Whatever happened to ideas Hong Kong?

I like to watch local TV. Sometimes I sit and browse and stare at television shows, the language of which I can’t understand, because I see it as my job to keep an eye on who’s doing what in the ad world.

There was a time, when that meant being pleasantly surprised by the odd nice TV commercial. Either funny, or beautiful or borne out of a really clever idea.

These days?

There’s as much chance of that happening as there is England winning the football World Cup again. That’s right, remote.

But where did it all go wrong? Whatever happened to the brilliant original creativity behind great campaigns from the past for brands such as Just Gold, Optical 88, Sunday, New World Mobility and Vitasoy, to name but a few.

In today’s Hong Kong, every single TV ad seems to follow a pattern, a trend. It’s as if the creative teams has simply selected “Let’s choose idea number 7” and go with that.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few of the trends. Ideas we see repeated over and over.

1. The replacement head

This entails being really really hilarious by placing the product, or an object of some sort, on the head or heads of persons in the commercial. Designed to be wacky or really fun, it’s become such a cliché that almost every other spot now features some idea based on this. Once upon a time, years ago, when this first happened, it may have been original. But now?

2. The product as cartoon character

If you can’t think of an idea, turn the product into a cute little character who intervenes in people’s lives to solve their problems and make them happy again.
Usually they sing a little jingle to make it all even more uplifting.

3. Holding hands together

Usually reserved for public service announcements, the idea is that if everyone in Hong Kong holds hands and smiles, then social problems will magically vanish. In the world of PSA’s, you never ever see the miserable faces that pervade on the streets every day that come with people struggling to survive. You just see a happy, shining Hong Kong wonderland.

4. The perfect child

In Hong Kong TV ads, children are not children. They are perfectly groomed astoundingly clever and cute little angels who open their mouths to utter words that have been put there by agency copywriters with strict instructions from their clients. The result is nearly always annoyingly sickly, with children acting in ways that are completely unnatural. This non-idea is usually reserved for any products to do with child-enhancement, but people creating government announcements somehow think this is also a great way to change social behavior.

5. The perfect family

Featured in just about any TV ad for foods (especially rice or cooking oil) or home appliances, the perfect family live in a perfect home with perfect lives. And any small problems are instantly eradicated by the product.

I’m not making this up. This is the sorry state of Hong Kong advertising today. And while there are some exceptions (I haven’t even touched on property ads mind you), these are the general rule.

In days gone by, Hong Kong agencies produced ideas. The creative people were pushed to be original. To solve problems in new and different ways. If it had been done before, you killed it at birth.

And before you say “It’s easy to criticize, what are you don’t to change that?” I would argue that our recent Unicef ‘Right to Play TV commercial has been one of a few on air that people have seen and commented on, as having at some semblance of an idea behind it.

It’s a shame we’re in the minority.

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