Chris Reed
Jul 2, 2014

Will thoughtful Singapore buy into the new transport campaign?

Corny or admirable? You can either think that the new Singapore Land Transport Authority (SLTA) campaign is the corniest thing you have ever seen or admire their ambition in this cynical world to communicate thoughtfulness amongst commuters.

Will thoughtful Singapore buy into the new transport campaign?

Singapore is not short of campaigns that promote kindness, graciousness or thoughtfulness. We even have a Singapore Kindness Society, though their recent attempt to sell half price coffee to promote their cause backfired on social media. The new SLTA campaign is all about bringing out the thoughtfulness in you as part of the ongoing SLTA graciousness campaign aimed at commuters.

To illustrate this they have created three characters to communicate what you as a commuter should be thinking inside. These are Move-in Martin, Stand-up Stacey and Give-way Glenda. Very Singaporean names all of them.

I think they missed a few such as Falling-asleep Freddie, Game-obsessed Gary and Smartphone-attached Sarah.

The campaign is squarely aimed at bus and Mass Rapid Transport (the MRT) commuters who don’t give up their seats for the rare pregnant passengers (which caused a recent furore on a BBC blog), don’t move inside the carriage and don’t queue outside to let people off first. Now compared with London where I spent 20 years in a  twice daily scrum called a commute boarding an MRT or bus here is a joy.

However people have noticed that the situation has become much worse recently as the excellent public transport system creeks under the strain of millions of people trying to get to work.  People have been known to fight over seats so that they can be glued to their smartphone for their entire journey and don’t give up seats to the elderly or pregnant (I have heard many examples of the latter) as much as they could.

This new campaign is hoping to tap into the thoughtfulness inside every Singaporean resident to ensure that everyone has a more pleasant journey.

There is a massive poster campaign with very brightly coloured characters to capture the attention as well as a social media campaign and YouTube campaign. If you look at this from a cynical London, New York, Sydney point of view they would never have the nerve to run such a campaign but Singapore is different. Negative aggressive and cynicism is not a Singaporean’s first instinct to a campaign like this as it would be in the aforementioned cities.

I did find myself laughing out loud at the YouTube videos though and not for the reasons that the creators probably thought I would. The Stand-up Stacy one in particular is like something you would imagine a Singaporean Auntie performing. They only made two videos so far, Give-way Glenda’s one is coming soon. Possibly because the creators were still in fits of laughter at the rap in Stand-up Stacey and didn’t know how to top it.

The videos are very patronising and to me the whole campaign is just common sense, but you know what they say about that. The more worrying element of the campaign is the opportunity to create your own thoughtful character. 

Like being at school you have the opportunity of deciding on the look of your character, naming your character, submitting it and if you have the nerve getting your friends and family to vote on it and one of the winners may appear on the next campaign. Presumably if the winner is in any way controversial they reserve the option for this not to happen.

So “I’m only on here while my Ferrari is still in the garage Ian” and “Who’s using a 7 day deodorant William” wouldn’t get past the censors. My all in my black character called “Everyone in the carriage listen to my Metallica music because I have cheap/apple headphones Eric” is still being created.

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