Shonky apps, plagiarism and prostitutes: Our top 10 most read stories of 2016

There was no shortage of news which piqued the interest of Mumbrella Asia readers in 2016. But what were the stories which captured the interest more than most? Steve Jones provides a run down of the most read tales of the year.

1 Grey Singapore’s ‘fake’ refugee-saving app removed from Apple app store, slammed by client, wins at Cannes

An app created by Grey Singapore – which had already been branded a “terrible fake” by one software developer (see No 4 in this list), had been removed from the Apple store and slammed by the client – picked up a gong at the Cannes Lions advertising awards show.

I Sea app

Go figure.

The shonky tech in question was the ‘I Sea’ app which supposedly enabled people to scan the Mediterranean ocean for stranded boats carrying fleeing migrants. Despite the client – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station – admitting there were “no advantages” to the app (even if it did work), Cannes saw fit to award it a Bronze Lions in the Promo and Activation category.

2 Malaysia 4As disqualifies two Dentsu Utama Kancils winners for plagiarism, agency resigns from industry association in protest

More suspect work emerged in the form of campaigns by Dentsu Utama for internet privacy awareness firm Web Privacy Watch and the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia.

Erik Johansson's work and Dentsu Utama's ad for Web Privacy Watch

The campaigns, “Professional Man” and “Cross River Gorilla”, bore striking resemblances to existing works which resulted in ad industry body Malaysia 4As disqualifying the entries from its Kancil Awards.

After an investigation, Tan Kien Eng, Kancil’s jury chair and CEO of advertising agency Leo Burnett Malaysia, said the facts were “overwhelmingly in favour of the original creators”.

That didn’t go down too well at Dentsu Utama who promptly resigned from the 4As.

3 The horrors of hiring: Asia agency bosses on interviews gone wrong

From the job seeker who said she “doesn’t do it on the first date” when asked what her life values were, to the applicant who literally had nothing to say when asked what positives there were about the company he was hoping to work for, agency bosses shared anecdotes of interviews gone horribly wrong.

4 Grey Singapore’s migrant-saving app shortlisted at Cannes Lions called out as ‘terrible fake’

swiftThe aforementioned I Sea app, created by Grey Singapore, was called out for being non-functional and made only to win an award – which it duly did (see No 1).

While media outlets heralded the app as ground breaking, tech writers had a different take, writing it off as an “in-progress intern proof-of-concept… pushed as finished.”

In a series of tweets, tech security writer Swift, who uses the twitter handle @SwiftonSecurity said the app presented an image of the Mediterranean at the wrong time of the day and has a bogus weather reading. Others questioned the viability of an app that can source high-resolution, real-time imagery of an entire ocean.

5. Paying to pitch – like a prostitute paying to give a blow job

Agencies were less than impressed with Singapore Management University which asked for a $100 fee before giving firms the honor of pitching for its business.

SMU justified the cost – or at least attempted to justify it – by insisting it was an administrative cost in the name of good governance.

One agency boss saw it in a slightly different light. “A prostitute does not pay to suck one’s cock for free,” was the erudite reply.

The criticism fell on deaf ears at SMU who vowed to press on with charging the fee.

6. Leo Burnett Singapore CEO Chris Chiu leaves eight months after rejoining former agency

Chris ChiuIt was a shortlived return to Leo Burnett for Chris Chiu who departed as chief executive just months after beginning his second spell at the agency.

His departure came soon after the appointment of Publicis Worldwide Singapore boss Lou Dela Pena to a broader group role overseeing the agency brands under Publicis Communications, which includes Leo Burnett.

Sources suggested Chiu was uncomfortable with the arrangement.

7 Government brief demanding ‘unlimited changes’ irks Singapore design community

A Singaporean designer took umbrage with a government brief posted on procurement portal GeBiz that insisted the supplier must be prepared to make “unlimited” changes within 48 of the request.

Kelley Cheng, a designer with publishing and design consultancy The Press Room, aired her displeasure on Facebook age, and urged other designers to protest.

8 Facebook appoints banker Sandhya Devanathan as first country director for Singapore

Facebook appointed its first country head for Singapore, with former banker Sandhya Devanathan handed the role just eight months after joining the social media behemoth to run the company’s e-commerce, travel and financial services arm.

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

“It’s just words from a foreigner that got “insights” from some Asian dude in the non-local agency.”

These words of Aaron Koh, a former BBH Shanghai and DDB Singapore creative, were used to describe a commercial from (the now defunct) Droga5 Sydney for Tiger beer.

“Honestly, I don’t understand a thing from this spot,” added the founder and creative director of independent agency GOVT, who suggested the new ad was the product of a non-local agency that has used questionable insights into Asian men.

10 Leo Burnett KL demands film-maker deletes plagiarism claims or it will sue, defiant director challenges agency to show evidence

A film-maker, Tan Chui Mui, who accused the Malaysian office of Leo Burnett of ripping off her idea and script to make a commercial for Petronas, was threatened with legal action unless she removed all mention of the complaints from social media.

Leo Burnett described the allegation as “unfounded” and led to the director of the ‘Rubber boy’ ad, Ismail Kamarul, to suggest the film, which was shortlisted at Cannes, would forever be tainted by the allegations.

Tan stuck to her guns, refused to take the posts down – and Leo Burnett began legal proceedings.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing