“Be A Consumer Yourself, and Keep Trying All the New Things!” SPOTLIGHT Joyce Gan, Co-Founder & Group Client Services Director, Fishermen Integrated

By The Malketeer

Joyce Gan’s Early Morning Ritual

In the quiet moments before the city awakens, Joyce Gan finds her sanctuary.

This is her time to reflect, plan, and dream.

As the Co-Founder and Group Client Services Director of Fishermen Integrated, Joyce has charted an extraordinary path, merging creativity with strategic insight to establish one of Malaysia’s most esteemed independent agencies.

From a four-person startup, this homegrown Malaysian agency has blossomed into a powerhouse in the Southeast Asian advertising landscape, challenging industry titans and redefining “Buatan Malaysia” (Made in Malaysia).

Joyce also sits on the 4A’s Council and serves as the Co-Chairperson for Kancils 2023 and 2024.

Early Inspirations and Career Beginnings

Joyce’s foray into marketing and advertising is deeply intertwined with her passion for the creative arts—fashion, art, design, and music.

Although she pursued an economics degree out of practicality, the creative industries’ allure was irresistible, leading her to choose marketing as her career path.

“I’ve never looked back since,” she reflects.

Her early career stints at Reckitt Benckiser (RB) and Digi Telecommunications were foundational. “Reckitt Benckiser provided me with the foundational A to Zs of marketing,” Joyce says.

Transitioning to Digi Telecommunications reignited her creative spark, giving her the freedom to drive brand and creative initiatives.

“Digi gave me the liberty to make my own rules,” she notes, emphasising how these experiences taught her that every campaign must address a client’s business needs.

Founding Fishermen Integrated

In 2013, when digital marketing was still emerging, Joyce and her partners—Mark Darren Lee, Adam Miranda, Andrew Tan, and David Alan Bates—saw a sea of opportunities.

“We knew digital platforms would become more integral in our lives,” she says with the quiet confidence of a visionary.

Starting Fishermen Integrated was a declaration of independence for Malaysian creativity. “Belum cuba, belum tahu,” she says, embracing the spirit of exploration and potential.

Fishermen has since evolved into a full-fledged creative agency with offices in Malaysia and Singapore.

“Clients appreciate our approach,” Joyce explains, highlighting the agency’s growth from a small team to a major industry player.

Challenges and Triumphs

The early years of Fishermen were a mix of challenges and triumphs.

Building a reputation from scratch required grit and resilience, and the support from industry friends and colleagues was invaluable.

A pivotal moment came with their first Golden Kancil win in 2015 for the Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) campaign “Kucing Happy,” showcasing their creative prowess and industry camaraderie.

“The main highlight was seeing so many of our friends cheer and root for us,” Joyce recalls.

Principles and Values

At Fishermen’s core are values of partnership and trust.

Joyce likens client relationships to personal relationships built on understanding and respect.

“Just like your boyfriend, we want to know what makes you happy or sad, or what keeps you up at night,” she articulates.

This deep connection with clients sets Fishermen apart. Equally important is the emphasis on the team.

Joyce believes that finding the right team members is crucial, often more challenging than securing clients.

“Our team is equally, if not more important than clients,” she states, highlighting the agency’s people-centric culture.

Achievements and Recognition

Fishermen’s innovative approach has garnered numerous accolades, including recent wins at the 28th Annual Webby and Effie Awards.

Winning the Webby People’s Voice Award for the PETRONAS 2022 Integrated Report website was a particular highlight, reflecting widespread industry recognition.

Fishermen made history by being the first Malaysian agency to win the Webby Award.

“We want to show the world, and Malaysia, that a fully independent Buatan Malaysia agency can reach the same heights as the big players,” Joyce asserts.

Fishermen also won Agency of the Year at the 2023 Effie Awards Malaysia, the first locally-owned independent agency to do so since the Effie Awards’ inception in 2015.

Other notable wins include the Golden Kancil Award in 2019 for BFM, and Kancil Gold Creative Effectiveness Awards for Nandos, Time, and BFM.

Leadership and Team Dynamics

Joyce’s leadership style blends mentorship, openness, and empowerment.

She fosters an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, and team members are encouraged to express their creativity.

“Hire people from different backgrounds,” she advises, reinforcing the importance of diverse viewpoints in spurring innovation.

Trust and collaboration are cornerstones of her approach to client relationships. Both agency and client must trust each other and maintain open communication.

“Once lost, trust is hard to gain back,” she warns.

Industry Insights and Future Trends

Looking ahead, Joyce sees the importance of balancing technological advancements with human creativity.

While AI is a buzzword, she believes its role should be to automate routine tasks, allowing humans to focus on creative endeavours.

“AI’s true potential lies in liberating our time for creative pursuits, not in usurping our role as creators.”

“The beauty of creativity stems from personal human experiences,” she says, advocating for an inclusive approach that values individual perspectives.

“I read a brilliant quote that resonates my feelings about AI: ‘I want AI to do my laundry and dishes so that I can do art and writing, not for AI to do my art and writing so that I can do my laundry and dishes.’”

Advice for Aspiring Marketers

Joyce’s advice to aspiring marketers and entrepreneurs is straightforward: put in the work and enjoy the process.

“Nothing happens overnight,” she says, emphasising the importance of dedication and passion.

Her formula for success is a blend of hard work and having fun along the way.

Inspiring the Next Generation: A Call for Change

Joyce’s vision extends beyond her agency’s success.

She hopes to inspire a cultural shift in the industry, addressing long-standing issues like work-life balance.

“If we don’t instigate the change in culture, no change will happen,” she declares, challenging the status quo.

As Joyce Gan and her partners continue to steer Fishermen Integrated towards new horizons, her journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring marketers and entrepreneurs.

“Be a consumer yourself, and keep trying all the new things. Download that app, dance to that Tik Tok, enter the fitness competition, watch that new show your husband has been talking about, buy that new product, and read about the new crypto.

There are insights to be found everywhere. But first, it is more important to expose yourself, explore, and understand,” she concludes with a profound message.

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