The Asia-Pacific region turned out a lot of memorable and commendable advertising in 2019. But if you think you can predict what you'll find below, please keep scrolling. We enjoy compiling this list each year partly because it gives us a chance to bring a bit more attention to deserving output you may have missed. So you'll find that we've left out a few inarguably worthy works that have already garnered their share of awards and attention. For example, we thought 'scUber' was an amazing attention-grabber, we were moved by ANZ's signs of LGBTIQ support, and we gave Apple's Chinese New Year film about a bucket of eggs a positive review. But the campaigns below, which come from all over APAC and are presented in no particular order, were the ones that really won our hearts.
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2019: The year in review
Ronaldo's Shopee ad is gloriously ridiculous
Brand: Shopee | Agency: Unknown | Market: Regional
While it arguably could have gone on this year's list of stinkers instead of this list, the footballer's ad for the Southeast Asian e-commerce site falls squarely into the so-bad-it's-good category. We're fairly certain it's bad on purpose. But even if it's accidentally awful, it worked a treat in terms of garnering attention. And we'll always remember that 'dance'.
When chewing the scenery is literal
Brand: Chaindrite | Agency: MullenLowe Thailand | Market: Thailand
If you don't think a lengthy video with purposely silly costumes, comically dramatic music and actors who are chewing the scenery both figuratively and literally could shift in a split second from slapstick humour to a death scene where a grief-torn family howls over a foaming-at-the-mouth loved one, while also making you laugh and simultaneously explaining a rather complicated product, then you don't know Thai advertising. This one went globally viral for good reason. (Here's a version with English subtitles.)
This is a bank ad
Brand: Bankwest | Agency: Union | Market: Australia
Sure, advertising tropes are an easy target. But it's still delightful to see them held up for ridicule. Better yet, this ad is a great distillation of the client's 'Bank less' proposition. A satirical skewering is a shortcut to our hearts, and the brand is betting that's also true for jaded bank customers. Now, nod like you understand... Good.
Petronas celebrates an introvert from Sabah
Brand: Petronas | Agency: IPG Mediabrands Malaysia | Market: Malaysia
This is a universally relatable story of a young person heading off to university. But it's also designed to have special significance that might not be readily apparent to non-Malaysians. The protagonist in the film, which was released to coincide with Malaysia Day and Merdeka, is an East-Malaysian—a member of a group that is "often overlooked in our usual national narrative", the agency said. A lovely message of inclusion.
Try to resist these toothpaste love stories from the Philippines
Brand: Close-Up | Agency: MullenLowe Philippines | Market: Philippines
Even a grizzled curmudgeon couldn't resist these sweet stories, in which we hear the internal dialogues of the characters as they question themselves and try to talk themselves into having the confidence to make a move. It ties in well with a brand that has always been about the confidence to get up close and personal. And it's even better that the couples represent a nice diversity of orientations and situations.
5 near misses
"Stay in sport" Pantene Malaysia urges girls
Aldi unleashes a tunavalanche
Vicks brings 'touch of care' to HIV-positive kids
R/GA Shanghai brings in kickass cat to fight for scrappy craft beer brand
Underwear maker wants you to join the fight against glo-ball warming
DB Export's R&B ('romance & beers') ballad
Brand: DB Export | Agency: Colenso BBDO | Market: New Zealand
The almost four-minute-long video is really a single, not an ad, released on music platforms including iTunes and Spotify. We enjoyed the stereotype-bashing scenes as the couple sings about tasks it's possible to do one-handed, leaving the other blissfully free to cradle a beer.
Lego spotlights kick-ass APAC girls with CNN International
Brand: Lego | Media platform: CNN International Commercial | Market: Regional
An indoor skydiver from Singapore, a young CEO from Hong Kong, a South Korean figure skater and a drumming prodigy from Japan feature in this inspiring series. 'Branded content' gets a bad rap, but that's because much of it is crap. This here is the good stuff: It's got a great message—one that is perhaps especially needed in this academically-obsessed region—but it doesn't make the mistake of laying it on too thickly. When you've got girls who are this impressive as your subject matter, you don't need to.
Amnesty poster campaign focuses on the mighty pen
Client: Amnesty International | Agency: Grey Indonesia | Market: Indonesia
Sometimes a few strokes of a pen can say so much. That's the case for Amnesty International's history of successful signature campaigns, and it's the case for this eloquent set of posters.
These rich, dead Singaporeans wish they'd protected their wealth from their a-hole kids
Brand: Etiqa Singapore | Agency: Blak Labs | Market: Singapore
We welcome the wry humour in this campaign, and salute both the brand and the agency for not only breaking the category conventions but also broaching a grave topic without being dreadfully grave about it. After all, rich people probably have senses of humour too, right?
Hate your job? Maybe you're suffering from '700-day itch'
Brand: AIA | Agency: Leo Burnett Malaysia | Market: Malaysia
Mashing together horror tropes, surreal (but oh so believable) office vignettes and a lab-coated scientist who explains a condition known as '700-day itch', this is a remarkably fun recruitment ad. The PSA-styled clip is delightfully packed with comedic bits and deftly edited, with small absurd touches—like the boss's incessant, unhinged laughter and the hand-knit scarf of exceptional length—that push it to another level.
Bonus: 3 admired ads not from Asia
Oh goodness, this Renault ad is swoon-worthy
Watch these cat videos right meow
Try not to cry watching this Ramadan-themed BMW ad
Abysmal APAC ads: Our top 10 stinkers of 2019