The good, the bad and the ugly of 2013

2013So, the end of 2013 has come. For some of you, it has ended too soon. For others, it couldn’t come soon enough.

But what were the best and worst moments for Asian media and marketing?

We’ve had a go at compiling the good, the bad and the ugly…

Biggest wake up calls for Asia’s adland to think differently about work-life balance: The sad passings of twentysomethings Ogilvy PR China executive Li Yuan and Y&R Indonesia copywriter Mita Diran, both allegedly from overwork.

Sky drone in action in Bangkok

Sky drone in action in Bangkok

Best (or potentially the worst) innovation for journalists: the skydrone, used to great effect during the recent unrest in Thailand.

The toughest brief: Singapore Tourism Board, which moved its account from BBH to JWT. Uniquely Singapore then YourSingapore, and now what…?

Most astroturfed post on Mumbrella: An interview with Vicki Dunstan, the Asia Pacific president of the Church of Scientology. “It’s nice to know that Asia seems to be less discriminatory towards Scientologists,” said one poster.

Most unfortunate name for a client: Candice Greedy, executive director, destination marketing, Marina Bay Sands (a casino – sorry, integrated resort – in Singapore).

View from IPG Mediabrands Thailand

View from IPG Mediabrands Thailand

Best view from an ad agency office window: The office of Wannee Ruttanaphon, boss of IPG Mediabrands Thailand, from the Imperial Tower, South Sathorn Road, Bangkok.

Biggest faller in the press freedom index: Japan. Due to a lack of transparency over the Fukushima disaster, the country slipped 31 places in the Reporters Without Borders table. Next biggest fallers were Cambodia and Malaysia, where the French organisation said access to information is becoming more limited and censorship is on the up.

The most retweeted tweet: From Lea Michele, acknowledging the death of ‘Glee’ co-star Cory Monteith. It was re-tweeted more than 408,000 times from 133 countries.

John Merrifield

Merrifield: “no one cares about advertising”

Most controversial statement about a previous job: John Merrifield, the former creative-at-large at TBWA APAC, and now creative chief at Google Asia. “No one cares about advertising,” he told delates at the AdAsia Congress in Hanoi after 15 agonising minutes ad-libbing before the tech staff got his presentation to work. “Nobody is sitting there waiting for advertising. The only people who care about advertising are those in the advertising business – and brand loyalty is largely a myth.”

Richard Branson and Tony FernandesMost embarrassing PR stunt: Virgin honcho Richard Branson dressed as a woman, cradling AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes like a baby. Cute? Or enough to make Josef Fritzl shudder?

The most overused buzzwords/phrases: TV is dead. Facebook is dead. Newspapers are dead. Journalism is dead. The whole industry is dead, apparently. Except for Big Data. And content – that’s still king. And 2013 was Year of the Mobile. Like every year since 2002. And will everyone please stop saying “pivot” to mean a change in strategy, just because the US government has recently decided that Asia is important?

Most groveling apologyMangham Gaxiola to Ogilvy after settling out of court over a client poaching claim. “We accept that our conduct in setting up Mangham Gaxiola over stepped the mark. In particular, we should not have approached Ogilvy clients whilst Stephen [Mangham] was subject to contractual restrictions during gardening leave,” etc.

DM9 apology

Or DDB DM9’s apology to Ace Saatchi & Saatchi Manila. A DM9 creative director wrote a passage of copy while he was on staff at Ace Saatchi & Saatchi, which was used in a house ad for DM9 that ran in a national newspaper.

Or Singapore Press Holdings to IPG Mediabrands account manager and opposition politician Nicole Seah over a few misleading headlines to do with Seah’s personal affairs. “The headline of the article, “Nicole Seah uploads photo of her with a man believed to be married”, as well as the first line of the article which mirrored the headline, did not correctly reflect the rest of the article’s content…” To put it mildly.

Strongest sign that good products don’t need marketing: Beyoncé releases her latest album on iTunes with no warning; 80,000 albums sold in three hours.

Best meta-advertising: Burger King in Australia acknowledges consumer hatred of pre-roll ads, with pre-roll ads.

Most loaded press release: “We do not arbitrage” (selling digital media to clients without disclosing the original cost), claimed IPG Mediabrands when it rolled out its agency trading desk Cadreon, implying that its rivals do just that.

