Sunday, August 30, 2015

I loved my MTV!

I’m watching Up Dharma Down tonight! I can't wait to see them live again. While this can't possibly be true I feel like the last time I saw them live was probably ten years ago. This has of course triggered my nostalgia and has me thinking about all that has happened since then, and how - holy crap - this is my tenth year of work.

My first job was at MTV where I got to spend hours and hours listening to live music. I had never been into the local rock scene the way some of my friends were, chasing after Urbandub when they were in Manila, cramming into Saguijo, delighting in the fact that we were watching Basti live in Jesus Christ Superstar.

The world was alien to me but working at MTV introduced me to a piece of Philippine culture and art that I had for a long time struggled to relate to. My siblings and I belong to an odd subset of Filipinos who grew up on more Western influences than local. Which is coincidentally what drew me to advertising. Completely faulty logic, now that I think about it as a planner whose trade is focused on understanding the local truths that make people tick. I always loved art, film, music and television, and wanted to have a career in that field. If I had grown up in the US I would probably have tried to work for a TV network or studio. In the Philippines though, I knew off the bat that I had no affinity for local television or movies. Given the available tracks in my Communication course in college, Advertising (rather than Radio, Journalism or Film) seemed like a media world I could relate to. There were many ads I remembered growing up ("Ketchup please, Luis", "Goodbye, Carlo!", "Magpakatotoo ka!", the Katrina Globe ad) and it seemed like an industry worth exploring.

My internship at one agency shop not only lived up to the hype but cemented my passion for the industry. Signed, sealed, delivered. Locked and loaded? A done deal. I fell hard that summer and despite a terribly tumultuous relationship I am still committed.

After graduating none of my idol agencies offered me a job, no matter how many places I sent my CV to. I was also having an identity crisis, not being able to decide whether the right field for me was accounts or creative. I didn’t even know then that planning existed! I had always wanted to do design and while I had enjoyed my internship, where I worked under a lovely creative team, I left feeling like the discipline was too dependent on eureka moments that you couldn’t quite plan for. This seemed like too scary and random a construct to spend every professional day in. MTV was meant to be a stop-gap but I picked something up there that set course for my entire career.

The best thing I got from MTV was my first exposure to digital. I started out in PR and after six months was invited to move to the digital team. MTV was waning in cultural influence but was still advanced in the practice of integrated communications. Our channels were on-ground, on-air and on-line, with products created to exist on all three. I found this amazing, especially the online side. It sounds so cliché and passe now but despite my early exploration of ICQ and Netscape-based browsing, most of the digital world was new to me. As a Digital Producer I was in charge of populating our website and managing our fan community. I ended up playing around with Dreamweaver and I ended up learning to create web pages (in a WYSIWYG way) and enjoyed capturing content about the different bands and artists that came into our studios, including a still-favorite Up Dharma. (Cue post about how I learned who Ely Buendia is... Coming soon.)

Even if it wasn’t the social media age yet I marveled at this world of two-way interaction, which while always being a part of how MTV did things, was maximized online. I enjoyed content creation and publishing, the exercise of trying to create pieces to share that would get people excited about our world.

Needless to say the MTV story ended extremely quickly. Our doors closed which somehow made the last three months there so sentimental and even more memorable. My “Almost Famous” band-aid year wasn’t meant to be extended or prolonged, only captured in my memories as the perfect first job to transition from being a college kid to someone in the working world.

I look back on MTV, my first world of work, with so much fondness. It was a good year with enough fun to last me the next decade of sleepless nights and endless stress. I remember my first few weeks doing agency work thinking, “So this is what real jobs are like.”

I have absolutely no regrets about this path and a career that has taken me from our office in an under-populated Fort to all sorts of cities. Most of all I owe many thanks to MTV for infecting me with the digital bug.

"Future" // Urban Dub & Dicta License
"First of Summer" // Urbandub
"Pag-Agos" // Up Dharma Down

Post-event: Up Dharma at the St. James Power Station, Singapore


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