With his background predominantly rooted in entertainment and having an eccentric haircut, Allan Wai doesn’t fit the traditional Bloomberg mold.
But nine months after joining as Bloomberg Media’s first-ever creative director for global ad sales, he’s settling in just fine. Wai is in the midst of building an in-house creative agency that produces branded content for companies advertising across Bloomberg Media’s platforms.
“It’s a startup within a behemoth,” Wai told Digiday. “My job is not to produce creative, but put together a team that puts together great creative.” He’s built a team of 40 people, ranging from copywriters to motion graphic producers, stationed in four cities since joining last July.
Wai was lured from MTV, where he was a creative consulting director. Before that, he was at HBO where he helped design HBO Go and had previous stints at USA Network and RCA Records. But, he says, going from entertainment to business news wasn’t difficult because he still gets to figure out “unsexy stuff,” like building teams and establishing new workflows.
“I saw a lot of opportunity here and the mission of building a global revenue generating team seemed interesting to me,” he said. “[Bloomberg Media] appealed to me because it was different.”
As for that signature spiky hair, which people wouldn’t likely find bizarre at more liberal leaning companies, Wai said it actually helps him at Bloomberg.
“It’s an easy thing to talk about,” he said. “It’s an icebreaker.”
Here’s what Wai did last Friday, slightly edited for clarity:
5:00 a.m.: Jump on the exercise bike for 20 minutes, then breakfast. Today’s a big day, so I’m enjoying the peace and quiet while it lasts.
6:12 a.m.: The house comes alive as my wife and kids get up. I put the kids’ breakfast and lunches together, then check email as I get ready: 6 unread, not bad!
6:53 a.m.: On the train in to Bloomberg, listening to the Bill Simmons podcast before switching to the new Kendrick Lamar record.
7:29 a.m.: Arrive at Bloomberg. The sixth floor pantry is already humming as everyone gets into work. I grab breakfast #2. I need to keep moving during the day, so I avoid getting “hangry” by eating a bunch of small meals throughout.
7:48 a.m.: I’m on the set of our TV show Bloomberg Surveillance. We have two shoots scheduled today. When I started at Bloomberg nine months ago, I set about updating the image library for all our talent, so we’ll be capturing photo and video.
7:57 a.m.: Show host Tom Keene arrives on set. We’re going for a very cinematic look, so we’re shooting at a higher frame rate with very dramatic lighting. Everything looks awesome through the monitors. Tom keeps the set fun and loose with his running commentary, then cracks everyone up with joke about presidential candidate slips of the lips!
8:53 am.: It’s a wrap. Now onto the next shoot. We’ve got an hour to break down equipment and transport it to the other side of the building, to the set of Bloomberg Go.
9:58 a.m.: Co-anchors David Westin and Jon Ferro sign off the air, and our crew gets to work. We get some great footage, including a Scorsese-inspired over-the-shoulder shot of David walking onto set. Can’t wait to see how all this turns out.
11:58 a.m.: It’s a wrap. Soup time! I head back up to the pantry to grab a tomato soup and meet with our designer, Steph. We’re only two weeks from NewFronts, so we’re reviewing storyboards for the presentation.
Part of my job as Bloomberg Media’s first global creative director is to evolve our brand identity, so this will be a great opportunity to introduce our 2.0 toolkit. We’ve got new icons and data animations and great footage from our photojournalists including time lapse and aerial shots of our global offices.
12:30 p.m.: This is the only time I’ll be back at my desk today, so I burn through my inbox. Our video production has exploded the last few months, so I also need to go through a new batch of candidates. I really appreciate it when editors link to their reels from their resumes. Why don’t more people do this?
1 p.m.: It’s time for our group review, so everyone pins up what they’re working on. One of the projects is our new VIP experiential brand, Bloomberg X. It’s hilarious to hear designers debate the different styles of the letter X, but I love their attention to detail.
2 p.m.: Our Porsche campaign is launching today, so I’m reviewing the latest updates with Fernando, one of our creative leads. The page design and animation looks good, but we still have tweaks to the icons and videos before we can go live.
2:35 p.m.: Now I head upstairs to meet with Caroline and Amanda, who are prepping for next month’s Global Media Town Hall. My team will be developing the presentation for our CEO, Justin Smith. I love that Justin prefers big visuals instead of dense PowerPoints; it makes our job much more fun.
3:30 p.m.: Upstairs in the 29th floor auditorium, we’re screening our new content reel. It’ll be unveiled at NewFronts so we need to see how it looks on the jumbo displays. This has been a massive global project, working with creative teams in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Singapore, but it looks awesome and everyone’s psyched!
4:45 p.m.: Last meeting of the day is with Michelle in Brand Storytelling. We’re struggling with the rough cut of a marketing sizzle video. The animation is solid, but the narrative needs work. I suggest shooting some dialogue with our anchors next week to help fill in the gaps. It’s such a luxury to have your talent in-house.
5:32 p.m.: Back at my desk for a final email swoop before I leave. It’s been a crazy day, but I feel like we got a lot accomplished.
6:23 p.m.: I love getting home before the kids are in bed! We talk about their day at school, then I show them the content reel we finished today. My wife says it’s “classy,” and my kids say “that’s cool, Dad.” TL;DR: Today was awesome.
Photos: Kevin Trageser/Bloomberg Media.
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