20 Questions with Kelvin Koo, MD of ADK Connect – Media Agency Interviews

TSL Media Media Agency Interviews

Name: Kelvin Koo
Role: Managing Director of ADK Connect
Age: 44

Kelvin Koo is the head honcho over at the digital creative agency ADK Connect where he has over 17 years of experience leading various marketing teams in Singapore. We speak with the award-winning marketer to find out what makes him tick.

1. What are your hobbies?

Before Covid-19, I really enjoyed traveling. Whether it was for business to visit clients and the local offices, or with family and spending time with wife and kids to explore local cuisines and cultures. This is something I have really missed in the last few years.

My favourite country to visit is a close tie between Australia and Japan. I love Japan for its food, culture, and how kid-friendly it is.  Australia on the other hand I love for the myriad of activities and experiences that you cannot get in Singapore like farm-stays and the beautiful beaches.

Now with VTLs, I am most looking forward to travelling to Malaysia to visit my grandma and relatives. It has been 2+ years since I’ve seen them face to face.

Kelvin Koo in Phuket
Kelvin in Phuket on an annual fitness retreat

2. What is your favourite quote?

There are a few that I refer to often as reminders during my daily focus and meditation.

But if I had to choose one, it would be from – don’t judge me – Master Wugui in Kungfu Panda

“Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today? Today is a gift… that’s why they call it the present!”

A close second would be the following from Chatri Sityodtong in 2016.

“When the tide is high, the fish eat the ants. When the tide is low, the ants eat the fish. Whether you are a person, a company, or a country, it is never clear when you are at your peak (or at your bottom).

Right now, you could be sitting at the very peak of your life (or you could be sitting at the very bottom of your life), and you would not know which is which. It is the scary truth. Change can happen gradually over time or it can happen instantly.

For this reason, the only key to long-term success is continuous learning, growth, and evolution.”

That last line resonates very true with my ethos on personal growth.

3. What is your favourite movie and why?

Growing up, Dead Poets Society had a huge influence on me and my early love for literature. I remember going “Carpe Diem, Seize the day!” every time I needed to psyche myself up. 

Recently, my movie choices are a lot less eclectic but I really enjoyed the recent Korean zombie series “All Of Us Are Dead because it goes much deeper than just mindless escapism and has some deep underlying themes that make you think about society at large.

4. What is your go-to foodie spot in Singapore?

I love exploring and looking for local hawker food. Hokkien Mee from Bukit Batok, Nasi Lemak from Yuhua Market, Claypot Rice from ABC Brickworks Food Centre or Carrot Cake from Tiong Bahru market. I could go on and on…

For restaurants, my family and I love the Shabu Shabu buffet at Shabu Sai.

Kelvin Koo corporate pic

5. Three words people use to describe you.

To avoid being presumptuous, I tried to pick out 3 common words from my LinkedIn recommendations. 

Passionate, inspiring, hands-on.

6. Three words you use to describe yourself.

Nurturing, decisive, passionate.

7. What’s the last TV/Netflix show you watched?

All Of Us Are Dead, the Korean zombie drama.

8. Who are the people that inspire you?

William Cham and Jean Goh who are the owners of Leadership Management Singapore. 

Between 2005 – 2010 when I was a young entrepreneur, they were my mentors who provided the inspiration and advice I needed to ride through a difficult few years when my company was struggling. Jean also helped me discover my calling and passion in the area of training and coaching. 

Next would be Max Scheichenost, my boss at FALCON Agency. He was a great motivator and sounding board. I believe our mutual respect for each other allowed us to play to each others’ strength and allowed me to achieve the success I had at FALCON. 

There have been many others that have had a huge impact on my success in the early years of my agency and I would like to give a shout out to two of them if you would indulge me. 

  • Terrence Tang (Trend Micro) who took a chance in my unproven agency back in 2010 and gave us our first regional account win. 
  • Sharon Koh (Scoot) who believed in me and my team back in 2011 – 2014 and allowed us to create some of the most memorable campaigns.

