Harmandar Singh enjoys swimming in the river of words and playing with them like a guitarist plucks his notes. He’s happy to jump into a whirlwind of grammar and syntax, tweak a turn of a sentence, or try to enhance the nuance of a sentence. Ultimately, he can tell you what he wants to say in just one word.
It’s a skill this advertising guru has honed for 32 years. Ham, as it is called, made brands and people famous and infuriated. Rooted in the coronavirus, he felt the time had come to reflect on his journey in an industry that is the catalyst for commerce. Rainmaker is his life story, a compendium of his thoughts, experiences and interactions with people, articulated in his inimitable style.
The title proclaims itself, says this “creative advertising director turned rogue”, and he wears it like a badge. Ham has won numerous awards for his campaigns; worked with top agencies in London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Manila; key events organized; put people in the best jobs; and served as a broker for international companies coming to Malaysia. He directs Sledgehammer Communications and teaches at Taylor’s University’s School of Media and Communications, and has led media missions for Mercy Malaysia.
“You name it, I did it. Let me be shameless: I got to the point where I want to tell myself that I am that special person who brings a little bit of hope and blessings. It is not inappropriate for me to call myself the rainmaker.
“I’ll work my ass on anything and the hard work has paid off. I got rich, of course. My network is global and I know the best people who have done the best work, on a personal level. I had all kinds of adventures and it was a joy.
Faithful to one who knows the impact of succinct writing, Ham keeps the pieces of his book short. He groups them into chapters, each starting with “Tales of…”. have left the country and shine abroad, what about after Covid in a world that wants tomorrow today, and how to make it rain.
Some pieces are old, like his homage to the legendary Yasmin Ahmad, whose mantra was to be positive, who “grew so small talking to you … and showed us how easy it is to be humble, how is easy to be nice “.
Ham cannot say enough about his late great friend who fought tirelessly for his ideas. “People who don’t fight for a good idea will never sell anything in life. Yasmin did an amazing job, then introduced it to his clients and made them feel like they got the idea.
Advertising tales have gems from that old pro, from the whys of the need to advertise to lies and new marketing lessons based on old truths, what marketers actually sell, the need for transparency and how advertisers can survive anything, no matter how whipped they are.
Ham says the business has become more fragmented since he started, but the skills required, critical thinking and original vision are still relevant. The platform has changed and the system has become interactive with digital, but the challenge of writing and the art of persuasion remains.
“The implicit function of advertising – it’s all about persuasion – is always the same. Pulling on the triggers, the emotions, it all comes down to observation. You have to consume life liberally to understand the nation and observe how things work, how people think and react.
“Good work will always stand out. The ideas are not original, but the combinations are new. You rearrange the language to express certain details.
“The customer comes and tells us what he wants to say. We tell them how to say it. We are not reinventing anything. We just take a complex situation and simplify it, let’s put it in three words. Then we explain and build the campaign from there. Everything we do in the world sells. Simplifying an idea and magnifying it is what we do.
This accidental publicity man who snuck his way into the ad in a mistaken identity case – “We all turbanators are alike” – also ponders getting shy with grace, and some things he knows with certainty.
“I know that the hands of technology will continue to have a hand hidden in political destinies. I know everyone wants everything for free. I know I live in a world of unbelief where lies lie in wait. I know I have more friends than enemies. I know the young people in our industry are really trying to shine. I know they don’t really know how much I believe in them.
Assembled ham Rainmaker within two weeks in September. He’s working on his biography, which he hopes to launch next year. “I thought that by doing this, let me eliminate this one.”
“I write about 20,000 words a week. I am an experienced writer who has been writing for a very long time. I was a columnist with The star for 11 years, I wrote scripts and commercials, and I have my weekly e-magazine, MARKETING Weekender. I shot six videos online this year.
“I am perpetually creative. My philosophy is this: when you are on, you are on. Either you have it or you don’t.
He is now involved in Rasuah Busters, an initiative of the chairman of Karangkraf Media Group, Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub, to fight corruption. His old friend asked him to join this crusade and Ham, who is “ready to face anyone”, produced trilingual videos to get the message across with the Mak Kata Jangan! countryside.
Work on Rainmaker made Ham understand one thing: “It is very likely that from next year I will be nothing more than an author. I was really so happy to have this whirlwind of words, to join the syntax, to reinvent the bloody grammar. If that makes me happy, alright the H. Seriously, after my bio I can get down to writing movies, comedies, TV shows, and more books.
Buy a copy of “Rainmaker” for RM 37.50 here.
This article first appeared on November 22, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.