The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Makes A Country Unique?
February 27, 2008, 7:40 am
Filed under: Comment

Despite the fact I [and Fred] passionately hate/disagree with Singapore’s underwhelming tourism campaign positioning UNIQUELY SINGAPORE … 

[which was justified to me with the brilliant, “What’s unique about Singapore is that there is nothing unique about it”]

I do …

1 Love the place

Think it has an unfair negative perception

Believe there are some unique elements to the place

OK, to represent a whole country in a few words is incredibly difficult [especially if you need to put a positive slant on it, haha!] however my 75 year old Mother could come out with more interesting propositions than most countries churn out.

Incredible India

Uniquely Singapore

Amazing Thailand 

Discover Hong Kong

For fucks sake, what do those ‘lines’ mean????

And then there’s the ads.


Imagine vignette style advertising that tries to cram in every possible tourism activity over 30 seconds.

Apart from the fact it leaves you with no impression as regards the values/soul of the place, in most cases it could be for any destination in the World.

[Why don’t countries who spend all their money talking about the ‘ masses of activities’ they have to offer, stop trying to put it all into one ad and start a cable television network [think Discovery Travel & Living] that each day talks in depth about a different element of the country [including activities].  Not only would this give undeniable evidence there’s alot to do [because you need at least a year to talk about them all] but it also allows the culture and values of the place to come through. In essence, advertising would focus on selling the channel rather than the country – which might sound mad, but not as mad as trying to encapsulate a nation into a pithy slogan and 30 seconds of visuals]

Infact, there’s only 3.5 ‘tourism’ campaigns that come to mind that have a real idea behind them – an idea that is powerful enough to motivate people to actually want to find out more and they are …

Malaysia: Truly Asia

Sofea Ms Average Malay

The ad’s are appalling, but the idea that Malaysia represents all of Asia is lovely and nicely sidelines their core competition.

Singapore should be kicking themselves because this ‘thought’ could easily of been used for them given the CityState offers a truly multicultural experience.

Infact I think there’s a decent idea in positioning Singapore as the ‘sample shop’ for Asian destinations – because not only would it still attract people who specifically want to come to the Island, but it would also encourage other tourists to ‘pop by’ so they can get a brief sample of what other Asian countries are like so they can make a more informed decision of where they want to spend the majority of their holiday rather than wasting it on a place they don’t like.

Yes I know people like to ‘discover’ so this sort of idea could undermine an element of that holiday experience – however [1] people don’t like wasting their hard earned cash and [2] Singapore only offers a ‘flavour’ of what the experience in other countries is like so there’ll still be lots for people to uncover for themselves. 

Of course it’ll never happen because apart from ‘travel ageny booking issues’ there’s also nationalistic ego to contend with, but I still think there’s something in it.


NZ: 100% Pure

rachel_hunter Ms Average Kiwi

The ads are still quite vignette but at least there is a real idea at the heart of it – an idea that isn’t just about ‘facilities’ but life and the Kiwi’s attitude towards it.


Victoria [Australia]: You’ll Love Every Piece Of Victoria

Alexandra Ms Average Melburnian

One of the best tourism campaigns I’ve ever seen.

Incredibly consistent tone, manner and idea that perfectly represents the style, sophistication and culture [finally an ad that talks about that!] of Victoria.

Hell, even when they do ads which show various activities, they execute them as part of a bigger idea rather than being the core focus.

Absolutely wonderful work from M&C and based on a lovely [albeit generic] insight that states when you are about to go leave from a short-stay holiday, you feel a real pang of anguish that you might not have experienced all the things you could/should have which often manifests itself in you going for one last ‘mad walk around the city’ or trying to delay the ‘inevitable’ for as long as possible.

Here’s a couple of examples of how they do it – Walkabout and Hide ‘n’ Seek.


Wales: 2 Hours And A Million Miles Away [this is the .5]

Blech Ms Average Taffy

Not so much a brand message as a tactical campaign – focused on encouraging people in urban areas to get away from ‘normality’ and experience the best of Mother Nature.

If it wasn’t so full of Welsh people, it’d be perfect! 🙂


Anyway, as is the case with most of the posts I write, I’ve gone off track as this isn’t what I wanted to write about at all.

What I wanted to say was that one of the things that IS unique about Singapore [see, there’s the link to the beginning of the post, ha] is the Airport.

Yes, the airport.

Now that might not seem exciting to you, but they have the most god-damn amazing airport in the World.

Sure there’s others that can match it for offers and variety of shopping – but interms of efficiency – they are in a league of their own.

I can get from plane to taxi – which naturally includes going through immigration and collecting my suitcase – in 7 minutes.


When I fly into London, it takes me that long just to walk up the alley from the plane to the terminal.

Have a look at the pic below …


That is the immigration counter at the new Terminal 3.

Nice eh!

And guess what, that photo wasn’t taken at 2am on a rainy night – oh no – it was taken at 6pm on a Sunday after planes from Tokyo, NYC and London had got in.

Now compare that to the queues you normally experience in other cities!  It’s freakin’ brilliant!

There’s alot of things that bother the crap out about Singapore [but then I am a miserable ol’ bastard] but when I come back having endured another fuck up fairy adventure, I can honestly say the airport almost makes me feel proud to be a Singaporean PR!

I did say ‘almost’ – I still can’t get past the Government bods who did this! 🙂

34 Comments so far
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Well, well, well, that “Huh” character was proved right, you are a racist, except it’s towards the Welsh rather than the East.

Amongst your wonderfully off tangent post, there’s a couple of idea gems, namely the “sample taster for Asia” positioning for Singapore and the “cable channel” for pretty much every multiactivity destination in the World.

It’s long, convoluted and anti Welsh (remember Mrs Lee is from the great valleys so I must give the impression of loyalty) but I like this post alot, it’s interesting, thought provoking and full of mischief – just like the author.

Comment by Lee Hill

Not a cable channel – who’d broadcast it I wonder? But a YouTube channel or an IP TV channel – now that would work.

Comment by John

Post? What post, all I’m doing is looking at the ladies. Best post you’ve ever written Rob, I’d even do the Welsh bird if it was late and I was a bit lonely. She’d have to keep her mouth shut or should I say she’s just have to not talk. Boom tish.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’m with Lee, I really like the ideas you mention and am sure with a bit of crafting, they could be made more “business sensible” and you’re definitely the man to do it.

Those Victoria ads are wonderful. Love the pace of them, it makes such a change from the “we’re young and cool and vibrant” tone of most city/country ads.

Do you realise you’ve been writing almost serious posts for almost 2 weeks on the trot? Great to read and really thought provoking, I hope we get to work together again soon.

Comment by Pete

Cable channels are relatively easy to get – but you’re right, the cost implications would be rather high – so maybe a Youtube thing would work but don’t expect payment for that thought Mr Dodd’s, I know what you’re like, ha!

Pete are you looking for a job? You are being far too nice and it’s bordering on disconcerting given you HATED working with me at HHCL and even found me annoying at Crispin’s and that’s when I was much older and more mature. Ahem.

Billy … that’s the best comment you’ve ever written but sorry to burst your bubble, but the lovely Welsh lady would still say no if you were the last man on earth. Probably.

And finally Lee – thanks for pointing out my blatant racist genes fly in the face of your wife’s nationality and to make it worse, I’m meeting a very big wig from BBH tonight who is – you guessed it – also from the Valley’s, so that’s going to be a grrrrrrrrrreat meeting isn’t it, ha!


Comment by Robert

one day i want to see singapore market itself as ‘the only shopping mall in the united nations’.. which is the way i’ve heard it best described.

and you’re right about the impact of the airport.. i love a good airport, but it has to have the right balance of efficiency and charm – it can’t be too unlike the city it represents. munich airport is super-efficient, but has all the character of an industrial washing machine (unlike the city, of course.)

and i have to say the victorian campaign is so obviously great, because victoria is so obviously a brilliant place…. right?

[churlish? me? never!]

Comment by lauren

The thing with the Singapore Airport – as I once said to them – is that while it’s unbelievably clean and efficient, it has little ‘soul’ and so reinforces the clinical stereotype of the country – best demonstrated by the fact that only a small percentage of those that stop in Singapore [and have the time to explore the island before their next flight] do it.

Still it pisses on Heathrow! 🙂

And yes Lauren – you are speaking without any element of bias at all.

Comment by Rob

it’s not hard to piss on heathrow really… for a city of 10 million people, you’d think they’d have got their shit together before now to make a half-decent airport…

Comment by lauren

I think Singapore is one of the best places in the world to raise a family too. Work gets done, kids are safe, weather is great and people cooperative. All in a multicultural society that is a model for the rest of the world. Changi though is the dogs bollocks. End of.

Comment by Charles Frith

I have a real ‘thing’ about countries that talk about having a multicultural society because in most cases what they really should say is they have a lot of cultures that live in their country because more often than not, they aren’t seamlessly integrated and infact tend to be a cauldron of prejudice and mistrust.

Sure Singapore is better than somewhere like say Australia – but you don’t have to scratch the surface that much to see the old insecurities and prejudices coming to the fore.

Comment by Robert

In that case Lee we look forward to your comments about our proposal next week 🙂

Comment by George

Lets hear the adventure!

Id like to know what you think of Australia’s “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hahahaha, good point George. Go on Lee, answer that and still keep your credibility 🙂

That’s a good question Mr M, because I think it’s bollocks actually. And the weird thing is it’s done [I think] by M&C – who were behind 100% Pure and You’ll Love Every Bit Of Victoria.

