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Creativity Squared: Seeking New Perspectives with Zhafirry Fenner


VaynerMedia APAC's senior creative on cultivating creativity through learning, seeing himself as a challenger and the importance of taking time to let ideas simmer

Creativity Squared: Seeking New Perspectives with Zhafirry Fenner

Zhafirry Fenner is a Malaysia-based senior creative at VaynerMedia APAC.

Zhafirry's journey in advertising began with an internship as a strategic planner, but it didn't take long for him to realise that his true calling lay in the art of Copywriting. Zhafirry has since honed his skills and worked with an impressive roster of clients including KFC, Pizza Hut, Disney+, U-Mobile, Redbull, and Lipton.

When he's not busy crafting winning copy, you can find him indulging in his other passions - like screaming his lungs out as the vocalist of his metal band ARTEFACTS, grinding his way up the ranks in Valorant, or listening to Ms Rachel with his kid.


Back when I was interning as a strategic planner, I was once told that creativity is an innate trait that cannot be learned. This made me sad because here I was just starting out and already, someone was saying I don’t have it. A few cries and sleeps later, I took the statement by the balls and went on my way to challenge this belief by developing my own creative skills. I believe that creativity is not limited to a select few, but rather a skill that can be cultivated through learning and practice.

For me, creativity is about constantly seeking new perspectives, listening actively and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Today, I see myself as a challenger - someone who is willing to take risks and defy expectations in pursuit of creative solutions.

Being a writer, you would think I spend most of my time reading when actually I don’t quite fancy reading. At all. I’m more of a listener. From music to people’s conversations, I find that actively listening permits me to see the world in a way that reading alone could never replicate (but hey, this is just me. Book people – don’t come at me.) It’s through active listening that I’ve come to believe in the incredible power of observation.

When you allow yourself to really tune in and engage with the world around you, there’s so much more to discover and learn. I believe listening is my gateway to creativity and a deeper understanding of my surroundings.


When assessing a piece of creative work, I ask myself two key questions: Does it evoke any emotions in me? And do the creative elements work together seamlessly? Simple sells - and often, it's more important to remove unnecessary elements than to add more.

Music is a perfect example. Sometimes, a song can move you to tears without any vocals. Sometimes, a song can make you feel rebellious without aggressive guitar riffs or pounding drums. Overthinking can be a trap that many creatives (including myself) fall into, ultimately hindering the work’s potential.

When it comes to my work, I don’t play favourites but if I were to pick one, it’d be KFC You Soon.

Essentially, we had received a brief to come up with a store opening announcement post... but when you work with great creatives, a simple post turns into a cheeky campaign! We created a Spotify message playlist to inform consumers that we really missed them, and then composed a sentimental song (sung by us!) that expressed how KFC had longed for the return of their customers, serenading fans back into stores after the covid-19 lockdown.

The harmony behind the creation is one of my most memorable moments as a creative - we also challenged the brief and made it bigger despite a really tight budget.

It's exhilarating to see how more and more agencies are breaking the rules of advertising, moving away from the Mad Men era where the 'big idea' is the be-all and end-all. However, there IS a frustrating reality within the industry that we can't ignore - sometimes, we create work without considering where our audience’s attention lies. For example, who goes on YouTube during the Hari Raya period searching for Hari Raya-branded films? Nobody - except maybe our own people.


I've noticed that some of my best creative projects have slow starts, exactly like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. It's not always about hitting the ground running but sometimes, it’s about taking the time to let ideas simmer, having mindless chats with others, and allowing the work to develop organically until they're ready to take flight. And when you get a bunch of creative minds working together, that's when the real magic happens.

Don't get me wrong - modern tools and platforms are definitely cool - but nothing beats our own senses when it comes to creative inspiration. When we're in tune with the world around us and with culture, we can tap into our own innate creativity and come up with really wild and crazy ideas.

When it comes to starting a new project, I always try to get myself inspired by being on the move, soaking up everything I can, and jotting down ideas and insights that might come in handy. You never know what lies within your own Pandora’s Box, so it pays to be ready.


I grew up in Ipoh, a city about 100 miles north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As a kid, I was all about street culture: skateboarding, gaming in internet cafes, and jamming out to Rage Against The Machine in dingy studios. Lakai’s Fully Flared skate video (co-directed by Spike Jonze) taught me about the power of concepts, Tom Morello's guitar solos inspired me to think outside the box, and playing Counter Strike taught me the value of teamwork and collaboration.

But I didn't just absorb all this knowledge passively - I worked hard to hone my skills and develop my own creative voice. By sticking to a routine and setting goals for myself, I gradually became more disciplined and focused. And that's how I approach my work today - by practising my craft and constantly pushing myself to do better.

When it comes to working with clients, my advice is simple: be open to collaboration. I've been fortunate enough to work with clients who see us as partners as opposed to a bunch of creatives in black t-shirts and ripped jeans doing their bidding. By building that sense of trust and mutual respect, we're able to do our best work and create truly awesome things together.

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VaynerMedia APAC, Mon, 17 Apr 2023 08:40:15 GMT