Olivia Parker
Apr 9, 2019

100 of the best ads from Asia Pacific (according to us)

We could have called it the 'ultimate' list of best work from the region, but that would offend our appreciation of the variety of subjective responses to creativity. So we ask for your faith in our judgement—and for your help to expand this epic list from 50 to 100.

Clockwise from top left, ads by: McDonald's, Singapore Airlines, Unif Green Tea, FedEx, Metro Trains and Adidas
Clockwise from top left, ads by: McDonald's, Singapore Airlines, Unif Green Tea, FedEx, Metro Trains and Adidas

Like a creative's personal Pinterest board, the collection of work below is listed in random order, rather than by date, personal preference or type of ad—but all of it was made in Asia Pacific. 

The first 17 pieces of work were originally selected by our team to feature in Campaign's 50th anniversary magazine, which was published in October 2018 and included 50 stories worth celebrating from the region, while a few others were pruned from recommendations made when Campaign Asia turned 40. The remainder is a collection of the team's personal favourites, suggestions from the great and good of the creative world and work that has killed it at global award ceremonies over the years. 

The earliest piece of work on the list is Coca-Cola's first ad in China, which records suggest was published in the 1930s. You'll also find ads here through the decades from the 1970s to the very latest Cannes sensations, and from nine different APAC markets. 

But if we missed your favourite spot, let us know. We want to build the next 50—particularly focusing on pre-1970s ads—with the help of reader suggestions. To contribute, comment via the feedback form at the bottom of the page, email olivia.parker@haymarket.asia or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook. Enjoy the list. 

1. 'Liking Isn't Helping'
Advertiser: Crisis Relief Singapore
Agency: Publicis Singapore

Confrontational for a cause, this powerful exercise in shaming, released in 2013, exhorted viewers to volunteer and help people in real life. 


2. Reebok's hunky grandpa 
Advertiser: Reebok
Agency: Venables Bell + Partners and Liberum13
The star of this incredibly popular ad from 2017, Reebok's first TVC in the China market, is 81-year-old Wang Deshun, a former actor and model dubbed 'China's hunkiest grandpa'. The brand said Deshun epitomises the idea that you're never too old to achieve your goals. 


3. 'Dumb Ways to Die'
Advertiser: Metro Trains

Agency: McCann Melbourne
This light-hearted campaign from 2012, titled 'Dumb Ways To Die', earned more than 4.7 million views in two days (more than the population of Melbourne) and over a million pledges from its target segment, who vowed to stop engaging in life-threatening activities, resulting in a 20% reduction in rail-related accidents year-on-year. 


4. Targeting smokers' consciences 
Advertiser: ThaiHealth
Agency: Ogilvy

Dubbed "the most effective anti-smoking ad ever", this powerful ad from 2012 showing kids asking smokers to explain why they can't share a light became a viral sensation worldwide and led to a 40% jump in phone inquiries by Thai smokers wanting to quit. 


5. "It's more fun in the Philippines"
Advertiser: Philippines Department of Tourism
Agency: BBDO Guerrero
This ad released in 2012 boasted the perfect slogan that inspired memes galore, made the agency's reputation and still features prominently on various official sites, even though the department claimed it would move on several times. 


6. Coca-Cola's first ad in China (circa 1930s)
Advertiser: Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola first entered China in 1927 with a plant in Tianjin. Ads like this one helped the company expand to the point where it was selling over a million cases of Coke a year in Shanghai by 1947, the first city in which this happened outside the US. 


7. Singapore Girl
Advertiser: Singapore Airlines
Agency: Batey Ads

The ad campaign that literally got an airline off the ground when it was released in 1972 was developed in the politically weighty period following Singapore's secession, when the new country needed an iconic national brand to announce its arrival. The Singapore Girl uniform and proposition still exists today as a guiding principle of the brand. 


