ASIA REPORT: THAILAND’S CREATIVE HOTSHOPS - Despite recession and devaluation, two O&M-affiliated agencies have set high creative standards in Thailand and won international praise. By Robert Dwek

O&M Thailand

O&M Thailand

The creative linchpin of this O&M outpost is Barry Owen, an Australian

with an art director/photography background. He settled in Asia in 1971

and is, by his own admission, the ’grandfather figure’ of Thai


Having been with O&M Thailand for 20 years, he now presides over a

creative department that comprises eight different groups with

a total of 40 writers and art directors plus a design department of


They are all Thai.

The agency’s main clients include Boonrawd Brewery, Bristol Myers

Squibb, Nestle, Unilever Thai Holdings and PCI Thailand, the local Pepsi


The ratio of international to local clients is roughly 40:60. All

broadcast work, which makes up the bulk of Thai advertising, and 90 per

cent of print media is produced in Thai.

The best-known piece of work from O&M Thailand at the moment - at least,

from an international perspective - is a 60-second commercial called

’weightlifting’ for a local client, Counterpain. This has received gongs

in London, Cannes and New York. Other recent award winners include

commercials for Singha Beer, Clairol Anti-D, Wrangler, PostTel, John

Henry casual shirts and Converse. Singha is perhaps the highest profile

local campaign: the account has been with O&M Thailand for the past 21

years, winning many awards and helping the client to enjoy a consistent

rise in sales.

Owen puts his agency’s success at international awards ceremonies down

to ’entering clear, original ideas, simply told’ although he is

frustrated that many ’excellent commercials’ are not put forward because

’they wouldn’t be understood’. He is confident, however, that the newly

inaugurated Asian Advertising Awards should help give a much higher

profile to local creative talent.

O&M Thailand’s business philosophy is ’in tune with the underlying

philosophy of the parent company’, which means ’solving our clients’

marketing demands in the most creative yet cost-effective way possible’.

Owen adds there is no ’signature style’ demanded by the agency. ’All

teams are given free rein to come up with unique solutions that reflect

the market not the agency.’

Obviously, Thailand’s present financial crisis is not making life easier

for the agency. Clients have reduced budgets and this ’has put an even

sharper focus on market performance for every campaign’. But Owen and

his colleagues are trying their best to see a silver lining in this very

black cloud: ’It’s a pause for a reality check really, not a bad thing

to occur in any market.’ Costs, which had escalated during the early 90s

as production facilities bought into high-end graphics technology, have

now become ’considerably more competitive’ thanks to the devaluation of

the baht.

Owen believes the association with a global network is ’a double-edged

sword’. The advantages are back-up, international client alignments and

quick access to the latest marketing advances. The disadvantages are the

costs of back-up, ’entanglements’ caused by alignments and the high

expectations and impatient demands of local clients.

Results Advertising Bangkok

A breakaway from O&M Thailand but still part of the O&M group, Results

Advertising in Bangkok claims to be ’structurally different from most

other agencies in Thailand’.

The agency’s managing director, Decha Tangpanitansook, says its ’very

flat’management structure has come about because ’cutting of layers is

part of our simplicity culture. We reduce departments, parts, steps,

time and so on to make things simpler, faster and better.’ His agency’s

aim is to create ’superior teamwork’ through close integration of its

three core disciplines - account management, creative and media


Instead of traditional departments there are ’brand teams’ whose

multidisciplinary approach is meant to allow greater focus on individual

accounts. ’Through brand teams,’ Tangpanitansook claims, ’we ensure that

all activities relating to the brand reflect, build and stay true to its

core values and spirit.’

Although it was only formed in January 1995, Results has already built

up a loyal client base, including Toshiba, Pepsi, Siemens (mobile

phones), Citroen, Mitsubishi, Swensen’s Ice Cream, Bank of Asia and

United Winery & Distillery. Recent campaigns for the UWD-owned Black Cat

Whisky have been recognised locally, regionally and internationally,

notably with a bronze lion at Cannes last year and a ’best of the best’

at the Asian Advertising Awards. But perhaps the highest praise came

from a public poll, in which it was voted the most popular commercial in


Results has a creative staff of 14, headed by Suthisak


The agency’s philosophy, says Tangpanitansook, is to ’create advertising

that delivers big results’. Like O&M Thailand, Results has been affected

by the country’s economic problems. Ad budgets in general have been cut

back by 30 to 50 per cent, which means the creative team has to ’work

harder to come up with great ideas that are simple enough to be produced

with much lower production costs’. Tangpanitansook adds: ’We constantly

remind ourselves never to let these constraints lower our creative


With total Thai adspend dropping by 1 per cent last year and by another

25 per cent in the first two months of 1998, Results, like other

agencies in the region, is cutting back on expenses and ’aggressively

seeking new business to plug the holes’. Tangpanitansook believes this

more hostile environment and fiercer competition between agencies will

continue. So far, however, Results has avoided laying off staff.


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