Who is she: Evon Chng
Role: Founder of Beastcorp
In this day and age where influencer marketing is the prevailing norm, it can be daunting to build your own marketing firm. But that didn’t stop Evon Chng from starting the digital creative agency Beastcorp back in 2018. More than 4 years on, she leads a full-fledged team that services clients spanning Marina Bay, Calvin Klein, Viu, and Valentino. Here’s a peek into some of Evon’s favourite campaigns, how to stand out in an interview with her, and her top tips on starting your own agency.
1. What are your hobbies?
If I have unlimited free time, I would like to have a lot of hobbies. I enjoy working out; running in particular as it clears my head. I also read a lot of books for self-improvement – generally whatever I read, I take it with a pinch of salt and do not trust those books 100%. I like fashion, jewellery, cars, watches so I browse a lot of such sites and accounts.
2. What is your favourite movie or TV show, and why?
I enjoy the following genres – crime, medical, law and documentary. I like Criminal Minds, New Amsterdam, and Suits. They are all quite different but my point is if I’m going to be spending time watching TV (which is a waste of time) I’ll need to gain some form of knowledge from it. For movies, I prefer action, investigative types and thrillers.
3. Three words people would use to describe you:
Spontaneous, responsible, and crazy. Although I’m not sure if being crazy is a good thing.
4. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:
I would say I am genuine, a risk-taker, and also a problem-solver.
Image credit: Evon Chng
5. Who are some of your peers in the industry who inspires you?
Many of them are from the industry I came from. I don’t fit into your typical agency owner mould because I have not worked in an agency. However, I’ve worked in a lot of editorial publishing houses dealing with media agencies that specialise in fashion and creatives from a different realm – a lot of them I looked up to.
There is this story that I always share with people. Before Pinterest existed, I had this tearsheet of a local editorial[s] clipped in my file, directed by a veteran in the industry. My recollection of the image composition is still vivid – how it was backlit, along with the organised imperfections that stood out from the many overly retouched images that we see back then. In the 2000s that was groundbreaking.
My first mentor – who is now also leading a publishing house and agency, is also someone I learned a lot from. He allowed me to put forward my arguments at work in a controlled environment. That training ground allowed me to be unfazed by situations and aggressors, and calmly de-conflict. He also taught me to be quiet. Some press is good, but not too much, and got me to delete all my digital footprint. RIP blogs, but the Instagram account survived.
6. Tell us a fun fact about yourself that your colleagues might not know?
I was in the Chinese Orchestra for 10 years and I play the erhu. I was also the Company Leader in the Girl Guides.
7. What inspired you to start Beastcorp?
A gap in content in the digital terrain. Most were too commercial, if not too artistic. There was nothing that is right smack in the middle to achieve commercial viability while balancing artistic approach.
An agency friend was regularly calling in to ask for input and feedback on the social media campaigns she was on. I thought, there could potentially be a market.
The Beastcorp studios.
Image credit: Evon Chng
With digital and social media, the landscape has evolved and we need to adapt. If an IGS runs for 24 hours, and budgets are finite, we need to function like an editorial team – a team where members are experts in that particular field.
I liken Beastcorp to an “editorial support” in publishing. In editorial, such ideas for campaigns and activations are pitched directly with luxury brands, who already have a framework for execution, and are delivered at editorial’s discretion. We extend this working style based on the trust and reputation we have built.
That said, if a client has an advertising spot on the big screens, please get the proper team who has had experience running the campaign. There’s no win-win. Ultimately, the client needs to feel like the bigger winner, and that is how editorial functions.
8. What were some challenges you faced during the early days of Beastcorp?
That I was the only brain and person doing the thinking, that for every one person who said yes, I had 10 people who said no – cliche. As with any other start-up, I consulted people in the field, and connected with friends who are also experts.
My background wasn’t in an agency, but all my friends are/were. There’s Diy, Sherry and Misso, my friends from school who would let me pick their brains. I had Sherry look through my very first proposal to a client and critique it.
Hiring talents was a challenge, but meeting like-minded brains is part of the process. If everything were to go smoothly then I would not have any such stories to share. Belda Chung, who’s a Partner, Co-Founder and Creative Strategist (lol long title) at Beastcorp, is a gem. She is now the other brain. The point I am making is that I cannot do this alone, and with a partner and the team, we are better.
9. What is something that has surprised you about starting your own business?
Running a business is totally different from being a freelancer – which I was for a part of my life. A freelancer takes the spotlight on projects, while a business allows for opportunities for the team to blossom, grow, and – unpopular opinion – perform better than the business owners. Every single person in Beastcorp has to grow, not just in career and titles, but also progressing in life. Everyone needs to shine.