8. Follow the Yellow Man
Advertiser: DiGi Malaysia
Agency: Naga DDB
The telco's Yellow Man, introduced in 2006, and his catchy song, 'I Will Follow You', based on the 1963 Little Peggy March hit, scored DiGi the highest unaided brand recall score in Malaysia and gained the company 18 points in its 'good network coverage' score. 


9. Bite-sizing learning
Advertiser: Smart Communications
Agency: DDB DM9 JaymeSyfu

This effort from 2013 eased the backpack burden of young pupils in the Philippines by converting textbook content into SMS-sized chunks that were loaded onto SIM cards and delivered to students. The work won the Philippines its first-ever Cannes Grand Prix. 


10. Palau Pledge
Advertiser: Palau Legacy Project
Agency: Host/Havas

The winner of no fewer than three Grand Prix at Cannes Lions 2018, this was a tourism campaign with heart, encouraging visitors to the world's 13th smallest nation to sign a pledge on the entry stamp in their passports to avoid any environmentally damaging behaviour during their stay in Palau. 


11. #NotAnotherChild
Advertiser: Australian Childhood Foundation
Agency: Isobar and The Story Lab
Is it manipulative to use a soulful piano cover of Mad World in an ad? Possibly. Is this even the most memorable use of the song by Tears For Fears in an ad? Nope. But listening to these heartbreaking statements of child maltreatment in this 2014 ad, accompanied by images of sorrowful children, hits like a truck to the chest without fail. 


12. Explore Japan through the window of a train
Advertiser: Japan Railways Group
Agency: Dentsu

Launched at the beginning of the 1970s, 'Discover Japan' used arresting imagery, touching storytelling and social commentary to cultivate a growing number of train travellers. It is noted for its subtlety, which went against the grain of ads at the time by trying to represent culture rather than overtly pushing a product or service. 


13. Uniqlock
Advertiser: Uniqlo
Agency: Projector

A piece of work that happened without the aid of the brief, Uniqlock (2007) was one of the first examples of branded utility, showing the potential of the online platform to provide a service while entertaining. Distinctly Japanese, but not only aimed at Japan, the campaign used music and dance to break through cultural and linguistic barriers, engage people and ultimately sell products. 


14. The running woman
Advertiser: Wowow
Agency: Dentsu
Love is not allowed to get in the way of good TV in this short film for Wowow, a satellite broadcaster, from 2000. Slapstick but deadpan, an example of Japanese humour and storytelling at its best.  


15. "Marriage Market Takeover"
Advertiser: SK-II (P&G)
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors

This Japanese cosmetics brand hacked a traditional marriage market in China in 2016 with its own version of 'marriage ads' by single women asserting their happiness at their own independence and refusing to conform to a society labelling them as 'leftover women'. 


16. "Acceptance"
Advertiser: McCafé
Agency: Leo Burnett Taiwan
Though brands can catch flack for virtue-signalling beyond a product's actual features, this 2016 ad was a powerful statement for inclusion in a region where LGBT prejudice remains a serious issue.


17. 'Share the Load'
Advertiser: Ariel (P&G)
Agency: BBDO Mumbai and MediaCom Mumbai
This phenomenally popular and successful ad from 2015 (named the world's most effective campaign by Warc in 2018), encouraged Indian men to play their part in household chores. Ariel's sales volume and value doubled, and 1.57 million men pledged to 'share the load'. 


18. Hungry? Cup-O-Noodle
Advertiser: Nissin Cup-O-Noodle
Agency: Hakuhodo

This 1993 ad featuring a giant moa (a long-extinct flightless bird native to New Zealand) running away from a crowd of tiny tribespeople suffers barely at all from the blurriness of this YouTube version. Described as "freakishly weird", it resonates on the basis of pure emotion rather than logic. 


19. This is the story of The Times of India
Advertiser: Times of India
Agency: JWT

The Times aimed to capture the sensation that "history is turning a page" in India and help lead social change, launching a multi-phase initiative in 2007 to find a contest winner who could be given a helping hand up the path to government. The campaign started with a front page article, 'India Poised', published on the 60th anniversary of India's independence, which actor Amitabh Bachchan read out on national TV. It went on to win JWT a Grand Prix at Cannes, India's first. 


