Asian creativity is finding its own distinct voice, writes Maria Shamsi, Creative Director, Synergy Dentsu.
“But still like dust I rise… ” These powerful words by Maya Angelou befit the Asian ethos.
Asia is the world’s largest and fastest growing consumer market. It is one of the world’s fastest urbanising regions and analysts predict that by next year, Asia will be home of half of the world’s middle class, resulting in more consumers empowered to make purchase decisions.
For businesses, Asia represents the future of growth, but given the diversity of the challenges facing the continent, the transformation of business and society requires creative and innovative solutions.
Innovation is not alien to Asia. It has its own tech giants, such as Alibaba and Baidu, China’s Tencent and Japan’s Rakuten and SoftBank, among others. Industries across the region are digitising and reinventing new ways of creating value – a shift that is creating extraordinary opportunities. A common misconception is that developing Asia lags behind in digital, when in fact it is the other way around. Consumers are increasing their use of digital products and services, sometimes even faster than their peers in other parts of the world. The receptiveness to digital is reflected in the size of the mobile payments market, which is significantly higher compared to the US, where people are still happy to use their cheque books. WeChat has garnered 700 million users in China; an inspiration some may say hailing from WhatsApp and Facebook, but with integral, locally adapted elements, thereby proving the relevance and importance of locally innovated solutions.
The Asia Pacific region is also the second largest advertising market in the world. Two thirds of the advertising revenue is concentrated in China and Japan, while the fastest-growing markets are India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Given the region’s vastly distinct economies of scale, huge cultural differences are present. On the surface, one may think that Hong Kong and Singapore are similar or even Pakistan or India for that matter. Yet, as similar as they may seem in some ways, their social fabric is different. In Hong Kong, communication works best if delivered within a local context and in Cantonese, whereas in Singapore, ads tend to be global and use English as the primary language. The age of uniformity in communication for global brands in Asia is becoming a thing of the past and different markets require different advertisement approaches, tactics, communications and strategies. There is not one Asia. Consumers in each market are local with deep-rooted and distinct languages and cultures.
Increasingly, consumers are favouring locally relevant authentic content and this is the main reason why domestic brands are disrupting the status quo. It is becoming problematic for brands when the creative direction is dictated by global teams. There are still strict mandates in place to not create assets at a local level and this creates a disconnect between brands and their potential customers. Many brands have failed because of their ‘big white box’ strategies and it is imperative for global brands to focus on the local cultural context if they want to achieve brand love and relevance. The way forward is to find a balance between local expertise and regional best practices. Very often creativity is judged to be inauthentic and lacking in strategic depth.
Consumers are looking for brands with a powerful brand purpose, those with the intent of making the world a better place. Brands are under pressure to become agents of change. This has led some brands to develop ground-breaking solutions, tailor-made for their markets.
Japan’s, ‘The Most Challenging Ping Pong Table’ was aimed at raising awareness of the challenges Paralympian athletes face. JPTTA collaborated with TBWA/Hakuhodo to develop special ping pong tables where different ranges of physical challenges the athletes faced was demonstrated by changing their shape.
In Australia, in ‘The Signs of Love’ campaign, ANZ Bank worked with TBWA to change 123 signs on the numerous Oxford Streets dotting Australian cities into unique representations of the LGBTQ+ community. In a country where the LGBTQ+ community still feel unsafe in certain areas, ANZ drove home a message of diversity and commitment to social equality.
In India, HDFC organised a national blood donation drive and to raise awareness about this initiative, the bank launched their #StopMithani campaign aimed at encouraging young people to donate blood. This communications was based on the true story of Jyotindra C. Mithani, who donated his blood every year (151 times over 40 years), but now having reached the age of 65 years, he needs to stop, but he won’t unless younger people are willing to take the relay.
Thailand’s ‘7:1 Furniture Collection’, is the first high contrast range of furniture which uses a colour contrast ratio of 7:1 to make objects more visually accessible to visually impaired people.
In South Korea, according to the law, every living space must dispose of fire safety equipment, but less than 60% of homes actually own one. Taking on this insight, Samsung developed Firevase, a vase that doubles as a fire extinguisher.
In Pakistan, the ‘Stop Dowrymongering’ campaign by BBDO focused on a deep rooted, yet pernicious practice. A henna stamp was created as a sign of resistance urging people to ‘Stop Jahez Khori.’ The campaign sparked a nationwide conversation and debunked the myth that the practice of dowry was ordained by religion.
These campaigns have a common thread of delivering on a higher brand purpose and were the most awarded at Spikes Asia 2019. These are not only insightful campaigns; they started a conversation on fostering real change. And it is with campaigns such as these that Asia is finding its distinct voice.
After Spikes 2019 with its theme of ‘Asia Rising’, the next big industry event will be AdAsia 2019, in Lahore in December – and the theme is Celebrasia. Both themes were devised to applaud Asian creativity which often goes unheard and unseen. Asia needs such centre stages to showcase its work and find its voice.
Maria Shamsi is Creative Director, Synergy Dentsu.