Categories: Culture

17 Commercials From Singapore’s History That Just Cannot Be Unseen

The ads we remember

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We all watch TV, and we’ve all seen the commercials that interrupt our viewing pleasure. Our sunny island has unleashed unto the world some pretty amazing ads that linger in the memory for a long, long time. Some are hilarious, some make us cringe, and others leave us misty-eyed.

Here are 17 Singaporean commercials that will stay with you forever, and then some.

1. The Cringe-worthy

Mocca- Muscle man!

When I saw this ad, my first thought was: “what on earth are they selling?” Turns out Mocca Muscleman was selling his house, and Mocca was advertising their services as an online classified ads service. It was a bit hard to get the message while being distracted by all the bulging muscles on screen though.

2. The Funny

Ikea Singapore Ad: Gangsters (东西在哪里?快拿出来!)

Confession: I’m a messy person. My room looks pretty similar to the one featured in this video. This ad is relatable and hilarious – the fact that it plays on the trope of the Chinese gangster just makes it even funnier. Enlai’s cry of “I really don’t know where it is!” sounds like something we’d say when our teachers asked us for our long-overdue homework that we *ahem* ‘lost’.

3. The Earworm

Hands up if you remember this tune – my colleagues were singing this in the office when I asked them about it. The dancing cow with her beautiful banana crown made us all laugh, and we hummed the catchy tune under our breath for weeks after. Would you like to have a sunny, yellow, banana day?

4. The Absurd

Mama Lemon TVC English 30sec

The ad sets up like a stereotypical Chinese drama – foreboding father, concerned mother, kaypoh aunties, hapless young man who only wants to be with his true love. When asked how he can provide for their daughter, Pornsak whips out Mama Lemon! Not sure how dishwashing liquid can lead to marital happiness, but a clean home is a happy home. I think. Is that how the proverb goes?

5. The Contractor

PCK Phua Chu Kang graciousness rap - A Happy Journey Starts Like That!

Singaporeans love Phua Chu Kang, best in Singapore, JB, and some say Batam. They love him so much, LTA decided to get him to front their courtesy campaign. Not sure if everyone’s favourite trash-talking, Singlish-spewing contractor did an effective job, but it definitely brought us plenty of laughs.

6. The One For The Indecisive

anything or whatever

Who remembers these drinks? A sarcastic response to apathetic replies (“what do you want to drink?” “anything lor” “whatever lah”), these were pretty popular back in the day. This ad highlights the confusion the names caused… which is what happened at some mama shops carrying the drinks.

7. The Classic

London Choco Roll_30s

My colleague tells me the Chinese version of this ad is way better, but alas, I couldn’t find it online. Ah, London Choco Roll, our favourite childhood snack, and a familiar tune during the Star Awards. This ditty is an old one, but one stuck in the memories of anyone who enjoyed London Choco Roll during recess in school.

8. The Near-Disaster

World Cup 2014 - Kick the Habit - English

This is very recent, but also definitely going down in Singapore advertising history. Andy’s dad bet all his savings on Germany during the 2014 FIFA World Cup… but the ad backfired because Germany did very well, and eventually won the tournament. Oops.

Fortunately, a quick save by the National Council on Problem Gambling helped prevent the ad from entering the hall of marketing fails, as well as hammer home the addictive nature of gambling.

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9. The Cute

Waggie's Sparky Starhub TV Commercial 1

Meant to illustrate Starhub’s network coverage all over the globe, Sparky the dog swallows a phone and runs around with it ringing merrily in her tummy. While it’s a creative way of delivering the message of extensive network coverage, people remembered the cute dog more than anything else.

10. The Tearjerker

Filial Piety: Father and Son (Eng subtitles)

No, I’m not crying, there’s just something in my eye. This ad, by the National Family Council, paints a poignant picture of something that’s all too real among families here in Singapore: a story of illness, unconditional love, and filial piety. It’s emotional, and it’s a reminder for us to cherish our families despite the odds.

11. The Best Comeback

SNICKERS You're Not You When You're Hungry TVC

“My grandmother can play better lah!” “You call your grandmother play lor!”

