Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

One night in Bangkok

Updated 06 May, 2017 11:29am
There are two kinds of people in marketing world; those who shoot TVCs in Thailand and those who keep wondering why.

There are two kinds of people in the marketing world: those who keep wondering why all the TVCs are done in Thailand; and those who go there with their advertising agencies. According to a recent survey, 73% of Thailand’s total tourism revenue is generated through TVCs made by Pakistanis (Source: Sarcasm Private Unlimited).

The severity of the situation hit me when I was directing a TVC and took a client to Thailand. Bad decision. Those who know me know that I have zero social skills and lack the credentials needed to hire a client service person. This client – let’s call him X for the purpose of political correctness – was in PMS mode the second day of the shoot. Whenever I tried to communicate he would walk away like an angry, insecure girlfriend. Finally I confronted him and asked why the bad attitude. His reply was shocking. He said I was not looking after him like the ‘other’ agencies did, I did not even take him shopping and it was bad manners when I went to sleep early. Trying to salvage the scenario I took him shopping. We got to Emporium and I walked into a shoe store, giving him space to shop for whatever he wanted. After 10 minutes he came back fuming and said, “My shopping is done, let’s go back.”

The moral of the story was later explained to me by an Indian producer living in Bangkok. According to him when Pakistani clients want to go shopping with the agency, the agency is expected to pay. I asked him what if the client wants to shop for an iPad? He replied, “That’s generally the cheapest thing they buy. It is usually an HDTV, jewelry for their wives, gadgets for their kids and a high end phone for themselves, and yes, all of it is usually and happily paid for by the agency. And Neil, if you want smooth approvals then shopping is just one item on their list in Bangkok.” After that I stopped taking clients abroad, not because I am an angel but because I work on such margins that I expect the clients to foot my shopping bills.

Everyone in the advertising world knows what goes on in Bangkok stays in Bangkok.

Whereas internationally, you keep seeing new directors and producers coming up, only a select few Pakistani directors have managed to thrive and work regularly in the past decade. If you haven’t started wondering why, now is the time to start doing so!

The marketing world is a part of Pakistan, and thrives on direct and indirect kickbacks. Over 500 million rupees are spent on productions in Pakistan every year; a ‘decent’ production these days costs north of 10 million whereas the same production will cost 50% less in India. A top director’s average production costs over US $200,000. The estimated cost of Waar, a three hour film with top stars, songs, stunts etc was US $600,000 – now you do the math.

Undoubtedly the talk of the past week was QMobile and Kareena Kapoor.

Yes, it generated buzz, yes, it got a lot of attention and yes, it proved one more point – what happens when you suddenly get rich – you can buy fashion but you can’t buy class. The cardinal rule for using celebrities is making the product your hero and using the star as the sidekick. The ad appeared to be an ode to Kareena Kapoor, the concept was so weak and bland, it reminded me of tea and food at my UET hostel. It is proudly being claimed as the most expensive ad ever produced in Pakistan. Reminds me of the 80s when you could spot a person returning from Dubai by his expensive white suit, white shoes and a thick gold chain hanging on a bare chest.

2 out of 5 stars and the 2 stars are for Kareena – pun intended.

Apparently someone from Djuice has been reading what the Brand Police is up to. The new tactical is minus the loser teens. It has a fresh new appeal, but the question is if they wanted to associate losers with Djuice, why change it after three months. Make up your mind guys, and stop behaving like Mobilink.

One of the TVCs I liked (after a long time) is the new Blue Band campaign. The insight that kids want to grow up fast is spot on, the jingle is great and the product shots are delicious.

3 out of 5 stars for a great effort.

If you are in marketing, read this paragraph very carefully. Billboards are not brochures. I have been harping about this for the past 20 years and marketers in Pakistan don’t seem to get it. The new outdoor campaign by Jubilee Insurance may seem creative on paper, but driving at 60 MPH it appears to have been done by the students of the Karachi School of Art.

There is so much text in it that you have to park your car, get off, buy a bottle of Pepsi and then read it. For heaven’s sake, if you want to be creative use your brains and not your egos.

That’s all for this fortnight, I would recommend watching Sex, Lies, and Videotape, a 1989 American independent drama film that brought director Steven Soderbergh to prominence. The title reminds me of Bangkok agendas. To end, here are the top four kickbacks – sorry, travel perks – you can expect if you are a marketer traveling to Bangkok.

1) Cash
2) Shopping spree – unlimited
3) Family tagalong – yours or someone else’s
4) All of the above