Jun 21, 2012|
Pundits are outraged that taxpayers’ money has gone towards a global campaign promoting Thailand as a desirable place to do business. For one, this is money that could have gone to traditional government-funded expenditures like border casinos, golf courses and resorts encroaching on national park land. But what’s most irritating is that, in Thailand, we absolutely detest whitewashing. If you’re going to show off the kingdom, we want it to be warts and all. That’s just how advertising works, here.
Take Thai shampoo ads, where having long, shiny hair can help a woman get ahead in a competitive workplace environment. The message is not so much that our society judges female employees on their looks (duh), but that you need to get real about your career objectives if you don’t look like a model. In other words, “No promises, but if you want that promotion, this is probably what you should look like, honey.” Now that’s honest advertising.
Then there are alcohol ads, where guys replant mangrove forests, help out random strangers and just become all-round philanthropists. You have to admit that’s a pretty honest assessment, too: male Bangokians wouldn’t be caught dead even thinking about doing any of these things before finishing their first bottle of whiskey.
So if you’re going to advertise Thailand, Ms. Yingluck, don’t just copy Monocle’s other clients—Helsinki, Singapore or Hong Kong. Instead, surprise the world with an ad campaign portraying us as corrupt and inept but very keen on improving. The “Thailand, We’re Working On It” slogan could be proudly affixed on recent crowning moments, such as a police cadet memorizing Morse code signals to pass his final exam, vocational students displaying how they can take apart and clean a gun even when blindfolded, or how the average Bangkokian can now rig an aerial antenna to their TV with a piece of dental floss, a coat hanger and some gum. If these honest pictures of our amazing country don’t move German and Japanese investors to open factories here, then nothing will.