Singapore agency boss on new Tiger Beer ad: ‘How can a ‘local’ brand listen to a tune sung by a non-local agency?’

Tiger Beer commercial by Droga5 Sydney

New Tiger Beer ad by Droga5 Sydney

The latest Tiger Beer commercial has come in for criticism from a Singapore ad agency boss who has suggested that the new ad is the product of a non-local agency that has used questionable insights into Asian men.

On Facebook yesterday (Sunday), Aaron Koh, a former BBH Shanghai and DDB Singapore creative who is founder and creative director of notable independent agency GOVT, began a post linking to Campaign Asia’s story about the new Tiger Beer ad with the words: “Honestly, I don’t understand a thing from this spot.”

“It’s just words from a foreigner that got “insights” from some Asian dude in the non-local agency,” he said, referring to the narrative voice in the ad.

The 60-second film was created by Droga5 Sydney, which is closing down, but the account has moved with the now-defunct agency’s creative chairman David Nobay, who was just hired by Publicis Groupe to set up an Australian office of Marcel.

Aaron Koh's post about the new Tiger ad

Aaron Koh’s post about the new Tiger ad

“Hey, why not we shoot a manifesto like film in some Asian street and show Asian chefs in a cool hipster Asian setting? Surely the client would buy that!” wrote Koh, who was posting on his personal Facebook and not on behalf of his employer.

“How can a “local” brand listen to a tune sung by a non-local agency? Honestly, I don’t understand…” he said.

The ad, which is to run globally starting in Australia and next in Asia, opens with an image of a wok, and a gravel-voiced narrator talks about the journey of molton iron into the iconic Chinese cooking pan. The narrator says: “But this ain’t no pan handler’s pan. This, dear friend, is a keeper of secrets, a maker of men.”

The ad places Tiger Beer in the context of Asia’s street food culture, and likens the creation of a wok from iron to how young men are forged into cooks. It is the latest incarnation of the brand’s global ‘Uncaged’ platform that Droga5 created in 2014.

In the comments beneath Koh’s post, Leon Lai, who runs GOVT’s Malaysian operation, said: “Tiger beer is no longer a local brand, it’s a Dutch brand [it’s now fully owned by Heineken].”

He added: “And anyway, Asian agencies, even more so Singaporean, are not creative enough, unlike a foreign non-Asian agency.”

He later commented: “From a brand that is distinctly Asian with little need to inform of our heritage, now we have turned into a brand that needs to emphasize that we are Asian and “exotic”. Ridiculous that a Singaporean brand needs to search so far overseas for affirmation.”

Comment threat on Facebook

Tiger Beer uses Singapore-based independent The Secret Little Agency to handle it global digital activity. TSLA was behind the recent #SayItWithTiger Chinese New Year campaign.

The wisdom of Singaporean brands hiring overseas-based agencies was called into question by the boss of Formul8 a year ago, who suggested that dwindling tourism numbers were partly the result of the tourism board using J. Walter Thompson, which is headquartered in New York.


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