Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

This is a special version of it this week. Happy Chinese New Year! or 新年快乐

CNY

Whilst Christmas is the big ad time in the UK market and the Super Bowl dominates American advertising – the Sinosphere is dominated by lunar new year. You see Chinese new year adverts (in the Motherland obviously), Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. They are generally exceptionally sentimental and mawkish, but beautifully shot. It is a time for for family get togethers and when childhood memories are made. Things that symbolise Chinese new year include special food, getting given money in red envelopes and wearing new outfits for the first day of the new year.

Here are some examples I have found of this years ads.

KFC

A film director goes back in time to see his younger self and tries to give him advice. I found this interesting given the Chinese government’s ban on time travel in dramas.

Apple

This was done for Apple China by Peter Chan and reposted on Apple Singapore’s social channels. They’ve done a really good job of capturing the gruelling journey home that many Chinese make every year.  Shenzhen’s main railway station is anarchy at this time of year.If this one doesn’t wring your tear ducts out you’re one heartless bastard.

Digi Telecommunications

A mobile carrier in Malaysia. the largest shareholder is Telenor. This one has a slight twist in the tail. I was expecting it to be a family matriarch – but it touches on wider connections and childhood memories. Education is much more highly prized in Chinese culture than British or Irish culture.

Maybank – Malaysia’s largest bank

Nothing quite like a bit of TVB style family melodrama to be squeezed into this four and a half minute film. A family in financial hardship gets pulled apart as the daughter grow up and ambition put a rift in the tight family unit.

AirAsia

My favourite one is this ad by AirAsia, who managed to weave in a deft bit of storytelling through the camera PoV and reference the symbolism of the Chinese horoscope for this year through the main character Ah Boy.

Oprah time: The art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye | 书评 | 서평

Untitled

Sonny Liew’s autobiography of a fictional comic book creator Charlie Chan Hock Chye is an illuminating history of Singapore and a clever exercise in multilayered storytelling.

Charlie’s story takes you through his family’s history, growing up in a shop house run by his parents and his own life that largely stands still as an unknown comic writer.  It covers his disappointments in comic publishing and the decline in ‘pavement libraries’ as TV became an important form of information and entertainment. One of Chan’s comic book superheroes is a ‘night soil man’ who gets bitten by a cockroach and develops super strength and abilities. Until the necessary infrastructure was built out Singaporeans used to dispose of their toilet contents manually. They would be collected by a night soil man and driven for disposal in a lorry.

Various life events of Chan are outlined; his parents selling the shop to pay for his father’s unsuccessful medical treatment in Singapore. The love of his life marrying a business man and an unsuccessful visit to ComicCon. All of this tangentially addresses changes in Singaporean society in terms of public housing, medical care and economic improvements. Chan’s failure reflects on what they author felt Singapore lost by not having this kind of critique.

Through Chan’s comic stories we see a post-war Singapore lose respect for the British following their defeat by Japan and the path toward a post colonial future. The book takes an oblique but cutting tilt at the legacy of the People’s Action Party and Lee Kuan Yew and asks at the end what if things had turned out differently.

Beyond the storytelling and the historic analysis of Singapore, the book is a homage to the greats of the comic book world:

  • Osamu Tezuka
  • Walt Disney
  • Will Eisner
  • Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Despite being relatively oblique in its critique of Singaporean history, the Singapore National Arts Council withdrew a grant $8,000 for the book. Citing “sensitive content” and its potential to “undermine the authority and legitimacy” of the government. Just a few decades earlier Liew could have received a stronger reaction to his work from the state.

It leaves some interesting questions, Singapore has been a success growing from a post-war where much of the infrastructure was destroyed to an economic power house unlike any other country in South East Asia. Admittedly, it did much of this prior to the opening up of China; but it also didn’t enjoy the natural resources of its neighbours either.  Had Singapore missed out in this dash to economic success?

The post-war change of sentiment towards fallible British rulers raises questions about whether a post-Brexit freebooting global Britain open for trade will be successful in the face of 7 decades of diminished responsibility and respect around the world?

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

I love Connie Chan’s blog posts and presentations. In this talk she covers how Asian applications manage to squeeze so much more features into their apps than their western equivalent to provide a fuller eco-system of services that she terms super-apps.

