Why these 4 South East Asian ads will never get the global thumbs up

Advertising is a touchy subject, not just for marketers and sponsors, but also for those who are subjected to the ads. In the United States, there are thousands of agencies developing new or better ideas for their market. In South East Asia, however, there are a few ideas that may not make the cut in the Western world.

1. Napoleon Quince in the Philippines

The ad translates to “Have you ever tasted a fifteen-year-old?” (see image here). Although the context is clear, the subtext is much more incendiary, especially in a place where there is a war against child abuse and pedophilia. In fact, it is a global war, but an ad like this will likely go down in flames should it be used again.

The lesson? Read your copy over and over again in different shoes – women’s, children’s, mother’s, father’s, brother’s. Then, see how you feel about it after.

2. Laundry Detergent Ad in China

Last year, this video became a trending topic. The company behind this Chinese advert for the detergent — dubbed as the most racist ever — has defended the bizarre content. They justified that any discrimination is in the eye of the viewer.

However, it gained so much traction as the agency that developed the concept had to issue a public apology after the campaign was launched and was subsequently flamed by the entire internet. The ad needs no explanation, but it is a common misconception that dark skin is an unpopular skin tone.

This laundry commercial, however, took it too far by using a black person as the negative factor in the ad. The idea was taken exactly from the Italian advert of which was considered as “funny and cool” by the global audience. Too bad for the advertisers, the Chinese laundry ad didn’t get the same feedback and remarks from its target market.

The lesson? Don’t go global, if it’s only going to be for local. That’s how much power social media has.

3. Snowz in Thailand

Even though the ad featured famous Thai actress Chris Horwang, the slogan and the ad itself did not sit well with the rest of the world. This ad will never cut it in the U.S. primarily because it depicts blackface and the very simple slogan says, “Just being white, you will win.”

Snowz issued a statement that they did not mean to convey discriminatory or racist messages in their ad. They were “conveying that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionalism is crucial.” Honestly? Some consumers said that they don’t see the personality, skills, and professionalism part at all — that goes for the ad agency as well.

The lesson? Be mindful of cultural issues surrounding not just your country, but others as well. Blackface has been a heated issue for a long time now. Even cartoons made a long time ago are now being discredited as racist and demeaning.

4. Nivea Deodorant for Men in Thailand

There are two things in this ad that won’t sit well with the global audience should this be aired by the producers from their country. First, it has an Asian theme and backdrop. If a commercial like this was aired in the U.S., viewers wouldn’t really enjoy the joke as much as Asians would. Second, the commercial is Thai, but the theme is Chinese. It’s regarded as subcultural appropriation, but it’s not that much of an issue when it comes to Asian countries.

The lesson? Understanding advertising cultural themes helps craft marketing, whether to a specific demographic or a mainstream audience. That’s why it is important that agencies produce and shoot their commercials within the country so that the ideas are congruent to the minds of their target market.


The themes may be recurring, but the message is clear. Local ads are inside jokes, and now that the world is getting smaller every day, it is much more important to consider the views of a global audience than just your target demographic. Otherwise, you may want to increase your marketing expenses on damage control every time you release an insensitive ad that you actually think will increase your ROI.


Nivea Thailand

Seoul Secret Thailand