Citibank SMRT media


Let’s face it, even at the best of times, banks make for challenging clients.

Putting aside all the legal requirements that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has put in place, you will have countless  hurdles to leap over as your precious concepts work their way through a very complex and unwieldy approval process. By the time every t has been crossed and every i dotted, little if anything is left of your original concept.

Which is why little real bank work ever makes it to a creative person’s portfolio.

This outdoor execution, promoting the use of Citibank Credit Cards throughout the Great Singapore Sale (GSS), is, I think, one of the few exceptions to the above rule.

There were a few things going for it.

1. There was very little time  Р3 weeks Рin which to approve and execute it.

2. As a result, approval became the responsibility of just one individual as opposed to the usual countless layers of bureaucracy it would normally have to go through.

3. The concept  Рtransforming Orchard and Somerset MRT stations into what looked like department stores Рwas literally sold to the client as a rough sketch (and believe me, because I drew it this was a really rough sketch) at a coffee shop table.

4. This meant that we could refine the concept as we executed it. So instead of having to put all our efforts into a really beautiful initial visual, we could focus on making the final product as good as possible without being distracted by an over finished and thus limited initial concept.

Of course this narrow time frame meant everything was put on an accelerated schedule – photography, digital imaging and final layout. Over the next three weeks nobody slept very much and weekends were completely burned. There was the usual last minute dramas, screaming matches, hysterical tears and panic attacks. And that was just me.

But the result was an outdoor campaign that really broke the mold of the way banks typically advertised.

And it helped earn Citibank their first ever regional bank marketing award.


A typical property pitch – The Panorama

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Open the Straits Times on any Saturday you choose and you’ll be greeted with page after page of property ads.

They pretty much all look the same – a large image of the building with a suspiciously verdant and un-Singapore-like background, a location map that is anything but accurate and a star burst indication that this project is now 60% sold.

Apart from the differences in architecture – which usually aren’t really that different – all these ads are pretty much interchangeable. Swap the logo and the perspective and you’re good to go.

So, obviously these kinds of ads are easy to do, right?


Sure, the final ad might look pretty straightforward but the path you take to get there is long and usually very winding.

Every successful property pitch requires you to come up with a very strong idea. A positioning for the condominium that somehow makes it stand out from all the other projects that are in reality just like it.

Naming the damn thing can be an exercise in increasingly desperate futility. Virtually every name you can think of (and certainly all the good ones) has already been used. And the last thing you should do is tie the name too closely to your creative concept because if the client doesn’t like the name, your concept is screwed too. Then of course there is the “Taxi Driver Test” as in: will your typical taxi driver be able to understand the name? (To be honest, this is one test just about every condominium fails.)

If by some miracle you mange to tick all these boxes, you might actually win the pitch.


Now watch as the client and their marketing agent change everything.

This proposal for a condominium located on the very edge of the city is a good example of what I do to try and win a property pitch. Although we were unsuccessful in winning this assignment, to my mind we achieved something quite special with our proposal.

The name we came up with – The Panorama – was very strong and reflective of the magnificent views the development offered.

The positioning very cleverly redefined the meaning of a location close to the city as one that actually gave you the most precious gift of all: more time.

The resulting creative executions depicted here in all their lorem ipsum glory were stylish and elegant yet still depicted a luxury lifestyle combined with a strong emotional message.

Even the slogan – A New Dimension in Luxury – was pretty clever (time is a dimension – geddit?), catchy and yet accurate.

I’m particularly happy with the way the mock TV commercial we created for the pitch turned out. Stitched together from many different video sources, backed by a superb read from a true VO professional (thanks David!), I think this would have made an awesome commercial if it had ever been produced.

I was very proud of this work. Alas the client decided they needed something more straightforward so this campaign never saw the light of day.

But that’s advertising.