Adrian Peter Tse
Dec 11, 2014

Thai telecom giant AIS returns to emotional roots

THAILAND – After defining a unique brand persona among Thai telecom companies nearly a decade ago, AIS abandoned the style of advertising that it helped popularise. On the back of its strength as a network, it continued to succeed through product-based advertising. Now the brand is going back to where it started.

“The hardest thing about working with AIS is that they act before they talk,” said Paruj Daorai, executive creative director at Leo Burnett Thailand, who developed the latest campaign. “They’re focused on the business end of things. But as a creative agency you want your client to communicate more, so it took some time to understand them.”

AIS is the largest telecom network in Thailand with more than 35 million customers. It also has a reputation as the most reliable. “The brand persona is like a businessman," said Daorai. "Effective and efficient." 

This quality has been infused into the brand’s communications in recent years: ‘The network you can trust’. On a business level, the company has focused on establishing a strong telecommunications network throughout Thailand, not just in Bangkok but in rural areas and “upcountry” as Thais like to say.

Compared to its competitors, the perception is that AIS has steadily invested in technology from the beginning to build networks and infrastructure. “Over the last few years AIS’s product-focused branding has left out the human element,” said Daorai. But it hadn’t always been that way.

The company gained fame for its use of ‘Sarn rak’, which translates to ‘build love’ in the context of family. It pioneered this advertising and storytelling style, which resonated with families across Thailand. Coupled with a reliable product, the brand became synonymous with “connecting family and people together”—emotionally and literally through telecommunications. It was only later that it switched to a network and product emphasis.                                          

Other telecommunications companies such as Dtac however, have since adapted the emotional approach. Dtac’s recent ‘Power of love’ campaign from Y&R Thailand centred on the heartfelt interaction between a father and his newborn daughter.

“The brief from AIS for the latest campaign was still along the lines of a ‘network you can rely on’,” said Daorai. “We came up with a more human proposition that would also show the reliability and strength of the network.”

Inspiration for the narrative emerged while the creative team at Leo Burnett Thailand shared their own personal stories. A colleague shared a story about a cousin who had to work outside of Bangkok as an engineer. The cousin’s family owned a business, and the decision for him to move away instead of help with the family business caused great emotional tension in the family.

“We used this as part of the character arc,” said Daorai. The story in ‘Always there’ is set around the relationship of a father and daughter who chooses to become a teacher in the southern parts of Thailand where there is a shortage of educators, instead of help with her father’s school in Chiang Mai.

“This worked to build the conflict and also illustrate AIS’s far-reaching network coverage,” said Daorai.  “The father is always there for the daughter despite the situation, just as AIS is there for the customer.”

The campaign aligns with the idea that AIS is a kind of father figure with an unconditional commitment. The ad is delivered in a four-minute short film format, and efforts are concentrated online.

“People in Thailand are watching videos on their mobile now, so we focus on releasing content there to test the performance,” said Daorai, regarding the democratisation of smartphones. A shorter one-minute version has been released as a TVC.

The agency is currently preparing a social-media campaign to follow up on the video. AIS will also release product options and promotions that tie in directly.

“AIS wants to reposition to get everyone in Thailand to use 3G at the right price and with the right device,” said Daorai. “AIS wants to build their business and give people even in rural areas access to the benefits of 3G.”   

AIS has used Leo Burnett for broader advertising for the past few years. The company also works with JWT for creative work relating to its products. In addtion, the telco owns its own creative agency, called Matchbox media, which has merged with Dentsu. 


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