Is the World Cup fever well and truly over? In Singapore, there seem to be some afterlife for the Andy anti-gambling advertisement. Andy’s dad, who had bet all his savings on Germany winning the World Cup, should be happy. I first saw this commercial by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) over a month ago in a cinema. It stood out. I remember thinking that it was effective. This was way before it started to be lampooned after Germany’s 7-1 semi-final thrashing of host Brazil. When the final whistle was blown, with Argentina beaten 1-0 by Germany on July 13, the wisecracks and ridicule took on a whole new life of their own. This past week, the local media reported on the council’s stand with soundbites by advertising executives supporting it. This campaign may have been spoofed around the world, but the council believes it has done its job in spreading the anti-gambling message.
NCPG has gone on to provide statistics on the increase of calls to its 24-hour helpline and in the number of requests for counselling services. Its Chairman Lim Hock San said: “Despite the memes and jokes, we believe that the audience understood our message. They are now aware of NCPG and who to call when they encounter issues of problem gambling.” I found this reaction a tad defensive, if unnecessary. What has happened to the confidence of our public service? I know, I know. Only recently, disbelief and even outrage had flowed thick and fast through the online space over commercial videos by Singtel, Singapore Tourist Board and the Youth Wing of the People’s Action Party. Those – well, how can I put it politely – are in a different bracket. They crossed the line in terms of taste, quality and effectiveness. This advertising campaign by NCPG, on the other hand, is good. It is simple and effective. And it struck gold.
The buzz created exceeded NCPG’s wildest imagination. No one – including the advertising agency behind this advertisement, Goodfellas – could have planned for such worldwide coverage in international media, including The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Reuters, and a mention in the opening monologue by American TV host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. PR agencies, marketing companies or anyone in promotions, would have popped champaign and celebrated. Yet Patrick Low the founder of Goodfellas did not want to comment on the impact of the Andy ad. Some in the communications industry have gone so far as to say that damage was done, the central message was lost, and the high awareness was counterproductive. Andy is played by Baptist Lim. His mother was protective of both Baptist and his real father against the media, saying, “He is doing fine. The ad didn’t really impact us much. Even when we go out, nobody recognises us…Now that the World Cup is over, we are just waiting for all this to blow over.”
When Germany finally won, NCPG’s comeback, while admittedly simple, is a logical follow through. In it, the other child asks Andy: “Your dad’s team won. Did you get your savings back?” Andy replies: “No, dad never stops… He wants to bet one more time.” This advertising campaign will run till tomorrow. I think we had a good topical ad campaign and a worthy message the first time. With extreme good luck, it was boosted royally by the most watched sports event in four years. The whole world took notice. Why are we almost apologising for our good fortune? Why are we justifying it? It did not attract attention for all the wrong reasons. Can we try to see the situation for what it really is? The whole world could not believe how accurate the Andy Ad was. The whole world was laughing with us, not at us. It is time for us to celebrate what we do well, especially when a seemingly dubious spotlight shines on what we do. If we are not doing anything wrong, if we are confident, we should laugh with them. While looking up thankfully at Lady Luck.