The year in review: Mumbrella Asia’s most-read opinion pieces and features of 2018

The opinion pieces and features on Mumbrella Asia this year produced robust debate and of course an interesting comment thread – on subjects ranging from Singapore Airlines and Crazy Rich Asians to the Trump-Kim Summit and advertising losing its soul

1. Trump-Kim summit cost $20m, but could be worth $150m in earned media for Singapore

The Trump-Kim summit left many wondering if it was worth the hype, the international attention and the many inconveniences the locals had to endure.

Mumbrella Asia publisher Dean Carroll argued it would pay off quite significantly, at least for the Lion City, concluding “brand Singapore is the real winner in this strange episode of international diplomacy”. And that’s not counting the possibility — however slim — of actual nuclear disarmament.

2. Singapore Airlines missed the chance of a lifetime by failing to make it into Crazy Rich Asians

A chance conversation with Landor’s president South East Asia-Pacific and Japan Nick Foley led to one of Mumbrella Asia’s most polarising opinion pieces this year – on how Singapore Airlines missed the bus by not being part of blockbuster romcom Crazy Rich Asians.

Foley believed Singapore’s national carrier allegedly opting out of the film perhaps pointed to a larger problem of risk aversion in its marketing team. He said: “If senior management at the airline really did say ‘no’, then one could be excused for thinking the airline just looked the gift horse of the century in the mouth… Worldwide box office revenue has just pushed through the US$230 million mark. Most companies would be clambering over one another to get their brand featured in such a hit.”

3. Like eating soup with chopsticks – the Ministry of Finance’s misguided influencer campaign

Most people don’t even bat an eyelid anymore at an online influencer being shoehorned into a campaign where their relevance and contribution remains opaque.

But when Singapore’s Ministry of Finance decided to have influencers talk about the national budget, it was the last straw for Right Hook Communications owner and public relations director Wesley Gunter. He said: “It’s honestly pretty appalling to me how such a huge government body which is the authority on everything to do with money in this country can be so clueless when it comes to marketing their own product.”

4. Has the advertising industry finally lost its soul?

Havas’s chief creative officer for South East Asia Valerie Madon wondered if advertising had finally “lost its soul” when she wrote: “This is not a debate about creativity versus technology because it’s irrelevant and futile. This is a reminder to myself and for everyone who still gets excited when they encounter a great campaign or experience a genius creative solution. If brands need us and clients have not given up on us, have we given up on ourselves?”

5. Daryl Aiden Yow is just one of many influencers ‘doing things the wrong way’

In June this year, when anti-influencer flames were being stoked all over the world, came the sort of news that did the business model no favours as Singaporean photographer Daryl Aiden Yow was proven to be more adept at photoshop than photography.

In her analysis of the scandal and its aftermath, The Hoffman Agency Singapore’s general manager Maureen Tseng struck a cautionary note, stating: “The silver lining to this whole saga is that it’s a great wake-up call for influencers to be more vigilant in maintaining professional and ethical standards. Similarly, companies will now be more cautious in vetting the influencers that they work with.”    

6. Sir John Hegarty: The creatives, not the technologists, are still the future for the ad industry

An exclusive interview with BBH founder Sir John Hegarty covered everything from #metoo and S4 Capital to creating ads with Ridley Scott and the impact of artificial intelligence on the industry. It was hard work pulling just one from a reservoir of quotes but here’s what Hegarty had to say about the purpose of advertising: “It is persuasion, to preach to the masses. In the Bible it says that when Christ stood on the rock, he spoke to the masses.

“He didn’t speak to 18 to 24-year-olds with a disposal income of 20 shepherds a week. And that brand is still going today. His job was conversion or at least making you a fan of it, or making you respect it.”

7. Singapore Airlines’ lost opportunity to distinctly brand SilkAir

In the wake of Silk Air being absorbed into Singapore Airlines, marketing consultant Suresh Kumar believed the airline had passed over a chance to create a distinct second brand.

Kumar said: “Somehow, there seemed to be little or no understanding as to why the customer actually flew SilkAir – at least that’s what its ad campaigns proved. Hence we had nicely done up SilkAir ad posters saying SilkAir gives out drawing sets to children on board. Or serves hot drinks and cookies. Good to have features? Sure. Distinct game changers? Of course not.”

8. P&G and WPP woes: How the shit hit the fan in digital marketing

Advertising veteran and Mumbrella favourite Bob Hoffman believed WPP’s slumping share value and P&G’s greater scrutiny of its online spending were signs of a deeper malaise. He had particularly harsh words for the “digital first” mantra that was in vogue through much of the year. Something that would reflect months after this piece was published in the names of freshly merged WPP agencies Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R.

Hoffman said: “There is no doubt in my mind that to some agencies ‘digital first’ is just code for ‘me first’. The agency holding companies and the online media have been engaged in 10 years of squalid practices, half-truths, and unreliable metrics. Sooner or later, even CMOs catch on.”

9. Malaysian media mogul Jahabar Sadiq: ‘Millennials pay for lattes, so why not news?’

Mumbrella interviewed Malaysian journalist Jahabar Sadiq on his venture The Malaysian Insight, discussing his tumultuous career and how news could be made appealing to a millennial demographic – appealing enough for them to pay for it. When asked about whether young Malaysians consider a career in media a viable option, Sadiq painted a bleak picture: “No, they all do it for about two years to make the contacts and then they go into public relations.

“It’s probably the worst career option now in Malaysia: you get hounded by everyone, including your boss. There’s never enough money to do things. You just scrape through people’s Twitter feeds and Facebook posts to get a story. That’s how terrible it has become. That’s disappointing to me, as it’s not journalism.”

10. The thinking behind Jollibee’s viral Valentine’s ads

The Philippines-based fast food chain Jollibee grew to be one of the country’s most popular advertisers. Especially around Valentine’s Day. Mumbrella spoke to Arline Adeva, the brand’s communications lead to find the secret sauce  driving its success.

Here’s what Adeva said speaking about the vision for the brand: ““We want people to get excited for this tradition. Even this year, people said they knew it was nearly Valentine’s Day because they saw the Jollibee ads. Someone shared with us that even though she didn’t have a love life, she was happy because she could go to Jollibee. That’s the vision.”


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