20. Heaven and Hell
Advertiser: Samsonite
Agency: JWT China

An impressive piece of artwork from 2011 that appealed directly to every traveller's imagination with its depiction of the 'hellish' journey a piece of luggage goes through while its owner relaxes in comfort during a flight. The work won a Grand Prix for Press and a Gold Lion for Outdoor at Cannes. 


21. "It's a Big Ad!"
Advertiser: Foster's Australia
Agency: George Patterson Y&R

As YouTube users are still saying over a decade after this incredibly popular ad for Carlton Draught was first released in 2005, Australia really knows how to do beer adverts. Even back in 2005, the ad notched up 162,000 downloads in 24 hours when the company premiered it on the internet two weeks before it was shared on television. 


22. Vertical Football
Advertiser: Adidas
Agency: TBWA

Suspending two players and a ball to 'play' on a vertical football pitch billboard above the world's busiest intersection in Tokyo was a genius way to grab attention and encapsulate the brand's "impossible is nothing" slogan. This won two Outdoor Gold Lions at Cannes 2004. 


23. Bugger
Advertiser: Toyota
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand

John Mescall of McCann Australia summed up our thoughts on this ad for the Toyota Hilux in six words: "Funny, earthy, honest, memorable, irreverent and likeable". It's been over 20 years since its 1996 release and it seems every bit as relevant today. 


24. The view from the top
Advertiser: Chivas
Agency: The Ball Partnership

This stripped-back ad for Chivas Regal from 1993 gave a bold masterclass in how to create desire and personality around a product without so much as sharing its brand name. 


25. Black Cat whisky
Advertiser: United Winery and Distillery
Agency: Results Advertising

Thor Santisiri, Chairman of NudeJEH, nominated this ad as one of his favourite for Campaign's 40th anniversary website with this justification: "Whoever did this must have studied the rules of dos and don’ts on whisky advertising hard just to break every one of them. Then put a great idea behind it with a sense of humour. It took Thailand by storm. Almost everyone with a sense of humour regardless of their social class tried the whisky. The campaign hurt the brand leader so badly they eventually bought Black Cat and suffocated it. Another triumph for creativity." 


26. One black coffee, please
Advertiser: Ericsson
Agency: Nexus Equity

Wonderful to watch now for the nineties style and decor as well as the perfectly balanced humour, this ad won India its first ever Cannes Lion. 


27. Come on an anti-smoking journey
Advertiser: Cancer Patients Aid Association
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai

This 2001 ad titled 'The Journey' won the agency India's first ever 'Best of the Best Spike' at the Asian Advertising Awards hosted by Media magazine (later renamed Campaign Asia-Pacific). The power hinges on the back-to-front scenario in which an old man offers a smoker his seat on the bus, suggesting the smoker is the weaker of the two. 


28. Torturing his jeans
Advertiser: Wrangler
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok

Another from 2001, this ad is divisive with its depiction of a woman finding the phone number and bra of another woman in the pocket of what are, presumably, her partner's jeans, and taking out her anger on the jeans themselves — particularly around the groin region. Some like it, some don't: it's certainly memorable. 


29. Lucy the Robot
Advertiser: Double Robotics
Agency: Atomic 212º

A smart campaign to raise awareness of the brand's telepresence robot in APAC, 'Lucy', a robot controlled by a real human, was deployed at the head of the queue for the first iPhone 6S when it was released in Sydney in 2016, successfully buying the first phone but also achieving mass publicity around the world and a major boost in recall and brand favourability. 


30. Diving Into Data
Advertiser: Narellan Pools
Agency: Affinity

Consistently appearing on 'most effective ads ever' lists, this ad for Australian swimming pool firm Narellan won, well, swimming pools-full of awards for a great strategy, mining five years' of customer data to come up with the insight that consecutively hot days are what spurs people to look at buying pools. The brand then created an algorithm to activate media spend and target people when conditions were right, reducing Narellan's media spend by over 30% and increasing sales by 23%. 


