Why you shouldn’t be so quick to judge STB’s ‘so bad it will go viral’ video

Simon KearneyIn this guest post, Simon Kearney suggests that we might have been too quick to trash Singapore Tourism Board’s three-minute promotional video that was called ‘so bad it will go viral’.

We should all be a little ashamed of our reaction to the recent Singapore Tourism Board (STB) debacle involving that film promoting inbound tourism from the Philippines.

The film wasn’t designed for a Singapore audience, or even a Western audience.

I remember having the same reaction the first time I saw Bollywood content. Just because it is different doesn’t mean it is wrong. You could say the same about a lot of Singapore content for the local market seen through an outsider’s eyes.

As I run a film company I thought I’d give it another look and critique it honestly.

Firstly, the vocal dubbing is what it makes it so noticeably bad. We have a saying in the business that good audio is the sort you never notice. The first thing you notice in this is the bad audio. Badly-timed dubbing, a crappy music track, and the complete absence of any natural sound from location really stands out as the great flaw of this film.

The film is pretty cheesy in the way it is shot, a bit too much hand-held camera, with fuzzy focus pulling, not done particularly well (which is all the rage at the moment so I’ll forgive the production crew a bit). There are some nice aerials, obviously done with a drone, so Mothership journalist Jonathan Lim’s assertion that it had been done on “$0 budget” when he revealed the video that is “so bad it will go viral” is not even close.

“The video is cringeworthy and full of cliched dialogue, with the Singapore skyline as the only redeeming feature,” Lim wrote.

True. But to my eyes so is a lot of Bollywood content but I get that it is incredibly appealing to a huge audience and not particularly easy to make.

The pregnancy test thing is odd, but there are some great recent examples of tourism campaigns using sex and getting pregnant as a “viral” hook. A bit of a fail in this case, but really, does that deserve howls of derision.

What works in this film is the direction of the actors, it’s actually pretty good, the shots flow well, you could watch it without dialogue and get what is going on. Good direction of dramatic sequences is difficult and rare to find.

All-in-all, I’d give it five out of ten. But if I came from the Philippines, probably more, judging by the initial reaction in market, as pointed out by the STB in their ham-fisted response to the whole thing.

I just wish the board had shown a bit of courage and stuck up for the culturally-localised content they were making, for which they should be lauded.

I did run this by a Filipino friend in Singapore. She said she watched 30 seconds of the film and “had a sudden urge to hurl”. So the moral of this story is that you can’t please everyone, and, in my humble opinion, nor should you.

Simon Kearney is co-founder and managing director of Singapore-based content agency Click2View


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