Thailand has created countless impressive advertisements soaring the Internet with likes, comments, shares, laughs and tears. The country has also established itself as the land of creativity with numerous awards in advertising festivals. However, are they all real? Are the ads that actually run at large scale in Thailand the same with ones that were sent for creative competitions? Or are the award-winning and social-media-darling ads just scam ads? (Scam ads are works that ad agencies create just to join ad festivals, seeking for recognition.)
When I was an advertising student, I used to love all Thai (scam) ads, and therefore I got heart broken when coming to work in Thailand three years ago. Days and days, my heart gets bitter when I see ads in billboards located at subway and skytrain stations, in the streets, in the malls, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, well everywhere! They are pretty much similar in term of ideas. Most of the ads communicate straight-forward messages about functional benefits, in hope that the visuals could link to self-expressive benefits. “Apply this cream to have fairer and smoother skin”, “Consume this bird nest drink for better sleep”, “Use this bank service, we take better care of your money”, or “Coffee with collagen” (!!!)
Celebrities are much loved in Thailand, and visitors can witness this huge love via advertisements. When you see one pretty man or lady in an ad, you can be up to 80% sure that he or she is a popular celeb. Sometimes a packaging even bears images of celebrities on it. Not just Thai celebs, some brands spend big budget hiring celebs from Korea and Japan to endorse the products as well because they are super famous here. At times in the past, there were some celebs dominating the advertising scene. (Please use Google for Nadech Kugimiya, Yaya Sperbund and James Ji.) – Less than a year ago, I remembered seeing Nadech’s smiles everywhere in Bangkok in all the media with many brands at the same time, and it was so confusing (maybe just to me). His face was everywhere in my brain, but I couldn’t point out the brands.
Celebrity endorsement has gradually lost the effect in advertising, as all around the world the customers are smarter and more careful with their spending. We know celebs take home a huge amount of money to lend their faces and voices to brands. They have been paid to speak (in some cases, to lie). In Thailand, however, liking bias still works effectively in advertising industry. Because celebrities are attractive, pleasant and nice, people are more willing to buy products that they endorse. Really? Or are the advertisers just too lazy to conduct more insightful researches? Thai people love to see celebs in ads, yes. But do they still trust the ads with celebs? Does celebrity endorsement create a strong influence on brand preference? Do people remember the brands or just celebs’ names? I wish I could read sales reports of some promotional campaigns run with celebrities in Thailand. Oh, I wish.