10. What is your favourite thing about being a digital marketer?
That it is always evolving and no one person can be an expert because the algorithm – I hate that word – changes every day. One may think that we are at the mercy of the platforms, but I like to think that the users, ourselves, contribute to the transformation.
11. What are the top three favourite campaigns you’ve worked on?
I really love the Calvin Klein denim campaign we did. I believe it’s the first time that local talents and personalities are featured on the ck.com website – it made me really proud as a Singaporean.
Marina Bay (the precinct) deserves a spotlight as well. We did the countdown content and while we tried to plan, there were alot of new developments even as the day progressed. The team was really open to ideas and trends so it made it more exciting. We had to think on our feet.
Valentino, although it wasn’t a digital project by nature – only the photo booth was – made it one of the most beautiful projects that was done. I can’t just name three!
There’s also a RISIS campaign that we did that involved multiple influencers and surpassed the estimated targets.
12. What are some campaigns (done by others) that have inspired you?
There are just so many. Chanel Beauty ran their Mother’s Day campaign and I thought it did extremely well as the illustrations were done by, at least made to look like they were done by kids. That informal approach stood out amongst glossy campaigns and connected emotionally to people on social media platforms.
Image credit: Ads of the World
Celine, the brand, was one of the first few to run a Tiktok campaign using a runway track as an audio at a time when Tiktok was considered experimental. In the early 2010s, a David Guetta music video used tech ahead of its time.
13. Could you share a bit about the company culture at Beastcorp?
In our culture deck – yes we actually made one and it’s forever in WIP mode – we have no culture. The company is too young for that. We know what we want. The basis is that we can do what we want, we are rather informal, but be always responsible for the outcome.
The Beastcorp team during Halloween 2022.
Image credit: Evon Chng
There is no hierarchy, and we put an emphasis on “idea meritocracy”. To always look for a second opinion as assumptions, ego & bias are the enemy. One needs to always be useful. Find yourself not contributing? That’s a big problem.
14. What was the most memorable moment of your career?
In my career, I had the privilege of working in the same space and sharing the same room as some of the greatest people in the fashion industry – creative directors in major fashion houses and their teams. At Beastcorp, my most memorable moment was when friends from the industry called me up and asked why we hadn’t pitched to them.
A client, who couldn’t quite work with us in the beginning due to budget constraints, came to us when her brand matured and we have been working on their content and ads since then.
Also, when my colleagues started bringing in their own projects, that was a proud “mummy” moment.
15. Is creativity inherent or nurtured? If the latter, how do you cultivate it?
Creativity is inherent, but society takes that away as we grow up. An example: Kids, in general, daydream a lot and that encourages creativity. Daydreaming is not usually encouraged and is perceived as not paying enough attention. One then has to conform to what is perceived as acceptable, and we lose a little bit of creativity along the way.
16. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I get the most ideas from travelling and books. It’s only when you live life by expanding what you see, that you’ll be able to come out with something refreshing. Books go through varying rounds of editing and when you read something in print, as opposed to a digital article, you know you are reading a quality piece of work that has gone through multiple great minds.
17. What top three qualities do you look for when hiring? Any interview tips?
Someone who’s a team player, honest, responsible, and knows how to have fun. The honest bit is really important because trust and integrity are almost impossible to rebuild.
18. What advice do you have for those thinking of starting their own agency?
I have a couple.
Find a partner, one that you can argue with and that doesn’t always agree with you. Only with dissent will there be progress and development.
Have enough monetary resources and invest in your people. At the start, your team should be paid more than you, and you need to also be present for them. Their needs should be ahead of yours. Pay your vendors timely. Do not invest in anything that doesn’t make your work better – a nice office is not necessary. Better equipment and reliable WiFi – yes.
Do not chase the money. Focus on work quality. If you want to get rich, this is not the job for you. Go be a trader or banker.
19. Are there any upcoming developments you would like to draw our attention to?
The Foot Locker account, which Belda is leading, will be pretty exciting as the brief is rather open and has a regional element. Beastcorp does an annual refresh on all content strategy for our clients – it’ll be our third year now. With the influx of new social media platforms, it’s now time to rethink what we can do best for the brands that we are working with and tap on new platforms.
New content strategies will be introduced to brands with work with – RISIS, Sol Luminaire, Illumia Therapeutics, Tommy Hilfiger, 1872 Clipper Tea, and the Wingtai brands, just to name a few. We’ll also be working on more digital-first offline experiences.
20. What do you hope to achieve at Beastcorp over the next year?
There are a couple of regional projects happening so that’s pretty exciting. A new division is also in discussion. The team is toying with the idea of content automation on our own software. I’ll update you if the latter happens!
This post is part of our Media Industry Leaders series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at email@example.com.
Cover image credit: Evon Chng