It’s another typically tear-jerking tale from the world of Thai advertising — but this one has already garnered more than 5.3 million YouTube views, while touching on deeper issues that many in Thai society will face in the future.
It goes like this: A young teacher in a Thai village is struggling to care for his mother, who is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. Pained, but deeply loyal, the son is forced to bring the elderly women to school each day to care for her. Parents complain, the headmaster takes action, sorrow ensues. Queue the tissues
That’s the plot of Gratitude, a six-minute ‘sadvertisement’ created by Ogilvy Thailand as part of a brand campaign for Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), an agribusiness giant that reportedly employs more than 300,000 people and is Thailand’s largest private company.
What does the teacher’s plight with senior care have to do with a massive Thai conglomerate?
It’s a ‘thank you’ to those who have helped the company since it started as a small seed supplier in 1921, according to press material that accompanied the film’s debut on September 18.
“Gratitude has always been an integral part of Thai culture. As a Thai business, we wanted to celebrate this unique part of our culture, and the qualities it endears when it comes to how we choose to conduct ourselves in life – and for the CP Group – our business,” said the chief executive, Supachai Chearavanont, in a news release.
Mr Chearavanont, according to press material, added that the campaign “is all about the gratitude we have for all of our consumers, suppliers, and stakeholders that have each played a role in our success”. While one might have difficulty seeing the link, the short film does touch on some darker aspect of Thai society.
Consider its climax: the woman wanders off in a bout of dementia and the teacher’s students rush to join the search for her. When she’s found, wandering confused through the village, a weeping student hugs his mother as if to say, ‘I’ll never let it this happen to you’.
Rapidly Ageing Thailand
Behind the melodrama are hard numbers about ageing in Thailand. By 2021, according to government figures, the number of Thai senior citizens is expected to reach more than 13 million, or some 20 per cent of the population. Among Asean nations, only Singapore has a larger ageing population, the United Nations has reported.
And according to a study by The Lancet, the medical journal, as much as 20 per cent of Thailand’s adult population experiences a diagnosable mental illness in any given year.
On World Mental Health Day on October 10, the ‘Lancet Commission’ released a report that said mental health disorders were increasing in every country in the world and could cost the global economy as much as $16 trillion by 2030. It said that ‘no country is investing enough’ to address the issue.
The CP sadevertisement concludes with deep emotion, as such Thai productions are known for.
The headmaster calls a vote of the parents to decide if they want the teacher removed because of his mother. Amid tears, not a single one votes for him to go. The parents, the film suggests, understand that the son is only showing gratitude to his mother for raising him. Cynics might suggest that the realisation might have hit home that they too could be in a similar situation in their elder years.
Be that as it may, ‘Gratitude’, for all its weepy melodrama, presents a tough look at a situation that many Thais will have to confront in years to come — whether they helped CP Group grow or not.
AEC News Today reached out to Ogilvy Thailand for additional details on Thailand’s latest sadvertisement, but the Bangkok agency did not to respond to our questions.
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