Monday, January 29, 2007

The sporting connection

“Nothing motivates and binds a crowd more than a sporting game. The atmosphere and camaraderie at the stadium was more intense than any national day event. The power of sports is not to be underestimated.”

This was what I typed into my mobile phone while watching the semi-finals of the Asean Football Championship match between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium on Saturday.

The teams played in front of 55,000 screaming fans – the stadium was full to capacity – and every little right or seemingly wrong move by any of the players elicited a response from the crowd. From the ‘We want goals’ chants to the ‘Referee Kayu’ taunts to the obscene gestures, everyone was a soccer critic that night.

It was my first time at a live soccer match since the days of Singapore’s participation in the Malaysia cup and this time, I only went because I thought it would be a nice change from the usual Saturday lounging in front of the tele (watching the boyfriend watch soccer of course).

I went expecting to be bored so I charged up my mobile phone and prepared to play Scrabble alone all night, but boy was I completely wrong.

A mere 10 minutes into the game, I found myself sitting at the edge of the bench, cursing under my breath at a sneaky Malaysian tackle, and egged on by the vocal fan in front of me, was fully participating in all the cheering and jeering soon after. This same fan orchestrated about four ‘Kallang Waves’ and the longest wave went round the stadium like… five times!!!

It was a nail-biting match. Full-time ended with a 1-1 draw and the entire crowd held its breath as the penalty shootouts began. One by one the two teams alternated in taking shots at the goalies and each shot found the goal until… the last possible shot by the Malaysians was intercepted by Singapore goalie Lionel Lewis. has the story.

I can still taste the victory in the air. The stadium erupted with ecstasy and my friends and I, who had earlier on positioned ourselves at the exit, ran like school children out of the stadium whooping and cheering.

I spent the ride home that night remembering the Thursday before when Marketing held our first roundtable event. The Singapore Sports Council (SCC) sponsored the session and invited seven really senior marketing practitioners to a cosy lunch at My Dining Room and the topic was ‘Sports Marketing’.

One of the things I took away from the event was that while cost is a large entry barrier for companies wanting to get a piece of sporting action, the SCC says there are actually lower entry levels available.

I’ll leave the juicy discussion details to our March edition but it was interesting to me how marketers from Great Eastern, HSBC, Aviva, Coca-Cola and so on really see the benefits of investing in sporting events as a way to reach an audience.

After experiencing that almost magical evening on Saturday and feeling proud of my country, I’m starting to be more convinced of the power of sports marketing. Come on, ask me which brand sponsored Singapore’s new away, home and training jerseys?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What is the sincerest form of flattery?

Since Adrants started raving about the similarities between the Nicole Kidman ad for Chanel No. 5 and City Developments Limited’s ad for the One Shenton condo project --our inboxes have been flooding with links to the story. Judge for yourself…

And now for that CDL ad...

Pictures are taken from Adrants Daily.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Amateur filmmaker takes on The Trainee

A bunch of advertising folks got together last year to make a short film which has screened at film festivals worldwide and which a lucky few were privy to at The Butter Factory on Saturday.

The brainchild of Batey’s new creative director Craig Rosenthal, ‘The Trainee’, is an 8-minute piece which looks not unlike an ah beng movie ala Kelvin Tong but which makes a wicked comedic piece with unexpected twists.

If you recall, during Cannes last year, Craig and his creative partner Ivan Wibowo blogged for Marketing every day while in France, entertaining you with their brand of humour. I found myself checking my mailbox incessantly waiting for their daily report.

CANNES REPORT: Marketing’s man on the ground, Rosenthal

CANNES REPORT 2: Marketing’s man on the ground, Rosenthal

CANNES REPORT 3: Marketing’s man on the ground, Wibowo

CANNES REPORT 4: Marketing’s man on the ground, Rosenthal

CANNES REPORT 5: Marketing’s man on the ground, Rosenthal

So when Craig invited me and my team to attend the private screening of his first attempt at filmmaking, he also reminded me of last year and I was only too excited to attend.

In his invite, he stipulated “8 sharp movie” so I made the taxi driver speed in heavy rains to make it there by 7.55pm. But Craig’s been here for quite a while now and he’s been Singaporeanised and he has developed Chinese wedding dinner mentality and by the time the show started it was 8.45pm? Jialat.

