“Creativity is Natural for all humans.”
It is always a treat to spend time with someone who is exceptionally gifted with creativity. But as he tells me, “Creativity is Natural for all humans.” It’s all about harnessing that power already present within. Come to think of it, I believe that is true, we were all given that special privilege of being co-creators in this world. I believe every person has brilliance within, but whether that brilliance will be used for one’s own sake or for the good of all, would be left to the choice of the individual. I pray we all have the courage to choose the latter, in every moment. If it is your heart’s desire to tap into that goodness within you and spread to people you have influence over, please read on.
I have had the privilege of interviewing extremely successful individuals, and I find it amazing that because we are so individually unique, there is always something new to learn or a completely different insight to gain. And the learning just overflowed one Monday afternoon with Mr. Norman Agatep, the President of 4As (Association of Advertising Agencies in the Philippines) and Managing Director of Grupo Agatep, a perennial winner at annual award shows like Anvil, 151 trophies at that.
I am not sure if it’s the beautiful view of lush green trees we had from their conference room that translated to an inspiring conversation or it’s simply a response to a Divine Appointment that just transpired effortlessly but for sure it is because of the 27 years of accumulated wisdom he had from the Advertising and PR industry that he freely shared.
He actually grew up in this kind of environment as his father Charlie Agatep is the founder and PR Guru of Grupo Agatep, which he began in 1989. As a family, they would critique commercials (so that is what they really focus on and watch rather than the main shows) or discuss about their favorite brands over lunch or dinner. But his 4D version where he learned most about his craft was from his father. He is amazed at how his dad applied wisdom in all the different life roles he played. He attributed it to the fact that his father really lived a FULL LIFE through all the experiences he’s had and this is what he continues to bring in with him as a leader and pillar in this industry.
It is awe-inspiring how they managed to stay at the top despite all these years and all the changes that took place in the marketing landscape. I took the opportunity to ask Norman what’s the secret behind staying at the top of their game, he cited two: It’s all about bringing your clients to the future, and bringing them ahead of everyone else in their category. This insight into what’s coming can be gained through research and personal observation, especially today when so much can be absorbed and learned about consumers in the social media arena. Second, is to put sincerity at the forefront of all you do, that your sole agenda is to help your client achieve their objective or solve a problem.
Jumping off from sincerity, I then took the chance to ask him about authenticity, how does it come in -in this kind of field where everything seems to be portrayed in a glossier kind of way. He provided a bulls-eye answer: He explains that consumers are so much more empowered and informed today that they already reject brands that just sell to them and buy those they believe in, not just because of the product it sells, but because of what the brands stand for and represent, or the WHYs of the companies behind it. Therefore, this propels organisations and agencies to be more mindful of their brand strategies and the stories they weave.
Another challenging aspect of his PR work is how he manages different publics, and tries to create a win-win scenario for all. And this time our conversation took a philosophical spin, which was quite interesting. He tells me that yes, there are a lot of stakeholders to consider, but when you really dig deep into it, all of these publics just want to create and contribute good to the world. There is no one who wishes to promote evil, as people are innately good. And so when he focuses and connects all those good intentions and puts them on the table, then the job becomes easier. Sometimes there is just that temptation that sidetracks us. He says: “The longer we are in the places we’re in, the more we see what truly matters. What is money? What is fame? They stand in no comparison to serving humanity.” I love it. This is also related to why he keeps on adding up to his marketing toolbox, what used to be just PR work, multiplied into Advertising, Digital Marketing, etc. and though each one is challenging and he honestly initially has resistance, he never forgets that it’s not about him, it’s all about how he can serve best.
I just don’t admire his work approach but as well as how it dances with his overall life perspective. I know how demanding marketing work could be because I have been there, and so I asked how he’s able to achieve balance, given all that’s on his plate. To which he almost instantly quipped: “Oh that one’s easy!” which caught me by surprise. He attributes it to the fact that because he’s in the creative field, he easily comes up with ways on how to help his co-workers achieve balance while at work. And that sometimes means transforming their conference room to a bar on certain Fridays or having a popcorn maker in the office. It really is paying attention to what will make your team happy, to make them feel you are rooting for them, and to make their work space as liveable as possible. Think Google—which even Warren Buffet regrets not investing on.
As for his other life apart from career, he continues to pursue his first love which is Music as he is one of the founders of Bukas Palad, which created songs that accompanied us in so many of our life defining moments: weddings, birthdays, funerals. Songs that became movie titles: Tanging Yaman, Sayo Lamang, Hindi Kita Malilimutan, etc. He also teaches an elective course in Ateneo. One thing he learned about life is that one should never let go of one’s passions as it is necessary not just to stay sane and survive, but it is essential to thriving.
I ended by asking him the advice he wants to give to the young, and with a smile he shares: “Wandering doesn’t mean you’re lost. In fact, you discover so much more when you go out there and experience all that life is giving to us. I don’t commit to paper what I’ve become, it just happens. So go and show up as often as you can, read as many books as you can, learn all that you can from others and about yourself so you can contribute so much more than you thought could.”
I couldn’t be happier that someone like Norman is leading the pack, in this very influential industry of our society.
Photographed by Godwin Gasacao