This ad tells us that we’re not ourselves when we’re hungry, and we need a Snickers bar to get our energy back. It’s memorable because of the Chinese opera singer and her sass, and her comeback is a classic we Singaporeans use anytime, anywhere.

12. The Annoying-After-A-While

Love Your Ride

After PCK’s attempt at promoting graciousness on public transport in 2009 (see #5), the Dim Sum Dollies tried their hand at getting Singaporeans to be nicer people while travelling. I’m not sure how much I remembered to love my ride, but their catchy jingles (“Train is coming, train is coming, train is coming~!”) definitely found a permanent home in my brain.

It started to become more irritating and less entertaining after the first five times I heard it though.

13. The Sentimental

Story of Glenn Lim and Mr Kumar (Ministry of Education, Singapore)

A good teacher has a great influence, and can change the lives of their students. These ads by the Ministry of Education tug at the heartstrings and tell the stories of kids who would have fallen through the cracks, but were able to achieve great things thanks to their teachers. Touching, emotional, and with a strong message, these are ads for the history books.

14. The Nostalgic

McDonalds_A Day In Singapore

The very first local ad for McDonald’s, the most memorable part of this ad would be the grandmother, saying wistfully that her grandson is “very naughty” and that he “only likes McDonald’s”- a sentiment that holds true even with grandchildren today! I’m sure my grandpa often muttered that about my siblings and I every time we pestered him for a Happy Meal.

15. The Witty

Experience the power of a bookbook™

I love this. Witty, sarcastic, and poking fun at new technology, this IKEA ad is sure to make you laugh. Eternal battery life? Easy bookmarking? Tactile touch technology you can actually feel? The IKEA Bookbook (the catalogue, lah) is a staple in our homes, and this ad puts a creative spin on something we usually leave on the coffee table after a quick glance.

16. The El Cheapo

McDonald's Singapore - Funny ERP Savers Ad

This appeals to every kiasu Singaporean, as well as to our deep-seated loathing of the dreaded ERP. Want to save money? Go for McDonald’s Extra Value meals and save yourself the trouble of dragging out your directions to the taxi driver in order to beat the ERP charges. This ad is hilariously relatable, and we love it.

17. The Courageous

MDA Senior Management Rap (resized)

MDA’s senior officials are the stars of this video, which aims to educate the public on what exactly the MDA does. I have nothing but respect for them, because I think it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and dance. It’s definitely a creative way of making the head honchos more personable to the public, and there’s just something really amusing about folks in suits grooving to the beat.

Special Mention: Mentos

Mentos National Night

This ad by Mentos Singapore isn’t particularly popular or memorable – as a matter of fact, I only chanced upon it while doing research for this article. But it’s worth a mention because of the innovative way Mentos tries to encourage Singaporeans to make babies. Celebrate National Night! Instead watching fireworks, make them instead, if you know what I mean.

This ad also has possibly the best disclaimer ever: “only financially secure adults in stable, committed, long-term relationships should participate”. Wise words, Mentos.

Ad Campaigns We Won’t Forget

We’ve talked about commercials to remember, but here are 2 iconic Singapore advertising campaigns we know and love.

Moove Media

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Who doesn’t recognise these adorable cows? The Moove Media cows have been a regular sight on our island for years, and have been used to promote everything from the Singapore Kindness Movement to the nation’s workforce. In 2015, the cows were used to spread the SG50 spirit, with cows dressed up as coolies, samsui women and other characters from our history.

#CokeDrones

In light of the unhappiness over immigrants in recent times, Coca Cola’s campaign to deliver their fizzy drink to foreign construction workers and share Singaporeans’ appreciation for them is a brilliant reminder for us to be a gracious and accepting society. Timely, thoughtful and touching, this campaign is one we definitely won’t forget.

You’ll remember these for a lifetime

These are the ads we feel deserve a place in our hallowed hall of Singapore advertising fame. Are there any other ads that come to mind when we talk about ones we’ll never forget? Share them with us!

Stefanie Yeo

Sometimes I think our human existence is futile, but then I eat a really good steak and things start looking up.

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