Iconic old-school Singaporean ads
Image credit: YouTube – chuniie
Before the glorious days of on-demand cable tv and Netflix, our sole source of digital entertainment came from our analogue TVs. Those were simpler days where patience was a virtue conditioned by the daily act of having to flip through the newspaper to check the day’s channel schedule, and commercials were a necessary evil for pee breaks and for snack runs.
And whether pure marketing genius or complete fails, some ads got lodged so deep in our brains that we’ll remember them for life. We’re taking you on a walk down memory lane with the best – and worst – of what early advertising had to offer with these 10 Singaporean ads that shaped most of our childhoods:
1. Shokubutsu – Elvin Ng
Image credit: YouTube – Sharon Loh
Shokubutsu is obviously Japanese. But it doesn’t get more local than a 30-second mandarin commercial featuring a very youthful, bare-bodied Elvin Ng working up a sweat then lathering up in an outdoor shower. While the ad’s effectiveness is questionable, it sure did creep its way into the hearts of many a pubescent Singaporean girl.
2. Canadian Pizza – 2-for-1
Image credit: Youtube – canadian241pizza
Any 80s/90s kid will tell you that before the reign of Dominos and Pezzo, Canadian Pizza ruled the pizza scene right there next to Pizza Hut. They were also second in line for the throne for most memorable hotline jingle of all time. With all that paid screen time, who can forget their perpetual 2-for-1 pizza offer?
3. Mocca – Muscleman
Image credit: YouTube – Waterstorm3
A lesson in marketing: there’s a paper-thin line between tastefully humorous and horrendous. And while we’re loving the cringe a decade down the road, Mediacorp’s Mocca is a now-defunct advertising service we only associate with this spoof and tight, zebra briefs.
4. McDonald’s – A Day in Singapore
McDonald’s – warming more than just their deep fryers and grills since 1979.
Image credit: YouTube – Kelly Khoo
A medley of fresh vegetables and water droplets moving in slow-motion through the air. A perfectly (airbrushed) piece of meat being grilled to perfection. Outrageously juicy components of a burger magically falling into place…
These are the shots modern day fast food commercials are made of, but not this 1990s Mac’s Ad. Who needs high-resolution food porn when this ad feeds you one minute of feels?
5. Singapore Girl – A Great Way To Fly
Image credit: YouTube – dewssTV
The near 1-minute ad might seem completely misguided to viewers today with hardly any footage of the airline or its routes/destinations, but the “Singapore Girl” personification of the brand worked wonders for SQ. It also greatly glamorised the airline industry and sparked fires in the hearts of young girls wanting to make the world their oyster when it first launched.
6. Tiger Beer – It’s Tiger Time
Image credit: YouTube – ShiokOnLine
For a good few years after Tiger Beer kicked off this campaign, “It’s TIGER TIME!” became the popular alternative answer to the question “What time is it?”. It also became the surefire way to piss someone off real quick. But thanks to all the inadvertent word-of-mouth, Tiger definitely got the top of mind awareness they wanted out of the ad.
7. Singtel – 17 – 31707 – 1
Image credit: YouTube – Singtel
While 50% of today’s population cannot fathom a reality without their smartphones, the real lao jiaos remember a time of peace without the incessant need to check our phones every 10 minutes for new notifications. God bless the simplicity this archaic Singtel ad. Nothing like a throwback to the age of pagers and secret numeric codes to unlock the floodgates of nostalgia in our minds.
9. Anything Whatever – Ah bengs trash convenience store
Image credit: YouTube – chuniie
I remember the hype these can drinks generated back when my school’s canteen first started stocking it. Practically made for the indecisive, “Anything” was a carbonated surprise that came in a range of flavours from cola to citrus while “Whatever” was a non-carbonated concoction that was strangely similar to Pokka’s fruit teas.
Sadly, once the novelty wore off, this ad was a thousand times more memorable than the taste these drinks left in our mouths.
10. M1 – I’m Walking on Sunshine
Click through to the full video and turn up the sound for maximum enjoyment.
Image credit: YouTube – Caren Utino
How to create positive feelings associated with your brand 101 – m1 style:
a) Pick a contagiously upbeat and cheerful song
b) Show people being happy with your brand while the song plays
c) Repeat this over and over again
Even if you didn’t care for the brand back then, every time this m1 ad came on, it was hard not to sing and jig along to all the happy people on screen. There was really no escaping this ad –
some loved the song so much they even set it as their connecting dial tone.
Looking to the future
Image credit: AVADO
While our younger selves might have been suckered by repetitive pizza hotline jingles and feel-good telecom dance ads, we’re definitely way more critical of the information we consume these days. Plus, with the second and third screen phenomena, marketers can no longer trap us in front of the TV for the full duration of the ad like they used to.
We’re more likely to jump onto the next device to occupy our headspace the minute an ad starts. This is what makes understanding the impact and future consequences of disruptive technology so important.
As an organisation, knowing who your customers are and how to effectively reach them unlocks a plethora of opportunities – and keeping up-to-date with the constantly changing digital terrain shouldn’t be limited to just the marketing team, every employee, regardless of department or rank, should be in the know.
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