Shows the importance of the client and agency team dynamic in making great work eh?

Comment by Rob

Interesting, I like the idea; and it gets across the personality of Australia well. But there is something missing from it that I can’t put my finger on.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’ve just checked Robert and I am sorry to inform you that my credibility isn’t quivering in fear quite yet.

Comment by Lee Hill

A week is a long time in business Lee and I agree with you Rob Mortimer, I like the Australian tourism campaign but the thing that doesn’t seem quite right is that it has no soul, it’s more about activities and “larakin” humour than the Aussie culture and values.

Comment by George

Agreed. It’s got the idea right but the execution is missing soul. Though it did a good job of generating publicity, shame it couldnt do it with a better ad.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I think the reason that the ‘where the bloody hell are ya?’ campaign is slightly missing something is perhaps because Australian culture and custom is going through a marked period of change right now and it’s even more difficult to convey ‘Australian’ than it has ever been.

Especially when that campaign was developed, there was an apathetic but fractious feeling about the country (Cronulla riots, citizenship tests, divisive policy and droves of expats) – that’s not an easy gig for even the most switched on agency.

Comment by lauren

I honestly think that there isn’t a good tourism campaign about Singapore because there aren’t (enough) people who truly are passionate about Singapore and what’s good about it.

Yeah, sure, it’s safe and it’s clean and it’s multi-racial but there is no way safe clean and multi-racial are ‘sexy’ or exciting selling points for a tourist.

Fact is, ask any local and they’ll tell you they 1) don’t know much about what’s exciting to do in Singapore (other than shop and eat, the standard two) 2) don’t think Singapore measures up as a tourist destination compared to other Asian countries. It’s also hella hard to beat Malaysia’s “Truly Asia”, because they (M’sia) DO have all the variety and diversity in sights and activities a tourist wants in a long-stay destination.

Comment by zhirong

I don’t normally enter debate on this blog because it scares me where it might end up but I have to say I don’t agree with you there Lauren.

While Australia may of been going through some dramatic, yet relatively isolated, issues at the time of the campaigns creation, the values of the country were still intact, especially from a wider international perspective, so for the ads to be redundent of soul is, in my mind, still disappointing.

If I remember rightly, when the NZ campaign was launched New Zealand was experiencing cultural issues with the Maori’s but that didn’t stop them developing a campaign that was truly reflective of the ethos of the country as well as motivating for a World audience.

Maybe I’m wrong and I certainly don’t want to upset you Lauren, but I feel you might be showing some of that wonderful Aussie pride in defending a campaign that is good, but just not World beating.

Given M&C are so good with tourism generally, I’d put it down to the client rather than the agency or social unrest.

Comment by George

I’m sure I spelt Maori wrongly so apologies if I upset anyone and also to Lauren, this is just my point of view, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s just debate.

Funny how I fight like cats and dogs with the guys but on here I’m reduced to tip toeing through the minefield.

Comment by George

George, you never have to tiptoe around me – as much as I might bite others’ heads off, I promise that you’ve got some kind of Survivor immunity. (Besides, I have to creep to someone at cynic)

And perhaps I didn’t convey my true feelings about the campaign when i wrote those comments, but I’m not all that attached to it really. A tourism campaign hardly ever gets me fired up and I wouldn’t say I’m ‘proud’ of this one, but I just wanted to maybe highlight aspects of what was going on at the time for those who may not have known – that perhaps the campaign had ‘no soul’ because we’ve lost our ‘soul’.

BTW you spelled Maori right 🙂

Comment by lauren

You clearly know where the real insights are George!

Comment by John

God George is so fucking nice!

Comment by Rob

When i visited Singapore two years ago, i have to say that the airport was uniquely structured and indeed breathtaking. However, upon getting out of the airport is another story, the realization would seep in – truth be told, nothing was scenically exceptional.

Visiting Sentosa Island is your first class ticket to Disneyland if you intend to reminisce the child hood fun. Kiki rocks!!! Haha

Comment by Julie, writer

From my little knowledge of the place I would say Singapore is like HK but calmer. Which to me is quite an attractive idea (as much as I love HK, its hectic and overwhelming to some people).

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Don’t pretend you’re all mean and moody Robert, underneath it all you’re sweeter than candyfloss. Andy on the other hand..

Comment by George

And good luck with today/tomorrow, put them in their place and enjoy the spotlight.

Comment by George

Damn you George – you promised to keep that secret quiet!

And thanks, I’ll have fun – mainly because I want to see their faces when the bloke who is dressed like an anti-globalisation protestor turns out to be one of the speakers, ha!

Speak later matey …

Comment by Rob

And hello again Jullie – nice to have you back!

Comment by Rob

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