31. #MyFamilyCan
Advertiser: SPC
Agency: Leo Burnett Sydney

A 2015 campaign for Australian fruit-packing company SPC that put photographs of real Australian farming families on the labels of the canned goods they themselves had produced. The 4 million cans flew off the shelves and prompted 1.2 million social-media interactions. 


32. The Infrequent Flyers Club
Advertiser: Tigerair
Agency: McCann

Advertised as "the rewards programme that gives you nothing at all", this campaign was a memorable bid to target Australia's least-frequent flyers and make them feel part of a different kind of Tigerair club. It scored half a million members and brought the airline its first profitable quarter in five years. 


33. The Unlimited Stadium
Advertiser: Nike
Agency: BBH Singapore

This cool promo won more Lions that any other campaign in Asia at the 2017 Cannes Lions, picking up 15 awards. Activated in Manila, the Philippines, in August 2016 during the Olympic Games, Nike built a footprint-shaped, 200m running track lined with LED screens that let runners compete against their own virtual avatars.  


34. Taking the drama out of delivery
Advertiser: FedEx
Agency: BBDO Guerrero

The two Hollywood action film-style commercials in this integrated campaign, 'Package #83' (below) and 'Zombie Outbreak' ran across ten APAC markets in 2011, increasing top of mind status to 88% and pulling in over a million page views to a special campaign website. The agency also listed 'respect from zombies everywhere' as an extra result. 


35. 'Unsung Hero'
Advertiser: Thai Life Insurance
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok
This spot was first released in 2014 by master tearjerker brand Thai Life Insurance, featuring a man going about his day doing good deeds for apparently little reward. Immensely popular with 38 million views and counting on the company's YouTube channel, the ad uses no more tricks than emotive storytelling—but to great effect. 


36. Meet Graham
Advertiser: The Transport Accident Commission of Victoria
Agency: Clemenger BBDO

It would be hard to imagine what this strangely-shaped figure is about, but the genius rationale behind 'Graham'—the physical embodiment of how much further a human would have to evolve to be able to survive high-speed car crashes—also makes it hard to forget, and well-deserving of the 29 Lions it scooped at Cannes 2018. 


37. Cook up a kitchen
Advertiser: IKEA
Agency: BBH Asia-Pacific

Immensely watchable, this 2015 spot converts the building of a kitchen into a fun cooking show format, with the chef throwing cabinets, "red-hot doors" and a smattering of seasoning (nails, screws) from IKEA's 'Metod' range into a wok to produce a lovely new kitchen. Clean, smart creative work, the kind IKEA is famous for.


38. Touchable Ink
Advertiser: Samsung Electronics Thailand and the Thailand Association of the Blind
Agency: JWT Bangkok

Based on the insights that blind people prefer to 'read' using braille words and that braille printers are very expensive, this campaign developed a special ink that turned normal home printers into braille printers. It won four Cannes Lions, five Spikes and multiple other awards. 


39. 'Funeral'
Advertiser: Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports "MCYS" 
Agency: Leo Burnett

The late celebrated director, scriptwriter and creative director of Leo Burnett Yasmin Ahmad created this heart-rending ad for Singapore's MCYS to help promote universal marriage values. It won the golden Kancil in October 2009, three months after Ahmad tragically died from a stroke at the age of 51. 


40. Anything, Whatever
Advertiser: Out Of The Box
Agency: TVC directed by Thanonchai Sornsriwichai
Anything and Whatever, no longer available in Singapore, were soft drinks by Out Of The Box whose flavours (six for each label) remained a mystery until you opened them. An series of eye-catching branding campaigns included videos (the below is from 2007), bus stop ads lined with cans and vending machines playing on the 'you don't know what you're going to get' theme. 


41. Free Fry-fi
Advertiser: McDonald's
Agency: DDB Sydney

Ultra-simple, getting the message across while making you hungry for chips, this print campaign advertising the free Wi-Fi McDonald's was introducing to its restaurants was rolled out in 2009. 