Hahaha, ok back to the point.

The story takes place along the infamous Keong Saik Road and is about a trainee robber who tried to hold up a 24-hour convenience store with hilarious consequences.

It was only completed last October, after nine months or so, but has already been invited to attend famour film festivals such as the New York Shorts Festival, the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, the Cape Town World Cinema Festival and Cinemanilia.


Written and Directed by Craig Rosenthal

Cinematographer Haruld Goh

Producted by Adriane Lee

Executive Producers Susan Lim, Melvin Mak & Craig Rosenthal

Film Editor Spencer Boey & Yong

Colour Grading Cory Spykerman Brandon

Music & Sound Design by Jerry Teo

Co-Producer Kimberly James

Assistant Director Gayle Hariff

Casting by Marcia Tan

Title Design Ivan Hady Wibowo & Joseph Chiang

Art Director Steiner Lim

Props Assistant Perng Yu

Camera Assistant Dean Sam Quen & Ho Kah Meng

Gaffer Ailaster Chang

Grip Lee Kee Hong, Sheldon Ngiam & Willian Lim

Junior Grip Wei Hoo

Sound Recordist Jafry

Hair & Makeup Artist Red

Dog Trainer Valerie Wee

Production Assistant Sacha Leong & Terri Goh

Produced with the assistance of Cheers FairPrice, Teo Studio, VHQ, YellowBox

With Support of Singapore Film Commission

You can check out for more info or if you want to get your hands on a copy of the film, email

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cost price creativity

Who ever thought that “creative advertising agency” would appear as just another item on a call for tenders wedged between a call for suppliers of uniforms and doorman services?

We are writing a story on the commoditisation of advertising in the upcoming February edition of Marketing magazine and someone pointed me to a perfect, live example of the issue.

I refer you to . Look under Company Information, Procurement, Commercial Supplies.

Now look for what’s wedged between “Supply of standard size and tailoring of made-to-measure uniforms for Engineering Staff” and “Porter cum doorman services for period 01 April 2007 to 31 March 2009”.

It’s “Singapore Airlines request for information for global creative advertising agency review”.

I hear gasps from the audience.

Perhaps ad agency folks think too highly of themselves and cannot stomach having their expertise relegated to a spot between sanitary napkins and stainless steel kitchen knives.

But really, everyone knows creativity is one of the basic drivers of human civilisation. How else would we have even discovered stainless steel and sanitary napkins?

However, before you start pointing fingers at Singapore Airlines, it may be interesting to some that the main culprit subjecting advertising to such a degrading state is the government.

Our government puts out tender documents for almost everything it wants to purchase and it’s been doing the same for advertising services for eons. Thus spurning and feeding a generation of marketers who are ‘too busy’ to properly select its ad services providers based on fit.

Agencies are finding themselves steeped further and further in a cut-price market. Where does it end?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Revisiting the relaunched Viewers’ Choice

Over the next two Fridays (and one Sunday, on Vasantham Central), we get to view the top 20 ads up for MediaCorp’s Viewers’ Choice 2006 award.

The award programme recognises popular (perhaps the operative word here) TV commercials that garnered the most votes from the general viewing public. We wrote a story on it last year, when MediaCorp announced the relaunch of Viewers’ Choice (Viewers’ Choice makes return). In that story, it was reported that the public would judge ads in two phases, with this process to “allow advertisers a chance to understand market perception and observe the receptiveness of their marketing campaign”.

Believe me, as the average viewer stoning in front of the TV after a long day’s work, this award show is very very attractive. Come on, wouldn’t you want to win freakin $20,000, on the off chance that the ad you voted for is the winning commercial?

But as reporter with a marketing publication, I view this through a different pair of glasses, and it isn’t rose-tinted ones. For one, popular ads don’t always translate to mean effective. It could be a wildly popular ad, but if it doesn’t move stock or sell like crazy or have a significant impact on the bottom line, what’s the point? I remember a conversation I had with an overseas creative director at an ad conference last year, and I sounded him out about these award-shows-which-don’t –look-at-effectiveness. And he admitted very honestly, and I admire him for that, that hey, all creatives have huge egos and these award shows feed that. But personally, he isn’t too hot on these kind of shows simply because it’s much the same as designing a beautiful, breathtakingly gorgeous to look at chair, but which no one can sit on. Now what’s the use of that?