Most overplayed ad at marketing events: McCann Melbourne’s Dumb Ways to Die for Metro Trains (we’ll spare you the replay, you’ve seen it before…)

Worst public safety ad: Singapore’s Public Utilities Board’s bizarre creation, the Water Wally Shower Dance.

Best public safety ad: Drug-driving in Aotearoa for the New Zealand Transport Agency by Clemenger BBDO Wellington (might need a Kiwi-English translation for this one).

Dunkin Donuts blackface


Most debatably inappropriate ad: Dunkin Donuts’ blackface poster in Thailand. Racist? Western media was upset, local media didn’t know why.

Most exciting agency launch: Profero relaunches in Hong Kong, three years after leaving the market, at a time when many agencies were retreating – including M&C Saatchi and DraftFCB. Also worthy of note: Host in Singapore, Y&R in Burma, Goodstuph in Hong Kong, Brand Tribe Asia in Hong Kong, IAN in Singapore, Australian PR firm Spectrum Communications in Singapore – and also in Singapore: Big Mobile, Outbrain and Media Monks.

Ballsiest media launch: Singapore socio-political website The Independent, not long before another blog, Breakfast Network, was shooed out of the market by the media regulator.

The most dangerous place in Asia to be a journalist: Vietnam – the sharpest rise in the jailings of journalists in the region (according to Reporters without Borders). The Philippines is where you are most likely to get killed if you’re a journalist.

Most interesting media launch (that never happened): HKTV. Not granted a free-to-air broadcasting licence by Hong Kong’s government. Why? Still anyone’s guess…

Most watched ad on YouTube globally: Evian ‘Baby and me’ by French agency BETC.

Most watched ad on YouTube in Asia: Turkish Airlines featuring Kobe Bryant and Leo Messi.

Best Dr Mumbo: A lawyer walks into an advertising agency and asks for a job… ‘I find it laughable that you should be lecturing a law graduate‘.

Best news for Chinese brands: Edward Snowden.

Biggest criticism of media agencies by a media owner: Media agencies are still obsessed by volume, not data, says the Asia boss of the Financial Times, Angela Mackay.

Most curious comment during a presentation at Cannes. “We need to turn shit into a media darling,” said Jack Sim, better known as Mr Toilet, the Singaporean founder of the World Toilet Organisation.

Most exploitative PR stunt: Adidas offers gym membership to Singaporeans in the middle of the haze problem – as long as they’re wearing Adidas clothing.

Most in-demand rising star: Christel Quek, social media lead at Samsung, who like many others found herself without a job following a restructure in September.

Best use of online video. Volvo trucks. “When you want to make a YouTube hit, you need a hook at the beginning,” said the company’s CEO while dangling from a crane. (Perhaps more kudos should go to the sound guy suspended precariously above him…)

Most eloquent rant: Rob Campbell’s speech about China at Mumbrella360 in June titled ‘You don’t have to be a sadomasochist to work in China but it helps’.

Most read article on Mumbrella Asia: ‘McCann Philippines account manager Kristelle Davantes found dead‘ (38,775 page views).

Most checked-in places in Singapore and Hong Kong on Facebook. Marina Bay Sands (Singapore), Hong Kong Disneyland (Hong Kong).

Oreo dunk in the darkMost over-quoted example of ‘real-time’ marketing: the Oreo’s Superbowl ‘dunk after dark’ Twitter post, which was tweeted over 10,000 times in an hour.

Most loyal departures: Steve Marcopoto left Turner after 15 years of service, Steve Dallhof left Ogilvy PR after 26 years, Khairudin Rahim stepped back at Lowe Malaysia after 30 years.

Most bizarre way for an ad agency to get into trouble: Myanmar’s Mango Marketing, an affiliate of WPP’s JWT, used an actor wearing a traffic cop uniform without permission. And here’s a video taken of the making of the ad:

The market everyone wanted to enter: Myanmar. Y&R and others piled into the Southeast Asian country, where there is still only one per cent internet penetration, but has a population of 53m.

Best use of negative publicity to get attention. Marital affairs dating website Ashley Madison, blocked from Singapore and launching in a market where infidelity is illegal – Taiwan. (Yes, Mumbrella fell for it too).

Stomp postThe most inane post on Singapore snoop-site Stomp: So many to choose from. Picking one at random, this post about a woman reading a newspaper in an “unusual way” (right) pretty much sums Stomp up.

