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Rapper to Master Copywriter with Siyamak Jung


Ogilvy Frankfurt’s chief creative officer on his German rapping roots, why he believes in being a team player and how his job is his passion, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani, in association with REKORDER

Rapper to Master Copywriter with Siyamak Jung

REKORDER, the Berlin-based film and photography creative production studio, is proud to support LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of its sponsorship of the German Edition, we will celebrate creativity and introduce some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry. 

In this feature, Siyamak Jung, the chief creative officer at Ogilvy Frankfurt speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about his career as a rapper and how it translated into copywriting, the genuine human insight it takes to create meaningful work and why it’s important to ask for feedback throughout the process.

LBB> We’d love to start at the beginning to hear about when you first decided to embark on a career in the creative industries. Can you tell us a little bit about how that began?

Siyamak> My first encounter with the creative industry was through the music industry. Even as a young teenager, I had a deep love and passion for rap music. By the age of 17, I had gained recognition in my local area as a German rapper. The decision to turn my creativity into a source of income started from humble beginnings, with the production and sale of my own freestyle tapes recorded at home. Over time, my talent grew, leading me to secure record contracts with independent labels.

LBB> As a child, was it obvious that you would end up in a role like this?

Siyamak> Well, I've always had a fondness for music, enjoyed painting, and loved writing stories. I've always been more captivated by the creative side of things. I knew from an early age that I wanted to make a living through some form of creative expression. However, as a child and even later on, the advertising industry was unfamiliar territory to me.

LBB> In terms of your background, what did you study and how did you get your first opportunity in advertising?

Siyamak> After high school, I began studying at the Berlin School of Design and Communication. However, as someone who had always been passionately releasing German rap tapes, things took an unexpected turn after just three semesters of study when I landed my first record deal. That opportunity provided me with enough resources to quit my studies and pursue a livelihood as a rapper.

After spending five years immersed in the rap scene, hustling in the studio during the week and hitting the road for concerts on the weekends – while indulging in plenty of booze and drugs – I eventually hit a breaking point with that whole lifestyle. I absolutely loved making music and being creative, but the toll it took on me was too much to bear. That's when I had a complete breakdown and started to question my lifestyle and creative potential. Luckily, a good buddy of mine, who I started college with, had risen up the ranks and become an art director at an advertising agency. He turned to me and said, "You know what a copywriter is, right? They spend their days writing hilarious stuff, just like you. But they also write scripts, come up with killer stunts, and brainstorm PR ideas." I found that incredibly intriguing. So, I decided to apply as a copywriting intern at Heimat, Berlin, to test the waters of the advertising game. And let me tell you, it turned out to be one of the smartest moves I ever made. It opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities and paved the way for my future in ways I never could have imagined.

LBB> What was the most valuable lesson you learnt during those first few years in advertising?

Siyamak> My career in the advertising industry started at Heimat, Berlin. It was and still is a place that has set itself the goal of extracting the maximum attention and relevance from any briefing and circumstances. I quickly learned that this cannot be achieved without finding genuine human insight, putting in hard work, and having an unwavering passion to create something surprising.

LBB> Can you share some of the formative campaigns you worked on and what that was like? 

Siyamak> One project that I still fondly recall is a campaign for Audi Service from 2015 which I did at thjnk Berlin. We received a briefing for an Audi product that wasn't particularly sexy in terms of public perception and fell under the aftersales category. It wasn't a major new car launch or a super innovative assistance system. It was simply about providing good service. Up until that point, there hadn't been a single creative spot in that domain from any brand. We didn't want to accept that and started searching for the most human insight that would fully justify this service. 

After three weeks of intense brainstorming, the answer became clear. If someone is willing to spend so much money on their technologically advanced luxury car, they wouldn't want to entrust it to just any mechanic. From that, the film ‘Mechanics’ was born, which we shot in LA with director Sebastian Strasser. Standing in the desert at the end, holding a coffee cup and watching hundreds of people emerge from behind the hills, all chasing after a car simply because we wrote it that way, showed me the emotional experiences and possibilities that this profession can offer.

LBB> During your career, you’ve worked across a few agencies across Germany such as Heimat, thjnk and BBDO. What are some of the characteristics of the German market which are unique and have kept you eager to create more?

Siyamak> It's difficult for me to judge from my internal perspective because I have never worked outside of Germany. However, I believe that the commitment to delivering relevant work that solves the client's problems is taken very seriously here. Almost all the projects for which I have won awards were real briefings and campaigns that actually ran in the market. Another significant factor for Germany is the presence of strong brands. Many large traditional companies have their origins here, which means that one is close to the source of major clients.

LBB> Can you tell us a little bit about your leadership style, what you were keen to bring to the role initially and how that’s developed over time?

Siyamak> For me, this profession is a blessing and something that allows you to recharge your brain every day. It's hard work, but one must never lose sight of the fun and the fact that you get paid for coming up with creative solutions. I am someone who is approachable and, above all, wants to provide a sense of security to all kinds of talent, encouraging them to discuss all sorts of ideas and always engage in exchanges with others. I strongly believe that no one can succeed alone in delivering top-notch work. Talent should also mean sharing that talent with others and empowering them to make their best contributions to a project.

LBB> Are you able to share one or two recent campaigns that you’ve been involved in?  

Siyamak> Absolutely! I'd love to showcase two standout works that ignite my sense of pride, mainly because of the bold and brilliant teams I had the pleasure to work with. One campaign that truly shines is the electrifying transformation we achieved for Milka, a revered chocolate brand from Mondelez. We turned this traditional brand into an iconic piece of pop culture, capturing the hearts of young consumers in a remarkable way.

Another project close to my heart is our ingenious venture with the German national railway company Deutsche Bahn, where we unleashed maximum impact from the tiniest budget ever. It beautifully exemplifies the notion that creativity is the true driving force, surpassing mere financial limitations. 

LBB> What’s one piece of advice you would give to a copywriter who’s just starting out?

Siyamak> Passion is the key. Be true to yourself, if you don't love what you do, you will never be as good as someone who loves what they do.

Always start by finding genuine insight. Once you have that, you can decide how to emotionally express it.

Talent is important, but being a team player is even more important. Your best script will never become a great film if you can’t light the fire of other colleagues to support you and add their talent to it.

Listen to others and actively seek feedback. Working on the areas that people criticise about you will help you grow. Accolades and fame may bring temporary happiness, but true fulfilment comes from personal growth.

LBB> It isn’t all just about work, there are also always many hobbies and interests which keep creatives busy. What are some of yours?

Siyamak> My wife would say that my work is my hobby. But one thing is for sure: I don't need any major diversions apart from what I already do. However, there is one thing I always enjoy doing, and that is listening to stories - everyday stories. I simply love listening to real people because what they share are captivating subjects and stories that life writes. 

LBB> Who or what do you look to for inspiration?

Siyamak> My inspiration comes from observations. The whole world out there is filled with insights. I believe one can draw inspiration from anything. The key is not to isolate oneself and remain open to people and what's happening out there.

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REKORDER, Wed, 31 May 2023 14:40:00 GMT