In a snap poll we conducted on this topic last year, we asked the question of whether there was any real value in the Viewers’ Choice award. 41% said yes, it's more important what people think than what professional judges say, while 59% said no, people vote for what's pretty, not what's effective.

Of course, if the ad is creative, wildly popular and boasts through the roof sales figures, then that’s great.

It’d be interesting if the Viewers’ Choice awards could display, beside each entry, results achieved for each campaign.

So yes, my sincere congratulations to whoever the winner of Viewers’ Choice 2006 is, and yes, as one agency head told us before, the chase for awards is important because it attracts talent and clients. But having said that, I still think it’s effectiveness, in terms of sales results, facts, and profit figures that will impress, attract and retain clients the most.

In any case, I think I’ll still put in a vote, as an average viewer of course, for which commercial will win. It wouldn’t hurt to win that $20,000 to fund my holidays this year. If you want to as well, here’re the top 20 commercials, in alpha order.

1. Adidas - Equipo
2. Anti-drug Abuse Campaign - Drug Dealer
3. CP Shrimp Wonton - Best Chef
4. Creative Zen Vision - M Panda
5. DHL - All the Way
6. Double A Paper -
Robot Remake
7. Energizer - Tower Ad
8. FedEx - Stepping Stones
9. Halls - Polar Bear Clean
10. Heineken - Past Experience
11. Huggies Pull Up Pants - Ready
12. McDonald's - ERP
13. Mentos Cool Chews - Date
14. M&M's Chocolate - Kaleidoscope
15. Motorola V3x - Striptease
Nippon Paint Odourless Premium All-In-One - Sumo
Singapore Army - Breaking New Ground
18. Sony Bravia - True Colours
19. StarHub - I am a Hub
20. VISA - Birds

Monday, January 15, 2007

It takes faith

News of Francis Wee’s new shop, Religion, piqued my interest when I read that the former BBDO ECD intends on turning his local agency into a global player.

From what I gather from the release, Wee started Religion as there hasn’t been any local ad agency that has succeeded in becoming a global player and it’s about time a local ad agency takes the lead locally, regionally and internationally, with the agency to “turn client’s brand into a religion, and convert its consumers to die-hard followers”.

At this moment, I should categorically state that I’m not saying that I doubt Francis’ ambitions or the success of his agency, please don’t get me wrong. In fact kudos to him for having the bravery, drive and ambition to take his new agency to lofty heights. As they say, no guts, no glory.

But on the other hand, I had to pause for thought when I read that part about a local ad agency becoming a global player. Francis told Marketing that by that, he means he wants to pitch for regional and global business as well as expand first regionally, then eventually globally. Whoa.

I have no objections to that, in fact, if it materialises, that would be nothing short of raising Singapore’s profile as a creative hotshop. While other agencies have done Singapore proud as well – a long time ago, it was The Ball Partnership and Batey Ads, and in more recent times, 10AM Communications – there hasn’t been a local agency to do what Francis hopes he can achieve. Both Batey and Ball were ang-moh owned (although with Ian Batey I’m steering very close to the edge since he created the Singapore girl), and to the best of my knowledge, but please correct me if I’m wrong, 10AM does mostly regional work. But the HSBC accounts of the world have always been handled by the O&Ms and Saatchis.

I brought up the point that wouldn’t he need to be part of a network, since as an independent it might be hard, but Francis said he believed the agency would be able to survive as an independent, take Mother for example. It has offices in London and NY, and who knows, it might take on Asia soon enough. If Francis, who has modeled his agency structure to the kooky agency, has Mother as a guide, then I think he should be all right. It’ll be tough days ahead, but who knows, the guy who remains the sole D&AD gold pencil winner outside of the US and UK might pull it off.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pick and stick

Gosh, the entire advertising industry is buzzing with excitement after the news that Singapore Airlines is up for pitch. It has been what, 35 years since it appointed Batey? Talk about loyalty.

It is rare to find mammoth accounts in Singapore, and it is even more rare to find ones that resist the urge to pick up and flee their agency after a short while to head for somewhere else that charges lower fees or which the client can “work better with”.

