How Bad Content Goes Viral

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently removed a three-minute promotional video from its YouTube channel after it was described by local news media as “so bad it will go viral,” and was called out online for its flimsy production, scripting, acting and overall cheesiness.

The clip depicts a Filipino couple taking in various sights around Singapore. It ends with the woman telling the man she is pregnant, presenting him with a pregnancy test kit. The man replies that Singapore always has a “surprise waiting for him.”

A post by news site Mothership.sg said: “The video is cringeworthy and full of cliched dialogue, with the Singapore skyline as the only redeeming feature. They have also redefined what constitutes an awesome surprise (hint: Singapore government-approved) present.”

Assistant professor Andrew Duffy of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information told Channel News Asia that there was a disconnect among the narrative and acting, rendering the video inauthentic: “The STB advert… felt forced, scripted, overdubbed, with unconvincing people doing frankly rather unconvincing activities.”

The video, which was removed after only 400+ views, is accessible elsewhere and did go viral. Removing the content only made matters worse.

Perhaps STB should have welcomed the publicity, good or bad. The agency backtracked — after it was called out once again for removing the ad — by defending the video’s popularity on its Facebook page, saying it received “largely positive” comments (900 comments and 3,400 likes) and inviting readers to share their ideas for how the agency can “showcase the Singapore we love to the rest of the world.”

STB’s executive director Oliver Chong said in a staement:

We thank readers for their interest in how STB promotes Singapore overseas.

 

This video was produced for the Philippines by Philippine network ABS-CBN, in an effort to customize content for this audience.

 

When shared on STB’s Facebook page for the Philippines, the video attracted over 3,400 likes in the first week and garnered some 900 comments, largely positive.

 

Nevertheless, we thank readers for their feedback on the video and acknowledge that some aspects of it could have been done better.

Or, STB could have taken an altogether different approach to the criticism, much like the clever reverse-psychology used in a recent campaign by Eat24 that literally told users to “Skip This Ad,” and ended up garnering 581,000 views on YouTube, a 75 percent increase in app downloads, a click-through rate of 7.1 percent and 90 percent of viewers actually watching the ad in full.

As Digiday reports, “It’s not the first time a brand was clever about their preroll placement. Last year Volkswagen had a similar gimmick in its Beetle campaign. The car, the ad said, ‘automatically shifts gears and skips ads for you.’”

Past criticisms of shoddy advertising by the Singaporian government may have prompted STB to hastily remove the video, which the agency added was produced in the Philippines by national broadcaster ABS-CBN and was “not resonating well with audiences.”

Mumbrella.asia, which was quick to report on STB’s decision to remove the video (and provide a link to it), later published a guest post by Simon Kearney, managing director of content agency Click2View. Kearney suggested that “we might have been too quick to trash Singapore Tourism Board’s three-minute promotional video.”

We should all be a little ashamed of our reaction to the recent Singapore Tourism Board (STB) debacle involving that film promoting inbound tourism from the Philippines.

 

The film wasn’t designed for a Singapore audience, or even a Western audience.

 

I remember having the same reaction the first time I saw Bollywood content. Just because it is different doesn’t mean it is wrong. You could say the same about a lot of Singapore content for the local market seen through an outsider’s eyes.

 

I just wish they board had shown a bit of courage and stuck up for the culturally-localised content they were making, for which they should be lauded.

The video has already spawned a number of parodies, including a poster with the headline Eat, Shop and have Sex. The lesson? Stand behind your content. Not one brand would turn its nose up at virality, even if more should stop chasing the viral hit as they don’t often lead to loyal customers.

Kearney ends his post like this: “So the moral of this story is that you can’t please everyone, and, in my humble opinion, nor should you.”

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