9. What’s the most memorable moment in your career?

It would be the time I spent working on the Scoot account between 2011 – 2015 and winning Marketer of the Year for them twice in a row at the Marketing Excellence Awards in 2014 – 2015.\

10. Which marketing campaign – local or global – do you wish you thought of first?

It will have to be Volvo Trucks and their “Epic Split” with Jean Claude van Damme. 

Eight years on, it is in my books, still the best B2B marketing campaign I have seen.

11. Which is the campaign you are most proud of?

I would have to say it was the trolling and banter with SGAG over two years that culminated into a “Frenemy” campaign with them for Scoot’s second anniversary.

"Frenemy" campaign SGAG

It might not win any creative awards, but it really brought out the brand’s fun image and bravery for being the first brand that actually responded to SGAG’s trolling, way back in 2012 before any local brands really did that.

12. Who are some of the peers you respect in the industry?

Ajay Thrivikraman – CCO at Publicis. I will always remember the conversation we had during a chemistry session before I decided whether to accept the offer to acquire my agency. I had complimented him on his achievements and awards and how I was a fan of his work. And he told me his success comes from his team and others challenging him and making the work better. His greatest fear was that his team stopped questioning or challenging his ideas just because of all the awards and hubris. His response humbled me greatly. 

Joanne Theseira – MD of Publicis Communications. I had the privilege of working with her for over two years where we partnered on several pitches and accounts. We might not always be in agreement but I have massive respect for her brilliance. I dare say she taught me everything I know about strategy, pitching and storytelling and we had some magical moments when we were in the pitch room.

13. What’s one thing you look for when hiring new employees?

For fresh graduates, I look for passion and hunger. 

For mid-senior level employees, I look for evidence of growth and resilience.

14. Do you have advice for students starting a career in an agency?

Choosing the right boss or manager is more important than choosing the right agency. 

Find a good boss/manager who will invest in you and give you the opportunities you need to grow. So ask questions during the interview to find out more about the person who will be responsible for you. 

I would also advise them to be hungry and willing to learn and grow. Be like a sponge.

"Frenemy" campaign SGAG

15. What is one thing you’ve learnt in school that you still practice?

Honestly, I can’t think of anything from an academia perspective. But I think the experiences I had being involved in the Student’s Union and the various leadership positions I held were foundational in the early years where I started my company straight after NUS.

16. How do you get people to think out of the box?

By asking probing questions that gets them to challenge their own perception and paradigms. 

We all have our own blind spots and sometimes, what we need is someone to ask the right questions, to challenge our thinking and force us to re-think or look at the problem from a different perspective.

17. What is one fun fact your employees don’t know about you?

Not sure if it qualifies as a fun fact, but I almost became a full-time youth minister with my Church back in 2003. I guess God had a different calling for me and I started my own company instead.

18. What’s one marketing trend that you feel is upcoming?

I guess this is where it would be par for the course to mention NFTs and the Metaverse? While I wouldn’t call it a trend per se, I think live shopping, or social commerce as some call it will change the way brands interact and sell online.

I remember one year ago, while buying durians at a heartland fruit store in Jurong, the vendor was during a live-stream in a mix of Chinese, Hokkien and broken English, selling durians to his online audience. Watching the entire experience was surreal and I found out from him later that in just 15 minutes, he had sold two baskets worth of durians.

I believe this is the future of commerce and more brands will be looking at how to design a social commerce experience that goes beyond just the random live-streams during your typical 11.11-type events.

19. What big movements has ADK Connect seen in the past few years?

I think the most exciting movement is the recent acquisition of Rage Communications that signals the ambitions and direction of the network to become a digital transformation partner of choice.

20. What are your goals for ADK Connect in 2022?

Beyond growth and numbers, my goal is to create an agency environment and culture where not only will our clients rave about us, but more importantly, that the people in the agency rave about what a great place it is to work at. 

Right talent + great culture = great work + happy clients.

ADK Connect’s website
Kelvin’s LinkedIn

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 protected].

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