Tiger Beer in a can is 50 years old this year (as is Singapore), and to celebrate they’re running a rather interesting ad campaign:
You can check out the site here: http://www.tigerbeer.com.sg/unofficialofficial/agegate
What’s interesting is that the campaign references – obliquely but distinctly – various not-so-glorious episodes from Singapore’s past. That ‘rival nations’ headline, for example, is a nod towards episodes such as Operation Coldstore and the shutting down of three newspapers in 1971, on the pretext that they were being run by unspecified hostile powers engaged in ‘black operations’.
Quite a lot of people spent decades in jail or in exile as a result of the PAP‘s ‘anti-communist’ crackdowns, and pretty much everyone concedes that the party leadership probably went too far, even those who feel that they were justified in taking action.
You’d think that Tiger Beer was taking a big risk joking about it in an ad campaign. For comparison, imagine the reaction in the UK and Ireland if Guinness did a series of ads based around the IRA. Either the authorities would ban them, or people would be up in arms demanding more sensitivity.
In fact, none of that has happened. Pretty much the only people taking a great deal of interest are those who have a pre-existing interest in advertising campaigns – i.e. me and the trade press and the bloggers who get free shit off the back of it.
Why is this? Well, partly because forgetting old repression is what Asia is really good at. Partly, however, the answer can be found in the second video – the Kallang wave one. It starts with our hero in prison (we don’t know what for, and to a certain extent it doesn’t matter) – and a pretty nasty old-school prison it seems too. But then he gets out, gets rich, sells out and lives happily ever after. Which is pretty much what the entire Singapore political system has done, and I don’t intend that as a criticism, merely as a statement of fact. I would have done exactly the same thing.
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s people were willing to go to jail for their beliefs. Now, however, they’re rich and comfortable and if a lack of political opposition is the price that they have to pay to live in what is pretty much the closest thing to heaven on earth, then so be it – to the extent that in several recent elections the opposition has deliberately refrained from putting up candidates in certain constituencies, so that people can vote for the candidates that they do put up, safe in the knowledge that the PAP is going to win anyway.