The year in review: Mumbrella Asia’s most-read stories of 2018

Some of our biggest stories this year were about senior ad folk being fired after charges of 'misconduct' surfaced – but there were also major happenings such as the fallout from the Uber and Grab merger, and influencers being called into question – plus some ads that evoked strong feelings and heated debate

1. A tearjerker of an ad from Thailand on ‘the value of gratitude’

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. But this commercial for the CP group from Ogilvy Thailand about an Alzheimer’s afflicted old ma and her son, who juggles his role of small town teacher and devoted child, was Mumbrella Asia’s most-read story of the year.

2. “Can we just stop using that word?”

Neil Stewart

The word in question was ‘influencer’ in case you were wondering although “programmatic”, “content”, “blockchain” and yes, “authenticity” would also be worthy contenders. At the Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit, Facebook Asia-Pacific head of agency Neil Stewart got into a bit of an argument with panel moderator Mar Pages, also a travel blogger. The anti-influencer backlash would form a dominant theme of the year; figuring prominently in speeches by Keith Weed, the then chief marketing officer at Unilever. Stewart’s alternative term to ‘influencer’? “Z-list celebrities.”

3. The three-month CMO

Debra Soon

Debra Soon, a veteran of Mediacorp, quitting an organisation where she spent two decades, just three months into the her new role as chief marketing officer  evoked a lot of curiosity. The “opportunity in a different industry” she spoke about while leaving, turned out to head of group corporate management at Tan Chong International – an investment company.

4. Grab: The fallen local hero

An unusually severe report on Grab from Forrester confirmed what until that time had been mainly hearsay and suspicions among its users. Grab was called out for not paying heed to its customers or driver partners. In conclusion, the report said: “The stunning pace with which Grab fell from its unquestioned position as a local digital hero should remind all eBusiness leaders that their customers are in charge.” Considering South East Asian rival Go-Jek already has a foot in the door, 2019 promises to be a challenging year for Grab as the (for now) dominant incumbent.

5. When agencies became collateral damage in the Uber-Grab merger

An ad shop that found it was the fifth wheel shortly after the Uber Grab merger was Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, which had made an eye-catching film for Uber. Other casualties apparently included BBH Singapore and R/GA Singapore among others.

6. “Can I buy someone a 10 course supper if they give me the real scoop on what went down?”

Tham Khai Meng

Commenter ‘Chandler Sia’ said what a lot of us were thinking when the Singaporean global chief creative officer at Ogilvy Tham Khai Meng was asked to leave after an internal enquiry. While speculation was rife – including on our comment thread — the official reason remains a mystery. That did not stop The Straits Times from putting together a glowing listicle about the Lion City’s most famous ad man’s achievements though, as highlighted by Dr Mumbo.

7. The ‘tear-free’ departure of Chris Reed from The Marketing Group

Chris Reed

“Nobody will shed a tear”, said The Marketing Group (now rebranded as RYVL) CEO Andy Graham at the departure of Black Marketing and its boss Chris Reed from the holding company. The fledgling network, which is now 15 agencies strong went through tumultuous times as chronicled by Mumbrella in 2017.

8. Ogilvy fires yet another creative leader


Ogilvy fired South East Asia chief creative officer Ajab Samrai after internal investigations into allegations of ‘misconduct’, but chose not to make this news public. The spokesperson for Ogilvy when contacted by Mumbrella wondered why “it took so long for media to pick up the departure”.

9. Ogilvy campaign for Changi misinterpreted in multiple ways

The first work from Ogilvy for Changi airport was for its ‘Be a Changi millionaire’ retail promotion, offering either a million dollars or a Jaguar car as the ultimate prize. A few commenters lauded the ad for the rainbow lights, claiming it was a not-so-subtle gay rights message. Others wondered if the ad was actually for Jaguar or for Changi.

10. Dentsu Aegis Network’s “streamlined structure” sends agency heads rolling

Rohan Lightfoot

Three agency leaders, many of whom who’d spent several years with group agencies found themselves retrenched in June. They included the Isobar APAC managing directorRohan Lightfoot, Vizeum Singapore managing director Shrivathsa Raghunathan and Columbus MD Rosemary Lising. Lightfoot was recently appointed chief growth officer at Mindshare.


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