Thai Creative Shows That TV can Still be a Magical Medium

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Cannes. so much to talk about (yet so little brain function left for talking): the winners, integrated campaigns' lack of recognition, Martin Sorrell's revelation of his true feelings about creatives (widely misinterpreted as satire) and-the real reason to go to Cannes-the work.

But what I'm most compelled to talk about here is ... a TV spot. It's not just any spot; it's a long, four-part spectacle that sort of stretches the definition of TV commercial. And its creator is not just any creative.

The awards-circuit mainstays and AdCritic subscribers among you know it. It's the stunningly engaging, Gold Lion-winning serial "Love Story" for Smooth E Baby Face Foam. (You can see it on AdCritic.com.) In the last several years, North Americans have seen the unique Thai aesthetic recognized more at international shows. Will Thailand be the new Sweden of advertising influence? Who knows?

But we do know that the Smooth E spot is more than just different; it's an inspired piece of brand creativity. It embodies audience insight, risk-taking, media savvy, virtuosic execution and the three core principles of brand communication: entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.

The "Love Story" plot is pretty standard. But the orthodoxy ends there. The campaign manages to be, among other things, an edgy youth-targeted slice of life, a universally accessible love story and a self-aware spoof on the idea of selling to teens itself. And it features a transgender pitch person. Meanwhile, it's an over-the-top product-usage extravaganza. The story rolled out in 90-second installments at the same time each week during prime time. Do, please, try this at home, folks.

In Thailand (if not here) TV is still the king of all media, and this is a brilliant use of the form. The mastermind behind Smooth E is Jureeporn Thaidumrong, founder of year-old Bangkok agency Jeh United.

Her first name translates roughly to Weapon of God, but you can call her Judee. You don't get the weapon part at first. She has a charming, self-effacing manner. She giggles a lot when she speaks. She lives with her mother and, beyond advertising, her other passion is feeding stray dogs.

Then you talk about the work.

Though she fell in love with TV ads as a kid and knew she wanted to be the person who did that, she studied economics. Even when she left university with a collection of ad-competition awards, she "dared not" go straight into advertising, and instead spent a year as an in-house creative for a large department store. Two years after entering the agency world, she was winning gold awards in the double digits at Thai shows and being called the "angel copywriter" by the local industry. She didn't stop working until she was one of the premier creative names in her country-a feat for a woman anywhere, but maybe more so in Thailand. When Cannes came onto the Thai radar, she traveled there, arriving at 8:30 a.m. at the Palais. ("It wasn't open. I waited.") She watched every commercial entered. After working for many of Thailand's top agencies, she started Jeh (which means "sister") "to focus on doing great work." A year later, she has 20 clients.

She calls Smooth E her favorite project and says it works because it stays true to Thai teens. She chalks up the quality of Thai creative to a cultural hunger for entertainment and humor, something local clients understand. But while the Thai creative "thing" may come to America, will Judee? She says no. Her last name means, after all, Forever Thai. And besides, who would feed the dogs?

Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and AdCritic.com. E-mail your big ideas to her at tiezzi@crain.com.
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