Humour, Singapore

Passion Made Possible very confusing leh


It’s a really cool tagline.

Because I thought it was for a major multinational sporting brand like Nike or Adidas.

In this vein, perhaps Passion Made Passion is indeed a befitting tagline – if you’re trying to paint Singapore as a corporation that prioritises profit over everything else; as the apex of commodification; a place where citizens are merely products like the latest flyknits and NMDs. After all, the country is devoid of natural resources. People are its only asset.

It’s no secret that Singapore is an economic miracle. Small as it may be, it ranks among the richest nations in the region. Some would say that this has inherently got to do with how it is being run – like a corporation. The nation is obsessed with efficiency and productivity. Ministers are paid salaries pegged to the corporate world. Citizens’ Central Provident Fund contributions are used as investments.

The fact that this latest tourism campaign is the lovechild of the Singapore Tourism Board and the Economic Development Board (EDB), seems to validate the notion of Singapore being no different from an enterprise.

On its website, the EDB describes itself as such:

“We are the lead government agency for planning and executing strategies to enhance Singapore’s position as a global business centre. We dream, design and deliver solutions that create value for investors and companies in Singapore. Our mission is to create for Singapore, sustainable economic growth with vibrant business and good job opportunities.”

Yes, tourism is indeed about “selling” the country, but partnering such an entity skews the way the Singapore Story is told. We end up placing more emphasis on earning tourism dollars than showing what the country is really about.

I’ve seen a lot of people rave about the new campaign. I can see why they’re delighted. I have to admit, it’s a feel-good tagline. It seemingly paints us as highly driven individuals who are hustling to forge a better future for ourselves and the country.

The same can be said about the video. Associating local personalities like superstar Stefanie Sun, indoor skydiving extraordinaire Kyra Poh, musician Shigga Shay, footballer Fandi Ahmad and Milo man Nathan Hartono with the theme makes Singaporeans feel good, because these are individuals who have attained success in their respective fields through passion. It also makes Singaporeans feel good because it shows the country has talent.

I just read on Mothership that the video actually features a whole bunch of other notable local personalities like Yugnes Susela, Nabilah Razak, Mark Ong and Tan Wei Tian.

But truth be told, I’ve never heard of them. I’ve been living abroad for the past three years. I guess I’m a little out of touch with the local scene.

I think it’s great that the campaign has placed them in the spotlight. It’s always good to recognise local talent. But if I don’t know who these people are, I doubt someone from Brazil or Finland or Japan would. I suppose the least that could be done is to have subtitles telling the viewer who these personalities are. Even then, why are we trying so hard to show the world we have talented people? I don’t know about you, but knowing that Iceland has a bunch of very talented citizens doesn’t really inspire me to travel to the country.

And I guess therein lies the problem of this campaign – is this aimed at ownself make ownself shiok or is it aimed at showing the world how charming Singapore can be?

From the outside looking in, the tagline Passion Made Possible tells foreigners nothing about Singapore until they see the video which features the usual picturesque places.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the video. I think it’s well-produced. Hell, watching it even gave me goosebumps.

But what you see in the video doesn’t actually complement the creative concept. The words “This is where all that you’re passionate about, all that drives you, is made possible. This is where passion is made possible” is accompanied by shots of people running at the Henderson Wave, people doing yoga atop a building and people on a rooftop braving a storm to take photos of lightning.

I’m not entirely sure what to even make of this. It’s like saying: “Hey! We love working out! We love rooftops! And we love lightning!”

Maybe we do love lightning. 69.9 percent of Singaporeans did during the last General Elections.

What’s odd is that the video does not even attempt to illustrate to foreigners how they could possibly realise their passions if they visit Singapore. But of course it didn’t attempt to do so.

Because you need to show foreigners the tourist attractions.

Besides, not every passion can be realised in Singapore.

You can’t tell someone who is aspiring to be a professional footballer to realise his passion in Singapore. Look at the state of the S League. Look at what happened to Goal 2010.

You can’t tell someone who is aspiring to be a Mandopop singer to realise her passion in Singapore. Look at how Singaporeans are flocking to compete in Sing China. Look at how singer-songwriter Hanjin is based in Hong Kong and not in his home country.

So, yeah. I really don’t know what to make of the tagline. From a logical point of view, I guess passion can be made possible. In Geylang. Our red light district.

Viscerally, it sounds like the latest tagline for an ad featuring a young Lionel Messi dribbling through the streets of Rosario in his retro Nike shoes, facing rejection and sweating buckets through the years before he makes his debut for Barcelona.

This latest STB-EDB ad is not bad. It’s just more suited for the National Day Parade.

I believe that Singapore needs to brand itself on what it really is: we are a chapalang nation. This is a place where a smorgasbord of cultures has created an epic hawker scene. There’s nothing we’re more patriotic about than our laksa, chicken rice and char kuey teow.

Yes, this approach is not mindblowing. It’s not novel. It’s not exciting.

But this is the very essence of Singapore. You can’t go wrong with the truth.

Come on, Singapore already has a reputation for being a food and shopping paradise. Singaporeans don’t eat to live. We live to eat. Let’s focus on that.

Let’s talk about the origins of hokkien mee, hainanese chicken rice, murtabak, mee siam, satay, babi pongteh, pandan cake, buah keluak, chwee kueh and roti prata….

Wah lan eh, I can go on and on and on lor.

Singlish. There’s no language Singaporeans are more fluent in. It is one of the clearest reflections of our chapalang nature. Let’s not be ashamed of it. Let’s embrace it. Let’s show visitors the beauty of it.

Yes, I know, there’s another video under the same campaign titled Singapore for Foodies – Passion Made Possible. It’s well-produced too. But it doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. I felt bombarded by too many images of food.

Yes, the video tells of our amazing food offerings. But I think we should instead be telling the Singapore story through our food.

Whenever I return to Singapore, I would never fail to dine alone at a kopitiam or hawker centre.

I love watching old uncles chat among themselves while sipping their kopi C siu dais. I love how they would prop one leg on the chair and tip the ashes of their cigarettes into an empty Ma Ling luncheon meat can that is caked with grime.

I love how the sweet scent of black carrot cake dances with the fragrance of prawn stock as the piercing smell of freshly cooked sambal belachan interrupts the tango.

I love how the grumpy and slightly rotund drinks stall auntie with a waist pouch full of coins yells “Sio ah! Sio ah!” as she makes her way past people.

Bah. Of course, what do I know?

I’m not a marketing guru.

I’m not an advertising maestro who has won a Cannes Lion.

I’m just a Singaporean. And this is the side of Singapore I will first show my foreign friends.










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