20 Questions with Patrick Low, Founder & Creative Partner of Goodfellas – Media Agency Interviews

Josiah Neo Media Agency Interviews

Name: Patrick Low
Role: Founder / Creative Partner, Goodfellas
Age: 67

With over 40 years of experience in advertising under his belt, founder and creative partner of the agency Goodfellas Patrick Low is a juggernaut in Singapore’s creative industry. We recently got the opportunity to pick his brain for a peek into his creative process, his influences, and a preview of his impressive football trophies.

1. What are your hobbies?

My hobby is of a more physical kind. Ever since I started kicking a football in school, I haven’t stopped. I won my first trophy with St Joseph’s Institution in the National Schools competition and later many more for my clubs, the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC), Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) and Essex Lasallians. The last trophy I won was before the pandemic lockdown in 2020 at the Penang 7s.

patrick low football trophies
Patrick’s collection of football trophies.
Image credit: Patrick Low

Football has taught me the importance of discipline, hard work, and team spirit, and I’ve made many good friends and lots of fond memories. My most memorable game was for the SRC at the 1991 Singapore International Soccer Sevens. We lost 0-1 to the British All-stars comprising World Cup legends Bobby Charlton, Jeff Hurst, Pat Jennings and Kevin Keegan.

2. What is your favourite quote and why?

“Less is more”, a phrase often used by Mies van der Rohe, one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. It’s very apt for advertising and design and how we should lead our lives.

3. What is your favourite movie?

I have many favourites, but The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino will be my choice if I have to pick one. It’s a poignant film about 4 friends drafted to fight the Vietnam war and its devastating effects beyond the physical.   

4. What is your favourite song?

Like movies, I have too many favourites, but The Long and Winding Road is top of mind because it reminds me of life in advertising.

I was 15 when I first heard the Beatles’ last single in 1970. Paul McCartney had written about his love Linda, but to me, It’s about life, a marathon with many twists and turns. The goal isn’t about reaching the finish line but making the journey as pleasant as possible.

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

I’m not a foodie and don’t eat out much. When I do, it’s usually at the SRC or SCC. I love spicy food, and Masala Chicken at Apollo Banana Leaf is my favourite. The restaurant is nothing to shout about. Its walls are tiled like their toilets, but I don’t go there to eat the atmosphere. 

5. Three words people use to describe you.

You haven’t changed.

patrick low
Image credit: Patrick Low

6. Three words you use to describe yourself:

Enjoy each day.

7. What is the last movie you watched?

Roma is a film by Alfonso Cuaron set in Mexico City in the 1970s. It’s beautifully told through the eyes of a maid in a middle-class household. A true masterpiece.

8. Who are the people that influence & inspire you?

My dad and I were not very close, but his honesty and principles left a lasting impression on me.

My ex-boss, the late Brian Harrison, exemplified fairness and humility. When he arrived in Singapore to manage Y&R – now VMLY&R – in the 1990s, he didn’t replace the local management team with his mates from England like most of his contemporaries but instead allowed us to win his trust.  

Next is someone I don’t know personally but who has profoundly shaped my philosophy. When George Orwell wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” it wasn’t just a satire of the dictatorship in USSR in 1945 but one of the critical failings of humankind to this day. As a boss, I’m mindful that I could easily be seduced by it.

Finally, my wife Patricia, whose selflessness is a quality I admire but struggle to emulate. It’s still a work in progress.

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

There were many great moments, but nothing beats the surprise birthday gift on my 60th Birthday.

patrick low birthday ad straits times
Image credit: Patrick Low

Some of my colleagues, industry partners and clients had taken up an ad in the Straits Times to wish me a Happy Birthday. I almost spilt my coffee when I read the papers that morning.

11. Which campaign done by others that most inspired you?

 

Apple’s “Think Different” ticks all the right boxes. From its strategy to its execution, it inspired a generation of creative people and turned its customers into fans. 

12. Which campaigns are you the most proud of?

I love advertising for a good cause, and three campaigns stood out for their impact and effectiveness. 

The first was for the Singapore University of Technology and Design. They needed to increase their female intake from 15% to 30% in their 2012 admission exercise, but the problem is that most women view a career in engineering and technology to be unglamorous and arduous; it was thought to be a job more suited for men.

 

Instead of an ad showing women in comfortable surroundings, we decided to inspire likely candidates by showcasing a few of the many life-saving inventions by women. The result was a campaign which not only helped change the negative perceptions of women in technology but also increased its female intake to 45%, surpassing its original target.

The second was for drink-driving. Every drink-driving campaign encourages drivers not to drink and drive, yet motorists continue to do so despite the penalties and risks. 

 

Based on an insight that when one drives to drink, they would most likely drive home, “Don’t drive to drink” became the new mantra chosen by the World Economic Forum as an example of advertising for good.

The third was for OCBC Arboretum, which recently won the inaugural Anthem Awards, honouring the purpose and mission-driven work of companies.

 

It featured a Hill Mynah mimicking the sound of a chainsaw to reveal the cause of deforestation.

13. Which campaign do you wish you had done differently?

I’m never entirely thrilled with the work I created because I always believe it can be better. The spot for Ericsson R310 comes to mind. Till today, after almost 20 years, I wish I had taken a humourous approach instead of a serious one.

14. What is a fun fact your employees don’t know about you?

When I was 6, I was featured in the newspaper for my drawing skills.

patrick low newspaper cutting
Image credit: Patrick Low

15. What do you look for in employees when hiring?

Honesty, integrity, and good taste.

16. Do you have any advice for people to become more creative?

Meet people, not just those you are comfortable with because they can offer interesting insights for your ideas. Expose yourself to good design, advertising, architecture, films, and books. Most importantly, hang out with creative people from all fields because most creative people possess good taste, and good taste can be acquired just like bad taste.

17. What advice do you have for students thinking of starting a career in an agency?

Be passionate about the business, have a desire to learn and possess a team spirit.

18. Any shout-outs you want to give or interesting projects you’re working on?

The past 2 years have been the most difficult for us. I’d like to thank Malaysia Dairy Industries, Bank of Singapore, OCBC, Pigeon, Aqualita, Rejuve, and 5hr Energy. Their trust and support have enabled us to do what we do best in the worst of times. 

19. How do you think Goodfellas stood out in the competitive agency world?

I’d like to think that we are punching above our weight. It’s incredible how much work nine fellas can create. Less is truly more. 

20. What do you hope to accomplish at Goodfellas within the next year or so?

When I get up each morning, the only question I ask myself is, “What can we do to solve our clients’ immediate problems today?” Since I’m not very good at predicting the future, I can only wish that we continue to do good work and have fun doing it.

Goodfellas’s website
Patrick’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].

Stay up to date!Receive news, promotions and more via email from The Smart Local