Interesting couple of articles on the user behaviour associated voice command enabled speakers – Alexa and Google Assistant have a problem: People aren’t sticking with voice apps they try – Recode and Alexa, We’re Still Trying to Figure Out What to Do With You – The New York Times – (paywall) – the low hardware price seems to be encouraging trial but that’s about it for now

Nike footwear supplier Yue Yuen to make HK$6.7b from retail arm’s privatisation plan | SCMP – it makes sense given the rise of e-commerce in China

The staggering scale of China’s Belt and Road initiative – Axios – scale of ambition is impressive but one also needs to think about maintenance. A lot of British laid railway and roads no longer exist due to a lack of maintenance after they left

Why we post – Interesting UCL project

For These Young Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley Is, Like, Lame – WSJ  – for most of the 18 entrepreneurs and investors, and especially for those in their 20s and 30s, last week’s visit largely failed to impress. To many in the group, northern California’s low-rise buildings looked shabbier than the glitzy skyscrapers in Beijing and Shenzhen. They can’t believe Americans still use credit cards and cash while they use mobile payment for almost everything back home – not terribly surprised. Silicon Valley is no longer the place ‘where wizards stay up late’. Agencies work harder than their Bay Area tech clients and it is full of hubris

The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought – Bloomberg – actually I am not that surprised

Luxury is thriving in China again, thanks to millennials — Quartz – Chinese millennials start buying luxury younger, and they buy high-end products more frequently, the firm says. (It undoubtedly helps that they have more spending power than previous generations did at their age.) What they’re buying is also different. Bain surveyed about 500 Chinese millennials and found their interests leaned toward casual and street-inspired fashion – Supreme rather than Prada, put into context here

Luxury Daily | Rimowa undergoes rebrand – on the cusp of their 120 years in the business, reminds me of all the metal stamped information on each case

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Using page speed in mobile search ranking – makes total sense

Readiness for the future of production | AT Kearney for World Economic Forum – interesting assessement

Global expectations for 2018 | Ipsos – what the world thinks will happen (PDF)

The techlash against Amazon, Facebook and Google—and what they can do – A memo to big tech – reading Scott Galloway The Four at the moment, it seems to be the zeitgeist

Snap confirms reports of up to 24 redundancies in a bid to ‘scale internally’ | The Drum – no, it doesn’t make any sense to me either

RA: Moodymann: A Detroit enigma – via our Jed

Huawei – Really Convincing Story, Not. | Radio Free Mobile  – this means that this feature (RCS – Rich Communication Services), like its AI assistant, AI chip and its now commoditised imaging offering will be unable to generate any differentiation for Huawei in its devices. This leaves it exactly the same boat as all of the other Android handset makers who differentiate purely on the basis of hardware

APAC ads fail at integration, says Kantar Millward Brown study | Marketing Interactive

Oprah Time: Asian Godfathers by Joe Studwell

I’d read Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works over lunar new year. Studwell dealt directly with there reasons for East Asia’s economic growth and Southeast Asia’s failing to follow them.

Asian Godfathers

Studwell attached this same subject through through a different lens. In Asian Godfathers, he tells the story through Asia’s business tycoons; from the taipans of Hong Kong to Stanley Ho – the Macau gambling tycoon.

Cosmopolitan privileged people who where in the right place at the right time. Some of them had colourful origin stories as black marketers selling fake medicines and blockade runners. But they are just a side show in a wider panorama of political greed and incompetence. Asian Godfathers is more like Hotel Babylon than an economics analysis like How Asia Works, yet it delivers its message forcefully.

The QRcode post

A few years ago, I was involved in a project that used QRcodes on OOH (out of home) activity for a retail launch. QRcode scanners varied in performance. In addition you had to think about:

  • Contrast – did the QRcode stand out?
  • Relative aspect – would it be too big or too small for the audience to scan?

In the UK, QRcodes are seen by marketers as old hat (but then they didn’t ‘get’ them in the same way that Asia did). Other people don’t really understand how to use them.
QRcode 101
Above is the picture of the local cafe around the corner from my office. The QRcode is too disjointed and blurred to read. I asked a member of staff about it and he told me that he thought it was some type of logo…