Apr 14, 2014

    I thought I left weird ads behind

    GROWING up in England, there was this perception that pony-tailed executives sat around in a boardroom, got stoned and created the world's weirdest TV ads.

    Off the top of my head, we had talking tigers, glowing children and dancing raisins. And they just advertised breakfast cereals. As an impressionable child, watching dancing raisins on TV was like an LSD trip.

    I'm wondering if those stoned, pony-tailed executives who once made commercials for British TV have brought their "talents" to Singapore.

    First, there was the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) ad, depicting a post-apocalyptic, deserted Marina Bay and an attractive couple with strange diction peeing on pregnancy kits.

    Then, just days later, a SingTel video promoting the company's remittance service - and the wobbling boobies of its male staff - surfaced.

    Apparently, the take-home message of the ad was not the service, but the male staff's impressive ability to jiggle their muscular boobies.

    Who are making these videos? Do they have ponytails? Can they be left alone with dangerous equipment, like pencils and paper? Have they thought about pursuing a second career once they complete their PSLE?

    I believe the ad execs indulged in a drunken game of one-upmanship, trying to outdo the other's lameness, saying things like: "You've got guys who sound like they were taught English in Mind Your Language? That's nothing. My guys sound like they were taught by Mr Bean.

    "You've got someone handing over a pee-stained stick as a gift? We've got rotating male nipples.

    "You've got cheesy 70s music and a wavy hairstyle last seen in Starsky And Hutch? Yeah, well, that still doesn't beat rotating male nipples."

    The bizarre booby thing really is spectacularly surreal. Two handsome guys promoting their remittance service by wiggling their pecs in a woman's face. If that's not going to get people to sign up, nothing will.

    If I had it my way, I'd have these guys standing outside my apartment, using their bulging nipples as a doorbell. Call me weird, but I'd never get burgled.

    The defence for both the STB and SingTel videos appears to be that they were produced with an overseas audience in mind, presumably a blindfolded one.

    The Philippine market was targeted particularly, suggesting the ad execs involved had a rather offbeat view of our neighbours.

    Consider the language factor. If the English in both videos was any slower, the actors would actually speak backwards.

    Apart from getting stoned in a creative meeting, I'm not sure if the ad execs carried out any research beyond saying: "We gave them dancing raisins in Britain, we can do anything! Pass the bong. This is a real psychedelic trip, man."

    For legal reasons, I must intervene at this juncture and point out that I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that drug taking of any description is involved in the creative process at ad agencies.

    They really do believe that the only foolproof way to sell a remittance service is, obviously, a pair of dancing male boobies.

    Presumably, at some level of the creative discussion, an ad exec said to another: "I like the muscle men promoting the remittance service, but it's missing something for the Philippine crowd. I can't quite put my finger on it."

    "Rotating nipples?"

    "That's it! And we can put a finger on the rotating nipple. That'll get the Filipinos excited."

    "What if they get too excited?"

    "Well, they can go for a cable car ride and pee on a stick. Stop hogging the bong, man."

    The ads were undoubtedly embarrassing (and I've made a couple myself, so I speak from experience).

    And I feel compelled to apologise to the Philippine community. We will do better next time. Lessons have been learnt.

    We recognise that a rotating male nipple is not a suitable sales tool for a remittance service.

    But I still think it'd make a great doorbell.