class, learn a hobby, something you find reaffirming… Know you don’t have to always be the best. Lift the pressure of someone’s chest. Maintain the bonding thread, nod and agree when you know it’s best. Offer a game of chess or pay for somebody’s bread. Question something new today. Reach out to those who have lost their way… Start every day feeling blessed. Take time every day to rest. Unite to bring more laughs, value when a colleague shares their thoughts, work hard, but rest hard too. Express yourself honestly and in full, yodel or sing to let out the stress. Zero lets you start each day with a clean slate.”

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


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

It’s the Leica M Monochrome advert, Free Yourself from Colours. It’s Leica monochrome, the camera with the sensor that can only capture black and white.  But this powerful piece of work evokes our imagination and reiterates the importance of going back to basics.

Black and white is not just two colours, what lies between black and white matters the most. The copywriting is fantastic with a black, white, and grey colour palette and motion to build a narrative that triggers our imagination of the world around us… the sky, river, blood, etc. And the cleverest thing about it, is that the ad is for an expensive camera with an obvious limitation. I love it so much because I believe that words have the power to change the world, like a journalist who uses their words and the Leica to capture history.

5. Who are your key creative influences?

Roald Dahl, the acclaimed novelist of books such as Charlie and the Chocolate factory, Matilda, The BFG, among others. His witty words and the stories about kids and their imagination—to me that’s the purest form of creativity.

English cartoonist and illustrator Sir Quentin Blake’s drawings have influenced me; the lessons I draw is that it’s all about expressiveness not skilfulness. His most inspiring works include drawings of elderly people doing kids’ activities like climbing trees or flying amongst clouds. At heart he’s a child and he’s helped so many people (including me) to always nurture the child inside.

Neil Gaiman (American Gods, The Sand Man, Coraline) is one of my favourite short story writers. He once said that it’s easier to write when it comes to love, but it’s a real talent when you’re living in inside four walls and writing about your childhood. He addresses the nature of creativity through kids’ behaviour—their “curiosity”—like when kids peep through a keyhole, they are curious about the unknown, about what’s held in it. As a copy-based creative, I’m inspired by his saying “if you want to become a writer you have to be ready to walk naked down the street.” It sounds bizarre but it’s all about giving a part (or all) of yourself and having no fear of being judged.

Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Our Mutual Friend) is also a big creative influence. I’m reading his books all over again and each time I realise why they’re called classics. You always have something more to learn about yourself. And Dickens has taught me how to read, how to live with the character and envision there’re people like that in real life, it’s humanity to me.

6. What kind of student were you?

Cheeky. I didn’t believe in the conventional way of studying. Knowledge is crucial but people understand things differently and that insight is important to me.

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

Lived alone in the forest for three months.

8. What's on your bucket list?

Buying an around-the-world ticket and getting on that flight without a second thought.

9. Tell us about your tattoo(s).

I have so many that I can’t even count them anymore, and they’re all quite random! There are many reasons why I get them—sometimes it’s a dream, sometimes it’s a favourite food, a hobby, love, hope or desire. There are moments in life that I don’t want to forget, and I laugh when people ask about the meaning of my tattoos because at times I forget and then make up a random story. But at the end of the day, my tattoos are all for me.

10. Do you have any secret or odd talents?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret! Kidding. My pinky fingers are strangely short, and I surprise people anytime I show them—that’s just an odd fact. I’m pretty good at language and accents, which is a fun skill, and I have great memory in a funny way. I can absolutely forget my best friend’s wedding next week, but I remember exactly what she told me when we were 10 “you need to have a shower first and clip your nails later, it’s softer by then.”

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

I cannot live without eggs. I would be happy never to taste tomatoes. 

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