This post is in response to Scamp's view about Cannes 2008, scam ads and advertising in Asia.
I'm from Singapore by the way, or better known as the land of scams. Although i can see us losing (or have already lost) the title to India pretty soon.
See, in the business we are in, and as most have agreed on Scamp, we are judged by how good, creatively, the work are (fuck the sales and brand recall bit). But unfortunately in a country like Singapore and I believe most part of Asia, we are still pretty much an ad-illiterate country.
Having said that, there were some memorable ads I saw on TV over the last few years. It probably gives you an idea as to where we are at but this is not a yardstick and I may be wrong as I’m only back once a year. They were short of award winning but it had everyone talking. Some even spoofed the mocca ads and post it on youtube. Search for it.. pretty hilarious stuff.
But generally, our TV and print ads resemble those that you see on daytime TV and regional papers over here.
It's all a bit presumptuous, mind you... Because both clients and agencies seem to hold on to the notion that the general public probably won't appreciate a Harvey Nicks boxing ring ad, so would rather chose to splash across, the prices of as many products you can squeeze, onto a broadsheet spread.
Add that to a combination of clients playing safe, agencies can't be bothered to fight for better ideas, and the public 'not ready' for it (according to erm, the clients and agencies).
SO herein lies the problem - how do you judge how good an agency is doing... right down to who gets promoted next year? Yes, billings counts but it means fuckall for creatives. You don't go knocking into Creative Directors and tell them 'after I did this ad which i showed the product now at a 50% discount, sales shot through the roof, their profits went up by 67% year on year'.
Another problem - the JWTs, DDBs, Saatchis of Singapore, India, Malaysia all have to answer to their parent companies in London and the US on how well they have performed. As much as it is about bottom line, being creative is our product. So something like 'TBWA Singapore this year had an exceptional year winning 5 big accounts and is the top billing agency in Asia' doesn't read excitement, except to perhaps the few money men/top management... I will be damn surprised if the head office MDs and CEOs only look at that when do their yearly review of worldwide agencies.
My point is, we are (increasingly, may I add) judged by how creative we are, not how much business we can win.. Things like the Gunn Report and those awards league tables don't help either.
So what do we do?
Scam ads. To show what we are made of. Not necessarily who we are.
It’s depressing if you ask me. I was just looking through the Cannes press shortlist of Singapore based agencies. One had ‘Post-its’ as their product. The Client? Gin He Stationary & Office Supplies.
But if I ever head home, I guess I'll have to live with that. And obviously I wouldn’t mind having a couple of Lions on my CV, a week of partying at Cannes and a pay rise straight after.
Advertising is quite fun if we forget about the bitching.
PS I'm not condoning scam ads but the industry we are in, sort of, manifests itself isn't it. It's vicious. It's ugly. But then again what isn't?
PPS Dave Droga did his stint at Saatchi Singapore. Saatchi Singapore is the mother of all scam ads according to a headhunter I spoke to recently.
PPPS One final thing. I want to give a special mention to BBH. Apparently BBH Singapore has always adopted a 'No-Scam-Ads' policy. The flip side is that with them refusing to ‘play the game’ they have fallen off the radar quite considerably.