2 Minutes With … Phoebe Chan, CD at DDB Hong Kong

On transforming discoveries into creative ideas

Phoebe began her career as a Korean-Chinese translator and interpreter but discovered that she was adept at writing, and so became a copywriter. She has worked for both clients and agencies, and on a range of brands including Aptamil, Bosch, Mannings, Hang Seng Bank and Bank of China. In addition to her current role, she still does some part-time work as a translator, and enjoys trying her hand at calligraphy.

We spent two minutes with Phoebe to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Phoebe, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I was born and bred in Hong Kong, and am still enjoying my life here. 

How you first realized you were creative. 

When I was 10 and started to rewrite the lyrics of the Cantopop songs I liked. Or maybe it was the day when I tried to build my own custom pen with components from my parents' abandoned pens and other bits around the house.

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

The tattoo artist Ami James, host of the TV show Miami Ink. It was a complete shock for me to learn that it is actually an art form used to tell personal stories.

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

The teachers at my secondary school were remarkably good at noticing and nurturing students' talents. Once, when I was dramatically complaining about the school rules, a teacher told me that I would become a good storyteller. Another time, after reading my handwriting, a teacher told me I was destined to live a "writer's life."

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

For a long time I was a big fan of the Korean band Big Bang. Their songs make me realize how versatile pop music is, and how lyrics can be a powerful way to convey a message.

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

I am obsessed with the podcast Gastropod, which looks at food through the lens of history and science. I am constantly amazed to learn such fascinating things about food—everything from the fact that tomatoes have an umami flavor because they contain natural MSG, to why school lunches are universally hated.

Your favorite fictional character. 

Beth in the TV show Good Girls. She proves that there are no prerequisites for strength, fierceness, bravery, insanity and being a badass.

Someone or something worth following in social media. 

@riekokoga for art 

@humansofny for human stories

@aleia for art direction 

@asmrplayroom for nostalgic comfort

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

I developed an NG list (a list of words potentially insulting, inappropriate or political, that need to be banned and filtered in chats) for a gaming company. That was definitely one of the most fun yet challenging copywriting projects.

A recent project you're proud of.

Greenpeace's "Seabed," which allowed people to unveil a shocking truth. It was a mattress made with real plastic debris collected from the ocean floor in Hong Kong. This idea popped into my mind when going to bed on a random night four years ago, and I am so proud of our team for finally making it happen. I think it also unlocked our potential as exhibition curators.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

"Black Supermarket" created by Carrefour. Not only did it help to change the law to save biodiversity, but it also redefined what it means to be a market leader.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

"Enjoy Before Returning" by Diesel. It is the best demonstration of "if you can’t beat them, join them."

Your main strength as a creative person. 

Being attentive to both my surroundings and details. I immediately notice anything interesting and try to turn those discoveries into creative ideas.

Your biggest weakness. 

I am a talker but I am learning to be a better listener.

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Bubble tea.

One thing that always makes you sad. 

The last day of every trip, even if it is just a short weekend getaway.

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

Maybe a translator, a speech therapist or a dubbing artist. 

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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