42. Kill Bill Kill Bill
Advertiser: Soken DVD
Agency: Euro RSCG (Later renamed Havas)

Hailed by the 2003 Gunn Report as the third most awarded ad in the world, this spot comedically highlighting the issues with low-grade DVD players won a Gold Lion at Cannes in 2004. 


43. I want the top tea leaf!
Advertiser: Unif Green Tea
Agency: BBDO Bangkok

A sweetly quirky TV ad from 2005 featuring a standoff for the best tea leaf between a cute little green worm and a tea leaf picker. This helped establish a position of rising kudos in the world, something that was referred to by AdAge at the time as the "unmistakable Thai creative aesthetic". 


44. The Smooth E Baby Face Love Story
Advertiser: Smooth E Baby Face Foam
Agency: JEH United
A hilarious series of 90-second TV ads that kept you waiting for the next installment in a love story. The facial cleansing product makes its way into each ad in a pleasingly self-mocking way, and we just love it. This spot from Thailand took the only Gold Spike in TV at Spikes 2007 and also won a Gold Lion at Cannes. 


45. One huge dream, one tiny battery
Advertiser: Panasonic Oxyride
Agency: Space Runner (Hakuhodo)

This integrated campaign, which won a Platinum Spike in 2007, followed a team's successful attempts to get a manned light aircraft to fly on the power of Oxyride batteries alone.


46. 'I've got Syphilis'
Advertiser: Scrabble (Mattel)
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific (Singapore)
Accompanied by a series of faintly risqué print ads spelling out, in Scrabble tiles, sentences championing the game such as 'One of the few occasions when celibacy is better than sex' or 'Where else can you get points for farting?' this campaign for Scrabble from 1999 included the video below, 'Syphilis', and another, 'Sodomised', which won Gold Lions at Cannes in 2000. 


47. 'Well I'm soooo hungry' 
Advertiser: Snickers
Agency: Clemenger BBDO

A Grand Prix winner for Radio at the 2007 Cannes Lions, this audio advert features a yee-haring cowboy singing an awfully catchy—or just awful, depending on your personal preferences—tongue-twister of a rhyming song about all the things he ate while 'soooo hungry'. Listen now


48. 'Bonded by Blood'
Advertiser: New Zealand Rugby Union and Adidas
Agency: TBWA\ Whybin 

In this slightly gruesome but award-winning campaign from 2007, TBWA\ Whybin convinced the All Blacks squad to donate blood, which was then sterilised, loaded into a printer and used to print 8,000 limited edition posters of a team photograph, complete with the players' actual DNA and a certificate of authentication. In a creepy twist, you won't guess the surname of the ECD, Andy, who worked on this... that's right, 'Blood'. 


49. 'Wake up Thailand'
Advertiser: Thai Atlas
Agency: Creative Juice/G1

Using the tagline 'Wake Up Thailand', this series of ads played on the idea of D7 coffee cans giving people a caffeine hit by showing the drink rousing their morals at the same time: making them say no to bribery, for example, or fiddling a bill. 


50. 'Immunity Charm'
Advertiser: Afghanistan Ministry of Health
Agency: McCann Mumbai

Afghanistan has the world's worst mortality rate. One of the problems is that keeping vaccination records is so difficult in a war-torn country where many people are very poor. In this 2017 campaign that won a Grand Clio award, McCann put a spin on the small, thought-to-be-lucky beaded bracelets typically worn by Afghan babies, alloting a different colour bead for every vaccine to help doctors keep track and start more conversations about infant health. 

THE NEXT 50 — WHAT HAVE WE MISSED?

Everyone has a favourite ad. If you'd like to send us yours and help us build up the next list of 50, the only criteria is that it must have been made in Asia Pacific. To contribute, either comment on this page below (click 'Yes' or 'No' under 'Was this article helpful?' to reveal a feedback form), email olivia.parker@haymarket.asia or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook

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