Jazz-ing it up

19 May 2016 / 13:32 H.

JAZZ LEE has always been driven. When he picked up guitar at 12 years old, he locked himself in his room for 12 hours every day because he wanted to be better than everyone else; and true enough, he mastered it and became a guitar teacher within two years.
At 16, he was offered a scholarship to play football in (American professional soccer league) Major League Soccer. An incredible feat that was dashed only because he tore the ligaments in both ankles.
This didn't set him back because he went on to become the youngest junior copywriter at renowned advertising agency Leo Burnett at merely 18 years old.
The fact that he scored the position without any qualifications in tertiary education and experience speaks volume, especially considering his unconventional application for the job.
"I was supposed to go to law school, but sent in a cover letter to Leo Burnett instead after coming across this Petronas advertisement.
Surprisingly, although there wasn't a job opening, it caught the Executive Creative Director's attention and he hired me. It was a risk but it's been working out well," he said.
He got promoted to a copywriter in a year's time and was also chosen as the nation's top three young creatives at Malaysia's most distinguished advertising awards, the 2015 Kancil Awards.
One of his notable projects is Petronas' 2016 Chinese New Year advertisement, "Rubber Boy".
"I am happy because I had only nine months of advertising experience when I got the award. However, so long as I don't finish first, I'm not satisfied. I am very competitive and I always give 110%, so I won't ever settle for second. Besides, people don't remember the runner-ups – only the winners."
The advertising industry is known for its long working hours. So, how many hours do you usually put in?
Theoretically, our working hours are from 9.30am to 6.30pm, but we mostly stay past it. We don't get overtime pay, but we still do it anyway because we love what we do, and we believe that it can change people's lives. But generally, we work 10 to 12 hours a day.
How would you define a successful advertisement?
When I see an advertisement that I can relate to. 'Rubber Boy' wasn't an actual story about my mum and I, but parental sacrifice is a depiction that resonates with all of us.
In your opinion, what is one trait that every copywriter needs to have?
I'd say it's imagination. If you can't visualise what you want to write, how can you put it in someone's head?
Being a copywriter is not about having powerful vocabulary but imagination – your ability to think out of the box, see things from a different perspective,and create something unconventional.
Being a copywriter doesn't sound easy. What is the greatest joy that you derive from your job?
I like that what we do has the ability to change someone's life. At Leo Burnett,we have a philosophy called humankind, whereby whatever we do, it has to touch someone's life in a positive way – and that's precisely what I want to do.
I don't want to produce just an advertisement, I want to create something that people will remember. That's why I was beyond happy when this guy commented that after watching 'Rubber Boy', he took the initiative to patch things up with his mother.
Apparently, he hasn't spoken to his mum since they had an argument a long time ago. To me, this is the greatest feedback one can receive.
Any advice for all the 21-year-olds out there?
Dream. A lot of people don't dream and are complacent in life, so dare to dream. It's, nevertheless, important to not let your dream remain as one.
A dream should be a goal you want to achieve, that you know you can achieve, and you work towards achieving.


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