By Lum Weng Wah, who ran his own agency, Nerve Centre, for more than two decades and also served as Director of Creativity & Design at LIMKOKWING University is a close buddy of the late Charley. MARKETING magazine joins Lum in this heartfelt tribute to Charley...
I worked for years designing cinema posters and billboards. And then I found myself right smack in the middle, in an office where they generate great advertising ideas and campaigns. It was a total culture shock for me from an established chinaman organization to join the advertising industry in the early 80s.
That must have been the golden years of advertising in Malaysia, and there was no better place than the dynamic environment of PTM Thompson.
It wasn’t very comforting to have so many heroes and industry captains in the cubicles all around me. These were creative hotshots, prima donnas and geniuses. Creative director Paul Loosely, Copywriters – Dell, Christine, Mike Cheah and Art Director Paul Liao, to name a few. The chemistry was simply incredible.
Clients’ brands were like toys, and ideas were playing out like games. We were meeting deadlines by the skin of our teeth and lots of crazy parties.
Amongst these stars, one shone the brightest – Charley Ghazali. Barely completed his diploma in Mara and internship, JWT whisked away to London. After an immersion program into the culture and philosophies of JWT International. Charley returned to head the creative team. Charley was flamboyant & stylish – a walking statement of a GQ model. He came across as arrogant (yes, he was), intelligent, cultured and very driven.
Most importantly, he delivered. His campaigns on Toyota and Toyota Land Cruiser were way ahead of their time. The TVCs swept most of the local awards and even brought Cannes Lions back to Thompson. The clients worshipped him, and the ladies yearned to be close to the man. I adored the guy. He was the rock star.
The shooting star did not stop there. Charley followed his calling and dived into filming with Jemima Films and Barney Studio.
We travelled to Sydney on a project when I was in Wings BBDO. The fire was still there. Only this time, he was kicking up a lot of fuss with the cabin crews demanding to upgrade his seat to the first class. Such is the temperament of a person super-talented and he always got things his way. He can be a prickly caterpillar and, another moment, a graceful, charming butterfly.
We crossed paths again in Lintas Worldwide, where he was the AV and in-house film director – a position probably created just for Charley. He oversaw all film production in the agency.
We lost touch for a good many years. About seven years ago, I brought Charley on board the LIMKOKWING University. He brought with him a wealth of experience from the industry to share.
The fierce flame that set the stage on fire from the 80s and 90s was still there. Now burning slower, and he was still sharp.
The University was an excellent playground for him. In events and graduations, you could spot the gentleman comfortably stylish in his 3-piece suit. We spent a lot of time together on campus and on road trips sharing our stories and memories.
For me, it was humbling to be able to spend buddy-time with someone I looked up to in my early days. I will never forget him as an explosively hot creative guy at the peak of his career and a graceful gentleman till the end.
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