2 Minutes With … Nicholas Ye, CCO of The Secret Little Agency

On optimism and so much more

Nicholas is co-founder and chief creative officer at The Secret Little Agency, where he guides brands such as Ikea, Star Alliance, Netflix, DBS and Marriott Bonvoy. He co-founded the Singapore-based shop 16 years ago.

We spent two minutes with Nicholas to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Nicholas, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I spent much of my growing up years in Singapore and neighboring Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. I completed my university studies in Australia. I founded The Secret Little Agency in Singapore, where I now live with my family.

How you first realized you were creative.

Since my youth, I was always coloring outside the lines. Literally drawing and scribbling on examination papers. I found it incredibly fun to break or bend the rules.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Jonathan Glazer as early as "Virtual Insanity" and then everything from Guinness' "Horses" to "Zone of Interest."

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I wrote a thesis on silence that had no words in it except for the title. I submitted a blank paper and, after heavy inquisition from the professor, was given top marks for it. I learned that day the importance of having an idea.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

The musician Kin Leong. His sound is transcendent, ethereal and bathed in light.  

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Yellowstone on Netflix. It's like Succession with cowboys in Montana.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

We created the unified Singapore brand globally and domestically. Much pride goes into this project as it represents the most historically significant rebrand in the country since it was founded. The SG mark is used consistently in Singapore and on billboards in Times Square. It is the same whether it is used to promote Singapore to tourists or investors.

A recent project you're proud of. 

For DBS, Asia's largest bank, we recreated "The Scent of Money." We launched it like a perfume days before Chinese New Year to help people make the switch to cashless gifting. We worked on a strong hunch that it was the smell of money they missed the most about cold, hard cash.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

The "God" campaign by Eugene Cheong during his time at Ogilvy was fantastic. I always wondered if God approved.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

For someone that likes food and going places, I  connected with the recent Uber Eats work with Robert De Niro and Asa Butterfield.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I've been told that optimism is infectious in a team setting. It stems from a dislike with limits and the people who set them, especially on themselves. 

Your biggest weakness.

This optimism is also my biggest weakness: not knowing when enough is enough.

A mentor who helped you navigate the industry.

Robert Saville

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

Our internship program provides a well-rounded glimpse into a modern creative career. We take young people from all walks of life, beyond the art and design schools. We want them to be as excited as we are about a career in creativity.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

A chef.

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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