Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ads for Singapore National Obsession

What if the German Team Wins the World Cup?

I went to the cinema a few months ago for the first time since I've been in Singapore for years (I'm a movie buff, I just haven't been to the cinema). I went because I got free ticket. These days, I can only be lured out of my house with free tickets (like carrot to the bunny. Well I don't like carrot, and I'm not furry and cute. Truth be told, free ticket lit up my eyes better than carrots).

Before the movie started, 4 ads were shown. They were all community ads, not commercial ones. And all these ads revolved around only 2 topics: National Service, and problem gambling and its bedfellows loan-sharks.

These 2 types of community ads are scattered in billboards across Singapore, but their focus are overwhelmed by commercial ads. These pre-movie community ads brought these 2 things into sharp focus.

Singapore Army recruitment poster
Singapore Army recruitment poster

Community message warning against borrowing from loan sharks
Community message waning against borrowing from loan sharks
Ah Longs is local slang for loan sharks.

National Service (or NS as it's more commonly referred with the Singapore's obsession (another obsession) to abbreviate everything) is numero uno topic among Singaporean, especially the youngsters because the NS is a kind of rite of passage into manhood for them. I don't think there's any other country make more boot-camp/military training movies than Singapore (as well as documentary, reality TV, etc). Hollywood may make more of these movies in absolute number, but it has no match in percentage term. If not more than America in quantity, at least more popular. And not surprisingly, the Hollywood boot camp flicks are very popular here.

In fact Singapore is probably the only country where there is a theatre production on this genre. 1987 Army Daze was such a theatre play. Of course, Singaporean liked it so much, it was made into a movie in 1996.

Ah Boys to Men
Yet another very popular army training film.
I think it would be better if they have the guy on the extreme right moved to extreme left.
And the 2nd guy on the right moved to the 3rd position from the left.
The idea is getting the Darwinian evolution thing when we evolve from lower to higher form.
This movie is about boys evolving into men

Spoiler alert: the movie I watched was Robocop. I don't know if the military recruit ads I saw was due to this particular movie or these are typical ads in cinema. I have a feeling the latter. I could be wrong.

Let's move onto the next national preoccupation (I won't mention eating and shopping if you don't).

Problem Gambling is a serious social issue in Singapore, and its partner-in-crime the loan sharks who lure the problem gamblers with exorbitant interest rate. I had a few brushes with them that I accounted in these 2 articles, "A Paint Job by a Student of Jackson Pollack?" and "Got a Hell Banknote on Chinese New Year".

The government took the opportunity of the World Cup to launch an advertising campaign regarding problem gambling in sports betting. One of the location of this ad is the billboard at the taxi stand in Holland Village. I live near there. Since they put up this poster at the start of the Game, I must have walked past this billboard at least half a dozen times.

In one of this time, I was with Etta. I pointed out to her that this ad campaign takes a risky move. What if Germany wins? It would send the wrong message. I told her. She asked me if Germany has a chance. I'm not a hardcore soccer fan. In fact, I know just about only 2 things about the soccer game: Pelé is the King, and the German Team has been a rising star in this sport in the last 10 years. So I answered her, "quite likely."

Community ad that delivers warning message about sports gambling based on World Cup 2014, Singapore
Community ad that delivers warning message about sports gambling
Source: Reuters (click to enlarge)

It seems that the guy who run this campaign knows less than me about soccer. I think they have a new found respect for the German team after today.

And another thing, Holland Village is a fave haunt for expats, and I'm quite sure some would be German. Such lack of faith in their national team seems, well, unseemly. O ihr, wenig glauben !

I quickly went out to take a photo of the billboard for this article, but it had been swiftly replaced when the news of German defeated Brazil was announced, and before the World Cup final even started. I imagine the ad was expected to stay up sometimes after the World Cup finishes. The red-faced marketing team was efficient. So I have to borrow the photo from Reuters, which I recognise is the billboard I'm talking about. This is the poster I saw, instead.

The ad got taken off rather swiftly

Well, there's still a slim chance Germany may lose...isn't it? Well, they wouldn't bet on it. They aren't problem gamblers. But they were betting on Germany to lose, didn't they? We may not all be problem gamblers, but we make bet everyday. Sometimes, in fact most of the times, we have no choice.

Oh, did I mention there's also a TV ad?

Don't get me wrong, Singapore probably has lower crime rate than most countries (but you know that already). As this poster I saw said (when I caught my first bus in Singapore),

community ad with ostrich, singapore
Ostrich sometimes buries its head in the sand

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