Sam Scrouther
Jun 22, 2016

Tiger Beer turns (a tiny amount of) air pollution into art

HONG KONG - As Tiger debuts ‘Air-Ink’ in Hong Kong to apparently tackle air pollution and get people enjoying the outdoors again, the campaign leaves a small impression and less of an impact than hoped.

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Bao Ho's mural for Air-Ink.

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Caratoes, street artist, works on a mural during the event, using paints derived from air pollution.

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Client: Tiger Beer (Heineken Asia-Pacific)

Agency: N/A

Market: Hong Kong

Name of campaign: Air-Ink

Campaign scope: Street art project using art supplies derived from diesel exhaust

Details: Tiger Beer, in collaboration with invention lab Graviky, hosted an event last Friday to showcase a technology that is supposedly removing air pollution and enticing Hong Kongers back outdoors, while encouraging them to ‘uncage’ their ‘inner tigers’ at the same time.

The ‘Air-Ink’ technology, invented by Anirudh Sharma, chief disruptor at Graviky, captures soot from diesel vehicle exhaust, which is then turned into an ink that is incorporated into pens, markers and spray paints. Sharma explained that a “contraption is put onto car exhausts to trap the air pollution before it even leaves the exhaust and enters the air,” adding that the 150 litres of Air-Ink produced for the project had prevented the release of carbon produced by 2,500 hours of driving a diesel-powered car.

At the event Friday, several Hong Kong street artists, such as Bao Ho and Caratoes, showed off murals created with Air-Ink markers and paints.

“We wanted to embrace the environment and work with it,” said Mie Leng Wong, director of International Brands, Tiger. Asked why Tiger had decided to first launch the technology in Hong Kong instead of one of its other 50 markets, Wong cited research showing that Hong Kong has one of the biggest air pollution problems globally; for 30 percent of the year visibility is limited to 8 kilometres at most.

The ink used to create the art in Hong Kong was harvested over a two-month period, derived from soot captured from trucks, cars and chimneys in Bangalore, and locally from fishing boats and forklifts in container yards.

Campaign Asia-Pacific comments: Tiger Beer has attempted to turn a problem into its own solution, using air pollution for “beautifying the streets” with art.  

However, the connection between the brand and any possible lasting impact on Hong Kong’s air pollution is relatively weak. Tiger may have created a stronger association between itself and Hong Kong’s street and art culture through the event, but the pollution impact so far is negligible, and the brand did not articulate an ongoing commitment to improving the air. Tiger does not have plans to continue using Air-Ink in Hong Kong specifically or to initiate any additional solutions.

It is all well and good that Tiger wants to promote the bringing together of young people and socialising outdoors in conjunction with its product, but when it has said itself that pollution is one of the factors impeding people’s ability to do so, there should be more discussion around sustained work to solve the problem.

It’s a good concept. Air-Ink is innovative and could, if used proficiently, conceivably make a difference. But so far, the project has only used a few local sources of pollution, such as fishing boats and forklifts, according to the agency.

If it wants to assert that it is actually helping create a better environment, where citizens can become more sociable outdoors, Tiger needs to demonstrate either that Air-Ink can be scaled up in Hong Kong, or that it is developing or supporting other long-term pollution solutions. Only then can Tiger claim to “bring back to life the passion of the streets in Hong Kong”.

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