THE BEST OF ASIAN ADVERTISING: Asian ads are usually characterised by a mad scramble to drive up tomorrow's sales. Claire Beale takes a look at some of the mould-breaking ads that won at Media's Asian Advertising Awards 2000

Ask an adman in Asia why the region is still characterised by far

too many eye-wateringly dreadful ads and most will shake their heads and

spin you the same yarn. The real problem with advertising in Asia,

they'll tell you, is the clients.

Forget award-winning creative work. Many clients wouldn't recognise

award-winning creative work if it came prettily wrapped by the agency in

a box marked 'guaranteed to have you treading the red carpet'.

And forget brand-building, the slow-burn that establishes lasting brand

values. The real imperative for Asian advertisers is tomorrow's sales


Such an unwavering focus on immediate results may be understandable in a

market still unable to discard the tag of recession, but it doesn't

necessarily make for a stimulating advertising environment. Pile it

high, sell it cheap still reigns as a mantra across much of the

Asia-Pacific region.

All of which may sound like a smart- arse get-out-clause for ad

executives who fear unfavourable comparison with their Western

colleagues. And sometimes it is. But there's no doubt that Asian

advertising has its fair share of over-complicated, gimmick-laden or

just plain awful advertising. Unadventurous and undemanding clients,

combined with a patchy agency talent base, have fostered an uneven

advertising landscape, compounded by the wide variety of cultures and

regulations that characterise the region.

So when great work does emerge - and it certainly does - it's usually

the result of an electric meeting of a far-sighted client and an

advertising agency that refuses to put its name to second best. The

effect can be explosive, exciting, fresh and a match for the best

creative work anywhere in the world.

But even Asia surprised itself last month at Campaign's sister title

Media's Asian Advertising Awards. A crowd of 500 advertising luminaries

from across Asia packed into Hong Kong's Grand Hyatt to applaud the best

examples of their art over the past 12 months and they weren't


In a first for the awards, the freshest, most exciting work was a

product of the increasingly dynamic Indian advertising scene. Ogilvy &

Mather Mumbai and its Cancer Patients Aid Association client took top


It was the first time in the awards' 15- year history that an Indian

agency had walked away with the top prize - the Best of the Best


The anti-smoking TV ad, entitled 'the journey', shows an elderly man

giving up his seat for a young smoker, the implication being that the

smoker's health is in a more fragile state.

Paul Ruta, the creative director of M&C Saatchi Singapore, says of the

commercial: 'As a pack-a-day member of the target audience, I can tell

you that it's one of the few anti-smoking ads that presents a compelling

argument. On top of that, it's funny. A rare accomplishment in one of

the most over-trodden regions of probono land.'

Speaking of over-trodden regions, the judges did spot a number of common

threads that have proved, erm, popular over the past 12 months. Jack

Vaughn, the creative head of Principals in Australia, points out: 'You

could've almost started separate categories for, say, 'best use of Bruce

Lee'. Others could have been 'best use of

blowing-into-the-barrel-of-a-hairdryer-as-if-it-were-a-smoking-gun' and

'best use of shaved male heads'. I'm not suggesting this is plagiarism.

It's probably just coincidence. But it can go against entries if they

seem to be of a genre.'

So not surprisingly it was another fresh and innovative entry that

claimed runner-up status beneath 'the journey'. Again it was an O&M

campaign, this time from the agency's Thailand office with a TV

campaign, 'torture', for Wrangler Jeans. The TV execution shows a woman

attempting to destroy her husband's jeans after she finds a bra stuffed

into one of the pockets.

Ruta describes the ad as 'simple, universal, flawless, and my choice for

Best of the Best (which it lost by a hair)'.

Creative highlights were, in truth, relatively rare. Out of the 57

categories included in the awards line-up, no Spikes (category winners)

were awarded in 31 of them, while 12 categories were canned altogether,

including 'best regional campaign' and 'best regional print


Thor Santisiri, the chairman and executive creative director of TBWA

Next & Triplet Advertising in Thailand, blames the poor showing on a

naive preoccupation with wooing the judges: 'The ads that failed were

mostly the ones that tried to talk to the judges instead of the

consumers. They were too complicated and even incomprehensible because

they tried too hard to impress.'

Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand continued to produce some of the

strongest work in the region, though China made a good showing and O&M

Mumbai's win has put India on the creative map at a time when the

industry there is finally beginning to get the investment from the

global agency networks that its potential deserves.

The BBDO network walked away with the most trophies, with BBDO Thailand

scoring the highest, with three category winners and ten certificates

(runners up).

Danny Searle, the executive creative director of Clemenger BBDO in

Australia, is clear on one thing: when Asian advertising is at its best,

it's world class. 'The best work came from two extremes of the creative


It was beautifully crafted and inspiringly simple. Or raw and frantic

and madly frenetic. Which sums up the diverse cultures and focused

energy that makes the Asia-Pacific region so exciting,' he says.


Title: The journey

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai

Client: Cancer Patients Aid Association

The idea: Old man gives up his seat on the bus to a smoker


Title: Snow

Agency: BBDO Hong Kong

Client: Swire Property

The idea: It never snows in Hong Kong, except in this ad


Title: The love

Agency: Dentsu Japan


The idea: The ad shows people communicating through placards to

highlight the communication potential of


Title: Cuban missile crisis

Agency: Batey Ads Singapore

Client: Starhub Pte

The idea: Starhub is a telecoms company and this is an emotional

argument for the power of communication


Title: It's fun time

Agency: Hakuhodo/ Hakuhodo Creative Vox Japan

Client: Coca-Cola Japan

The idea: Life takes on a different slant when you drink Fanta


Title: Torture

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Thailand

Client: Central Garment

The idea: Men who wear Wranglers should beware what they put in their



Title: Father

Agency: Euro RSCG Partnership Singapore


The idea: Share your emotions using Earth's messaging service


Title: Leaf

Agency: Leo Burnett Singapore

Client: Singapore Discovery Channel

The idea: Highlighting the way the rainforest is being destroyed by



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