Hastiest retreat from Asia: Australian publisher Fairfax (shortly before British media owner Haymarket later backed out of Australia).

Best response to a marketing journalist. The late Lou Reed, who passed away in October, at Cannes Lions four months before he died. He was asked how he stays creative in his seventies. “I masturbate everyday”, said the iconic rocker.

Most exciting brand launch. McDonald’s in Vietnam? But which agency will handle the account when the burger chain eventually starts advertising? Is it a shoe-in for globally aligned agency Leo Burnett? Are Omnicom’s TBWA and DDB, also globally aligned McD’s agencies, strong enough in Vietnam? Or will an outsider pinch the business?

Most controversial statement about the state of Asia’s ad industry: John Hegarty, the H in BBH. “Asia will never be a dominant force in advertising if it does not cut out scam.” Or Sapient Nitro creative head Andy Greenaway on Dumb Ways to Die: “It’s a beautiful piece of content. But it looks like it could have been done by the guys behind Sesame Street. I would be proud to have work like this in my book. But if I was to talk to students about the future of communications, I wouldn’t talk about this campaign.”

Most unfortunate timing to launch in Asia: Outbrain. In the same week that it opened a Singapore office, Syrian hackers compromised the websites of CNN, Time and Washington Post by exposing a security lapse on Outbrain’s content recommendation platform.

Most overdue promotion: David Tang, the Singapore boss of DDB, finally gets a regional role after 15 years of service.

Most mysterious agency closure. F5digital. “It is a terrible feeling to witness this nightmare, powerless and trying to stay out of the water while slowly drowning,” agency founder Greg Birge wrote on his website, not long after accusing his staff of defrauding him.

Most commented on story on Mumbrella: Singapore agency threatens legal action against former staff over client poaching claim. A story that began with an agency founder complaining that departing staff had left with some of his clients, turned into a contretemps between locals and foreigners in the comment thread.



Most sexist ad of the year: Singapore ad agency Mandate sent a mail pack in the form of a make up kit and mirror to recruit women to the army that didn’t go down well with a women’s right group.

Most Instagrammed place in the world: Bangkok shopping mall Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน).

Most underwhelming rebrand: Yahoo!. Its logo was designed by the new CEO Marissa Mayer. It was unveiled in stages, with different versions of the logo revealed before the final version was announced (but Yahoo! users were not consulted along the way).

The biggest steps backwards on internet freedom. Close call between Singapore’s new rules for internet journalism and Vietnam’s banning of the sharing of news articles on social media.

The most creative CV: digital designer looking for work in Hong Kong, Robby Leonardi.

Most likely individual to appear in your LinkedIn news feed: Chris Reed.

Steve Elrick LinkedInMost ridiculous LinkedIn profile picture: Take a bow, former BBH APAC ECD Steve Elrick and your furry mouse hat.

Most exciting (potential) media launch: The Guardian is plotting a move into Asia, using Australia as its base.

Most audacious attempt to get positive press coverage. Yahoo! tells Campaign Asia at AdTech: “Whatever you print, it is important that you point out that Yahoo! is leading the way in the personalisation of the web.”

Best name for a corporate communications executive. Dentsu’s new recruit, Mr Plug – Thijs Plug.

Worst experience with a client: A farting German Shepherd in a pitch. “The stench was quite overwhelming.”

Bloodiest restructure: Turner, sacking one in three in their Hong Kong office, or Samsung’s much-depleted Southeast Asian marketing team.

Biggest merger: Publicis Omnicom overshadowed Dentsu swallowing Aegis.

Most do-gooding advertiser: Coca-Cola. It stopped advertising in the Philippines to focus its efforts on the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort, which the fizzy drinks brand announced via an ad in the national press.

Most acrimonious split. BBDO and SingTel. The account eventually went to Ogilvy. BBDO pulled out of the pitch.

Most unpopular story on Mumbrella. We ran a story about an entry to Spikes that was thrown out by the media jury because the chairman suspected that was scam (because the results were believed to be bogus), which was not popular with the festival organisers. In the interests of transparency, here is that entry. We are not saying it is scam. We just are saying that the jury threw it out because it believed the results were “dodgy” – 750 per cent increase in sales, really? Decide for yourselves…

Merry Christmas, people.

Any that we’ve missed? Probably, as we only launched in April.

Let us know.

Robin Hicks – robin.hicks@mumbrella.asia


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