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‘Garbage Man’ Will Leave You A Weeping Mess

Behind the scenes on this year’s Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok talk of the town spot for Thai Life Insurance…

‘Garbage Man’ Will Leave You A Weeping Mess

Celebrating a child’s instinct to protect his family, the latest Thai Life Insurance film ‘Garbage Man’ has certainly swept up the emotions of the Thai nation and the rest of the world, generating over three million hits on YouTube since first airing in January 2015. Agency of record Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok has certainly continued its momentum following on from the hugely successful April 2014 campaign ‘Unsung Hero’ – viewed by more than 26 million on YouTube.

It’s been debated that the dominance of Buddhism in Thailand is to thank for this particular type of storytelling that reflects greatly on the power of the human spirit, with ‘Garbage Man’ based on true events. In the film, a young student, Pornchai Sukyod, and his choice of a garbage man as the superhero he aspires to be, initially confuses his primary school teacher until she investigates his decision a little further…

Communicating the universal message of protecting the ones you love, this year’s campaign was directed by SuperUber’s Nattawut Poonpiriya, whose take of the spot has been noted as more disciplined than the previous Thai Life Insurance campaigns, leaving more room for the viewer to create their own emotional connection to the story.

What Thai Life Insurance aims to communicate is a focus on the value of life, explained Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok managing director Phawit Chitrakorn. “We believe that people everywhere value life in the same manner,” Chitrakorn said. “When we can truly communicate issues that are relevant to the value of life, it really doesn’t matter what skin colour you have or which continent you live on; you will be able to understand and feel it.” 

The agency’s chief creative officer Korn Tepintarapiraksa notes that when it comes to Thailand, the issues communicated have a significant impact on many viewers, regardless of nationality, he said: “We are all human beings, all equal, so the work affects everyone equally.”

Tepintarapiraksa admits the challenge for the brand was to tailor the message for each campaign to affect the consumer in a new meaningful way. Chitrakorn agrees the creative team cannot predict the reaction of the audience or how they will interpret or emotionally react to the content on offer. “What we have to manage is the consumers’ engagement and to make them amenable to our ideas,” he said. “It’s important to Thai Life Insurance because it’s a brand that intentionally produces content not to sell, but to make people feel the need to buy insurance. Thailand is a difficult market because Thais don’t want to buy insurance. They will only buy insurance when they realise its importance on their own or when there is a real need for it.”

By pushing demand, he believes the agency didn’t need to use hard sell tactics, but instead made consumers realise the value of life. “The insurance company that succeeds with this will cause consumers to buy insurance from the brand that they love, so we have to generate brand love.”  

A unique positioning for an Insurance brand, Tepintarapiraksa says that whilst others in the category can’t copy the idea, the concept of emotional executions has however become popular, even when selling candy. 

The uniqueness of the long running campaign is, according to Chitrakorn, due to breakthrough creativity and continuity.

“At present, Thai Life Insurance is the strongest emotional brand in Thailand. If other brands copy this it is very likely that people will misunderstand and think that it is a Thai Life Insurance commercial. We believe that we are in a strong position to own the emotional territory,” he said.

Aside from millions of hits on YouTube, the campaign saw Thai Life Insurance sales grow by 12 per cent. For Chitrakorn, working with Thai Life Insurance is one of the highest honours in Thai advertising, because the client is open-minded and willing to give their agency a chance to produce great work.

“Of course, not every job goes smoothly, but it’s always a pleasure because Thai Life’s only objective is to produce the best work possible. We have to challenge ourselves constantly and ask whether what we’re offering is the best we can do. Being an agency of record also helps to generate confidence and trust in one another.”

Tepintarapiraksa is fast to agree, stating: “We are fortunate to have such a marvellous client. They have guts, are understanding, and are eager to produce ‘talk of the town’ work. Being an agency of record is only a supporting issue; in the end, it’s great work that counts.”

When asked what it was like to work with SuperUber’s Nattawut Poonpiriya, Chitrakorn said the director played an important role in developing the campaign. “He is a new generation director with great ability, someone with the willingness and determination to make the content leap from the screen. We have to thank him for taking the short plot and script from the agency and turning it into a short film with meaning in every frame.”   

The director was also full of praise for his agency partner, stating they were kind, supportive and gave him 100 per cent freedom to run with the story’s execution.

When it came to selecting the lead talent, Poonpiriya wanted someone that hadn’t starred in a commercial before. Alongside his casting director, the director found real people off the street who had never played a lead. “I really like a story about ordinary people because I find them more interesting,” said Poonpiriya. “I used to live in New York and around that time I worked in a Thai restaurant so I know what it feels like – working my arse off… tired and getting off work at 1am or 2am and then taking the subway home and recognising a lot of people like me – ordinary people, doing something hard, but having to do it for someone they care about."

“I am pulled to the beauty of the ordinary in society and that for me is still sort of like a superhero – you do something extraordinary for someone you love, even if you are a street sweeper.”

Check out Thai Life Insurance & Ogilvy & Mather’s other heart wrenching films:

Unsung Hero – 2014

Street Concert - 2014

Forget Me Not - 2012

Silence of Love - 2011

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