2 Minutes With … Matt Miller and Tommy Yong, ACDs at Courage

On big picture thinking and staying curious

Matt and Tommy are associate creative directors at Toronto-based Courage. Recent brand work includes KFC and KitKat campaigns that broke through on social like "The Fry Funeral" and "Have AI Break."

We spent two minutes with Matt and Tommy to learn more about their background, their creative inspirations and recent work they've admired.

Matt and Tommy, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.
  • Matt: I grew up all over. Kelowna to Toronto to Germany to the U.S. and then back to Toronto. I moved five times before I started middle school. But now, I'm comfortably back in Toronto. 
  • Tommy: I grew up in Singapore where I lived most of my life. I'm currently in Toronto and this would be my 10th year in the country.
How you first realized you were creative.
  • Matt: When I was asked by a 4th-grade teacher in the U.S. to join Odyssey of the Mind for my school. It's a worldwide creativity competition for students (my team came 8th in the world). 
  • Tommy: I made my own original comic book when I was in the 5th grade with tape and staples. They were terribly drawn and had a nonsensical plot, but I loved that my friends got to laugh at my dumb ideas.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
  • Matt: Both of my grandfathers. My grandpa on my dad's side is an incredible artist. He showed me how to properly use acrylics and would tape my poems on his fridge. My grandpa on my mom's side would build these incredible toys for us as kids. 
  • Tommy: A substitute teacher showed us a Hayao Miyazaki movie and I became obsessed with his work. The visuals, writing and music sparked emotions I hadn't felt before.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
  • Matt: When I was visiting colleges, I got lost and walked into the wrong media building. I was looking for the film production program, and instead met some very convincing professors who led the creative advertising program. The rest is history.
  • Tommy: I convinced my parents I wanted to drop out of A levels to study visual communication. I remember being terrified because it was very out of the norm growing up in Singapore to not just follow the STEM education path. Luckily, my parents were super supportive.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
  • Matt: I love the German illustrator and graphic designer Christoph Niemann. You probably know his work on Instagram or from The New Yorker covers.
  • Tommy: @yuni_yoshida on Instagram. I love the insanely surreal visuals that mix elements of graphic design with artful photography.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
  • Matt: Taskmaster (U.K.) is an incredible show that brings me a little too much joy. Definitely check it out if you like watching British comedians participate in absurd, brainy challenges. 
  • Tommy: I regularly listen to The Unmade Podcast, where two friends discuss concepts for podcast ideas. They have great chemistry and it's fun listening to a live brainstorm about something outside of advertising.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 
  • Matt: "The Fry Funeral." We had a full-on funeral for the old, terrible fries from KFC. There were so many pieces that were a treat to write and design.
  • Tommy: "Sorry, Utensils," where utensils were staring from the sidelines as people dug into their KFC.
A recent project you're proud of. 
  • Matt: Tommy and I recently worked on KitKat's "Have AI Break." That was a super quick and nimble project that has gotten an incredible response. We love finding a wild insight and building an idea around it. 
  • Tommy: Same for me. It's especially cool because everything we used in the video was real and backed up by actual studies.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 
Someone else's work you admired lately. 
  • Matt: The "RIP Leon" Apple commercial is one of my favorites. It's a simple product benefit brought to life creatively with an incredibly charming story. It's just a perfectly crafted ad.
  • Tommy: Kayak's "Don't Do It Yourself" series made me laugh. It's visually sticky and weird but also hits hard on the brand and product messaging. Also reminds me a little of the old Barton F. Graf ads that I also love.
Your main strength as a creative person.
  • Matt: I like to think big picture—how far an idea can be stretched, how it connects to the brand strategy. Or how it might come to life in years to come. 
  • Tommy: I'm a curious person and like to try new things all the time. 
Your biggest weakness.
  • Matt: I'm not naturally a detail-oriented person, but I've learned to appreciate the nuances in a project.
  • Tommy: Killing ideas or getting into specifics too quickly. 
A mentor that helped you navigate the industry.
  • Matt: Big shout out to my first mentor, Dylan Wagman (Mischief). He built up my confidence and gave me opportunities to bring ideas to the table. 
  • Tommy: Jimmy Wei was a senior writer when I was an intern at Grip. He guided me through the rough transition from school to working life and helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin when I felt a little out of place as a new resident in Canada.
How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.
  • Matt: Making sure the door is always open. I'm happy to talk to people breaking in, review portfolios and give any advice that I have. 
  • Tommy: We've been attending lots of grad shows and portfolio reviews recently. As a grad or newer creative, it never hurts to reach out to creatives on LinkedIn whose work you admire. We're always open to giving feedback.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
  • Matt: Any aspect of film—production, writing, or watching it. I just want to be near it in any way possible. 
  • Tommy: Photography or set design. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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