One that does come to mind is the Republic of Singapore Navy business which has stayed with Saatchi & Saatchi for over 22 years. The billings for the RSN account are obviously smaller than SIA (ST estimates it’s worth about $50 mil a yr), just based on the fact that one is local and the latter is global, but regardless of size, retaining something for that long is no small feat.

Hats off to Batey for holding on so long, and keeping a steady relationship with their client, and weathering storms together. It’s a shame there’s a chance they may lose the business considering they only have Metro left as a major client but a review after so many years is frankly overdue on SIA’s part.

Also, such is life when the agency lands a solid creative leader like Ng Tian It who signs up for the challenge but who is dealt such a hand even before he commences work officially. Same goes for Alan Fairnington who is also a godsend for the business, and who has only been in his role for a few months.

So Batey’s fate hangs in the balance. Will it win against all the odds? Will WPP throw its full weight behind it to make sure it retains the business? Or even if Batey loses, what steps will Sir Martin Sorrell take to keep the business “within the family”? Or will it all fall apart for what was once the Singapore icon for advertising?

This is like watching a soap opera. Drama lah.

Anyway, I feel we won’t be wondering for too long. An initial question will be answered fairly soon. SIA definitely has an idea whether or not to stop working with Batey. I think SIA would prefer to change agencies so it will get a fresh perspective on its business. And that means Batey enters pitches at an initial disadvantage (even though it has years of experience working with the client).

However, considering the introduction of leadership at Batey, the first presentation by Alan and team should be the deciding factor. If they can successfully wow SIA to giving them a shot at the second round of pitches, then their chances would be close to equal that of other second round suitors.

I have to keep an objective mind on this but I’m secretly rooting for the underdog.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Here’s looking at you, kid

I was alerted to this hilarious YouTube video while reading marketing and advertising e-newsletter, Adrants Daily – called The Truth in Ad Sales, it’s got every single ad industry cliché you’ve ever heard in your life.

There are no sacred cows in this clip, every aspect of the ad sales process between media agencies, media owners and clients is made fun of and even though it’s a generalisation, the title isn’t far off, no?

Friday, January 05, 2007

When given lemons, make lemonade

While clearing through my backlog of post-holiday email I came across this article on on how brands can respond to blog-generated criticism, and thought it an interesting read to share.

It’s an informal and entertaining how-to piece, and given there aren’t many guidelines out there on how to tackle this prickly area, I reckon it’s pretty useful for those of us PR, marketing and brand consulting people out there. It mightn’t be an exhaustive list or a confirm and guaranteed panacea to your woes of being criticised in the blogosphere, but at least it offers a few sound suggestions to take and adapt to suit the situation you might find yourself in.

Here’s the link:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Merry merry hopefully not quite contrary?

A new year and a clean slate to work with – for us poor sods back at work already (about half the world is still on leave till next Monday) how has your first working day of the year?

After two weeks away from my desk, I’m just emerging from a brain-induced holiday haze and finding my momentum, which is coming along albeit fitfully. But I really have nothing to complain about – because it looks to me like it’s going to be a great year.

And according to a study by UM, the majority of Singaporeans concur with me. On a scale of 10 (with 10 being perfect), Singaporeans have already forecasted that this year will rate as a 7.32, as opposed to last year’s 6.81 rating. While the study was spot on (for me at least) with attributing the optimism to more plans for overseas holiday jaunts, making a resolution to save more (although how I can save more while planning for more holidays is a mystery to me, but heck, at least it makes me feel purposeful), and hopefully gearing up a notch with the keeping fit goal (not withstanding the extra strong cup of coffee I had this morning, extra sweet please Uncle Seng), it was the little things that happened today that made me feel optimistic.

Like the surprise I got when I stepped into the office to find that the boss had thrown away all my junk from under and around my desk while I was away.

Like finding that someone had finally replaced the ceiling lamps with white lightbulbs, instead of the eye straining yellow lights that bugged me no end on many a late night.

Like hearing that in what seemed like eons (five years to be exact), Y&R has finally made a long awaited appointment and got on board a PR person to handle the agency’s public relations duties – we can now officially bug ex-Grayling PR staffer Justin Low no end.

So if like me you’re feeling optimistic about the new year, here’s Marketing’s best wishes for you – and cheers to a great 2007!