Ivory tower irony

The Straits Times yesterday (26 July) ran a curious little piece on its review pages. Tucked into a bottom left, quarter-page slot, an NUS academic asked in an op-ed, with discomfiting earnestness: “The YOG is coming. Are you excited yet?

Yes, we’ve gotten to that point. Hard to miss the grinding screeches of barrel bottom scraping when even custodians of our lauded ivory towers have been roped in to grease palms and man pumps.

(By the way, I know it’s copy editors who pen the headlines.)

For Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon, this is a familiar gig. In May she exhorted via the Today newspaper: “YOG needs more marketing ‘oomph’“. With just under three months to go to the Games, the marketing expert called out the organisers on their promotional strategy, criticised the lack of visible YOG landmarks and thought the mascots were underutilised, before driving a stake through their PR team:

“An inspirational event like the YOG needs an inspiring campaign. While this would require resources, it is not too late to furnish a compact, but impactful, campaign between now and August, one that will make Singaporeans truly feel they have a stake in the success of the YOG.”

But even the best-laid plans often turn rat shit. Turns out this little summer picnic will cost us three times more money than previously thought, ticket sales are piss poorfew can be arsed to even watch it on TV, and the official cheer was a dud.

So yesterday Prof Ang drew on her proverbial pen and threw the last roll of the dice.

“Next month, Singapore will host the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG)…This is no mean feat. Kudos goes to the committee that fought hard to convince the IOC that Singapore has the resources…Being the first of its kind, the YOG is like a new animal species…”

So far so good. The elephant in the room – namely why she had to write this article in the first place – glibly ignored.

“…the Games will be competing with the National Day celebrations. However, such seemingly poor timing need not necessarily be so. There are opportunities for synergy here…we should look forward to not only celebrating our national birthday, but also to a post-National Day party of sorts in the YOG.”

Cheap marketing tips, check. Remind us, why it had to fall to you to tell us this stuff? Doesn’t the YOG organising committee have their own PR?

“Yet another another reason why we should be proud of hosting the YOG: It outperforms the SEA, Asian and Commonwealth Games in terms of the countries participating…Truly this is an international sporting extravaganza.”

Oh yes, like how hundreds of millions adore the World Cup finals for its offering of a grandiose 32 teams, not so much the top talent and quality of football.

“The time is now for the general public to respond and show support for the Games…we need organic buzz.”

Oh, so it’s our fault, really, for not having our interest piqued. For my abject apathy, I’m truly apologetic.

“Singaporeans should spontaneously be generating more excitement for the Games.”

Woah, slow down Harvard…I mean British Columbia. How is it spontaneous if we simply do as you tell us?

“We should be telling friends about the sporting events we are buying tickets for, educating our children about the significance of hosting the Games, and buying souvenirs to commemorate it.”

Psst. You giving your game away, Prof. Isn’t good marketing and advertising supposed to be a little more…subtle? You know, like those geeky sciency myths about subliminal messages, or stuff like harnessing star power, herd behaviour, peer pressure or some such. Try using the subjunctive next time?

“More importantly, we should feel in our hearts a sense of awe that our country has been chosen to initiate this new series of games.”

More importantly, we should be paying a visit to the psychiatrist sharpish if we still feel anything for an underwhelming decision the International Olympic Committee made over two years ago.

“Are we one people? Are we proud of Singapore and what we have achieved? If so, we should rally behind the YOG.”

I always thought the nationalism/patriotism card was well underrated. Maybe because it turns out so flaccidly banal in the hands of anyone other than the most mesmerising of demagogues (There, I stopped just a step short of invoking Godwin’s Law).

“Be part of this history making. Be part of this legacy.”

Pretty dire stuff. Then again, she could consider moonlighting writing narration for ESPN adverts.

Almost in spite of that performance, Prof Ang’s bio blurb read: “The writer…specialises in advertising, consumer behaviour (my emphasis) and branding.” She can’t possibly think insipid tabloid-style guff buried in one of the least read sections of a newspaper could actually mould consumer behaviour, can she? If she doesn’t, as she ought to, why bother wasting those column inches with a fistful of stock PR gags?

Curious indeed.


~ by spiegel2071 on July 27, 2010.

One Response to “Ivory tower irony”

  1. “Singaporeans should spontaneously be generating more excitement for the Games.”

    I LOVE IT. It makes it sound as if I should be walking along the street, catch sight of a YOG banner out of the corner of my eye, and then SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST with the sheer excitement of seeing a shitload of taxpayer money down the drain + loads of traffic accidents and jams to come from everyone having to give way to YOG buses on already congested roads.

    Hurray YOG!

    Also, the headline is aces. The “are you excited yet?” part is just so… pleading and desperate. It makes me expect them to publish ANOTHER YOG-trumpeting article under the headline “How about now? Excited now?”

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