Alvin Teoh almost got comfortable with being uncomfortable, maybe because he once sat in Francis Ford Coppola’s chair

This week’s guest was happy with earning just enough for a bowl of noodles and the occasional indie CD, then a washed-up leaflet changed his life forever.  

Alvin Teoh is the CCO of Naga DDB in Malaysia and someone who seeks out discomfort wherever he can find it, because that means you might just be on the edge of something good.

Alvin’s fortuitous leaflet was on a kerbside, it was for an art school, it lit a bulb in his head that has burnt brightly ever since – though Alvin would say it also dims from time to time.  

That art school was twinned with a school in San Francisco where Alvin learnt something more precious than any artistic craft, he found opinions.  

To Alvin, one of the sources of the lack of confidence in Asian creativity is an education system that focuses on facts and answers – rather than discussion and points of view.  

Exposure to the art and music scene in the US caused him to adjust his tastes, be an outsider, evolve his opinions and even sit in the chair of the guy who wrote The Godfather. Bit by bit, it gave him permission to be more confident in his choices. 

On the topic of choice, Alvin has a fresh take on the importance of ‘freedom of choice’.  Maybe it’s not always a good thing. Because if you lack confidence, like so many of us creatives do, giving the choice NOT to take the harder path, most of us won’t.  

Sometimes we need to be shoved out of our comfort zone a few times before we gain the skills to actively seek it out. Confidence is not a gift, it’s a muscle, it’s learnt, it’s engineered.  Sometimes no choice is the best choice. 

Alvin Teoh, the CCO of Naga DDB, Malaysia

In his uniquely brilliant laconic style, a way of speaking and thinking we’ve quickly come to love here at The Imposterous Alvin says, “It feels like forever, but I am still new at this job. I’ve been ECD for some years now and now a CCO….I feel I need another 200 more to fully understand what the heck I am doing. I like the work, can’t say I love the job.”

Been working on an array of Brands from Telco to Paint, from Insurance to Cable TV. I’ve had experience doing work for Banks, Tourism, Milk, Herbal Medicine, Automobile, and must I list it all here?

Also started a social collective called Kita Kawan Mah to play a role in addressing the rise of racism in this country by promoting inter-racial friendship and dialogue. In all the work that I try to do, stripping away all the rocket science, I try to speak to the heart. 

I’ve never really believed in Brands speaking to Target Market. It’s always heart to heart. Or person to person. Communication is personal. And while I believe in all that, I have to admit it’s hardly ever easy to get to that level. We’ve had our hits and misses. More misses than hits to be honest. But still, it’s a good place to start. And if we’re consistent in this pursuit, we’ll get there one day. While I am alive, hopefully.”

With a new episode every week, The Imposterous is hosted by Michael Knox (ECD, Think HQ) and Graham Drew (CCO, Grey Malaysia) and as has been created to explore the theory that even the world’s most respected creative professionals suffer pangs of inadequacy that either stifle their potential brilliance or protect them from mediocrity.   

Tune in to find out how Imposter Syndrome might just be a thing that you don’t have to run from here.

Nobody Beats By Dre, except Andrew Stevenson.  His jams at We Love Jam Studios spread sweet sounds like a sonic butter knife.  Jams that inspire colour without pips by Cohan Banfield. The Imposterous is available now on itunes, Spotify, Google Play or imposterous.com.


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