Moving on after 20 years, Chaz Wigley (Chairman of BBH Asia) reflects on his favourite campaigns from BBH in Asia over that time.
Nudging 20 years in the same place and it’s probably best I move on before Rokiah and Alice our office cleaners actually start dusting me along with the rest of the furniture ( or worse still give me a wipe down with the rather pungent fluid they use to disinfect surfaces).
But before I do, 20 of my favourite campaigns from BBH in Asia over that time.
I can’t claim – by any stretch – to have been involved in all of them and I have no doubt missed some people’s favourites, but this is what I’m fond of.
I hope they give you a decent 10 minute break in your Zoom laden day.
1. Johnnie Walker – Roberto Baggio – Global. I start with a complete cheat ( of course ). This was actually created by the Singapore team – then all of 35 people – the year before I arrived, but I went on to spend over 10 years on the account, so what the hell, I’m putting it in here. Man misses. Nation mourns. Man plucks up courage and tries again. He succeeds. Nation ( and Johnnie Walker ) rejoices. Keep Walking.
2. Levi’s – Originator – Japan. The original jeans for original people. Not a complex argument. ‘Shot’ on a giant photocopier and distributed across multiple media ( including online ) years before the rest of the world had cottoned on to that kind of thing. Produced some of the most striking art direction I have ever seen.
3. Levi’s – Worn Out – Regional. They are worn out you see – and so are the wearers. I’ll say no more.
4. Levi’s – Women’s 501 – Japan. The original men’s 501 recut for women. Which is what it says on the box really.
5. Johnnie Walker – Words – Thailand. A great brand platform in Keep Walking gave us the basis for work like this (and did you know that they used to sell so much Johnnie Walker in Thailand that they often flew the Thai flag in the nation’s honour at the castle in Scotland? ).
6. Coke Light Lemon – Lemon Squeezers – Singapore. It had a lot of lemon in it. Well, more than the Pepsi version did.
7. Axe – Small Soldiers – Japan. Part of the launch work for Axe in Japan ( Unilever’s most successful launch there ever ). And probably two of the few Axe ads you could still run today without getting into serious trouble. Based on the notion of ‘Kakehiki’ – the back and forth of battle and love.
8. World Effie Forum – A Celebration of Highly Effective Capitalism – Singapore / Regional There was much joshing ( including in the Financial Times ) as to whether the Singaporean government would object to this campaign – especially as Lee Kuan Yew was speaking at the festival. They didn’t – which was something of a personal relief.
9. NTUC Income – Get Rich Slow – Singapore. One of my favourite client groups and brands. Spontaneously sold over lunch to the CEO after the headline had been texted to me by Steve Elrick during starters. The old days, hey.
10. Johnnie Walker – Yulu ( ‘Words of a journey’ ) – China. A series of eleven short films brilliantly encapsulating the Keep Walking spirit in China shot by film director Jia Zhangke. Often quite provocative ( I’m not sure it would have survived state censorship now ) and subsequently made into a full-length feature. Three of my favourites are here, the rest are on the interwebs.
11. NTUC Income – Fishmonger – Singapore. Clients that actually do valuable things for their consumers (in this case re-writing all their contracts in plain English ) make our jobs so much easier.
12. Google – Tanjore – India. Another great global platform – The Web Is What You Make It – delightfully localised.
13. Harbin – No Borders – China. Charming, meaningful and shows just what you can do when you are not forced to do another ‘aspirational’ beer ad.
14. Vaseline – Cricket Bat – India. Michael Vaughan suggested VVS Laxman might have smeared Vaseline on the outside edge of his bat to dodge hot spot cricket technology from detecting if he was out. He hadn’t. Supposedly. Great piece of tactical.
15. Ikea – Book Book – Singapore, Malaysia. A well-worn idea ( mocking the breathless enthusiasm of new tech launches ) but beautifully done. A local market piece that was so widely shared it went global.
16. UOB – Vase – Regional. I like any company that lists one of its key values as ‘being conservative’. Beats the ‘innovation’ hokum of most organisations. This was one of the early ads we did for UOB Private Bank. Everything else we have done on the brand has flowed from this campaign really.
17. Ikea – Human Catalogue – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand. Very modern advertising indeed. Again so widely shared it essentially went global.
18. Nike – Unlimited Stadium – The Philippines. Just cool. And techy. And stuff. Again went global it was shared so much.
19. Tinder – Start Something Epic – India. You’ll be dancing along to this one. Also shows you can do empowering advertising without it being pious. Strangely the client then left in search of worse work. I believe they are back now though.
20. Sentosa – Flowers – Singapore. Two of the world’s lunatics (sorry leaders) get together on Sentosa to see if they can be less bellicose towards each other and scare us all a little less. We suggest to the client they put flowers for peace in all the old military cannons on the island. The client goes right ahead and does it and it hits front pages around the world. You see it can happen (although sadly not the less bellicose bit).
And there you have it.
I know it is invidious to name names, but looking at this list some people keep popping up again and again in my head so it would be equally invidious not to.
So thank you to Steve Elrick, Scott McClelland, Hoon Kim, Sudeep Gohil, Tinus Strydom, Maurice Wee, Ian Perkins, Jonny Bauer, Nick Kendall, Chris Harris, Johnny Tan, Kelly Poon, Janson Choo, Khairul Mondzi, Russell Barrett, JAB, Peter Callaghan, Jacob Wright, Todd Waldron, Ross Ventress, Ben Fennell, John Hadfield, James Sowden, Arvind Krishnan, Partha Sinha, Subhash Kamath, Sanjay Sharma, Mylene Ong, Leo Zhang, Finnian O’Neill, Christine Ng, the Hampartsoumian bros – Arto and Ara, Thomas Wagner, Rebecca Ash, Frank Reitgassl, David Webster, Sid Tuli, Dave Holland, Manavi Sharma and many more. I know I will have missed some people here and apologies for that. I still love you dearly.
Keep fighting the good fight everyone.
I’ll be right behind you.
At a safe distance.