Ex Ad man, Cantopop musician goes gourmet

Meet Elmo Lee, an advertising industry veteran who’s released seven Cantonese albums and is now taking on the food review world via YouTube.

Elmo’s career in advertising began in the early seventies before he returned to Malaysia in 1980 and joined Wing Creative Advertising. It was during this time when he recorded his Cantonese albums with Life Records. 

“I recorded these albums to fill up the void Cantonese music fans experienced because more well-known artists would usually only come out with one album per year,” Elmo told MARKETING Magazine as he recalled this time in his life. 

According to Elmo, his advertising career only became serious when he joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1983. It was there where he met his creative partner, an unapologetic young copywriter – the late Yasmin Ahmad. Together, they formed the most “rebellious, inquisitive and fearless creative team in the block”. 

Elmo recalls this partnership as one that was based on the belief of “rubbish in, rubbish out” as they would stop at nothing to get a decent brief from the account management team which made them fairly controversial at times.

Elmo Lee and Yasmin Ahmad at Ogilvy in 1988

“After 10 years in Ogilvy & Mather the partnership dissolved, and we both headed for greener pastures,” Elmo said. 

As he went on to head the creative team in Bates (which no longer exists in Malaysia), he would later re-join Yasmin at Leo Burnett in 2003. 

Throughout his advertising career. Elmo has picked up more than 60 local and International advertising awards including The New York Festivals, The Spike Award, London International Festival, Mobius Awards, MC2 and 2 Best of the Best Malaysian Golden Kancil. 

While his career as ad man continued, simultaneously, his passion for composing and performing intertwined with his career back then as a lot of original compositions were heard in TVCs at the time and campaigns for McDonald’s. 

In 2016, Elmo felt that it was time to share his communications knowledge with the younger generation and Limkokwing University where he lectured advertising, graphic design and photography. 

This was his stint up till three months ago and now at 67, Elmo says he wants to control his own schedule. 

““All my life I spent like there’s no tomorrow and as a gadgets person, I’ve purchased a great deal of them, Elmo told MARKETING Magazine. “So after quitting my lecturing job I felt it was time to use these gadgets I’ve collected over the years.”

Through his YouTube channel, Elmo now produces videos reviewing the 8 best places for local favorites such as Bak Kut Teh, Char Keoy Teow and so on. 

“I do everything on my own, so while I’m eating with my right hand, my left hand is holding up the camera, recording my reaction,” Elmo said. “It’s a little hard but it’s definitely been a fun process.”

Aside from the pleasures of eating more bowls of noodles than one usually does in a week, Elmo says that he has been pleasantly surprised at how local hawker stalls have been friendly and open to being interviewed when he asks for permission. 

So if you’re craving curry laksa but don’t know which spot to choose from, Elmo has you covered with not one but eight of his top picks for the most popular local delicacies. 

It’s not everyday we see an adman and Cantonese music artist walk down the path of YouTube food review so check his channel out and you might just find a surprise like the below, his original Pandemic song we can all relate to:


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