Friday, 27 January 2017

Anti-diabetes gongfu ad from Govt packs a punch

By Venessa Lee, The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2017

The government-sponsored infomercial Kungfu Fighter, Hidden Sugar - which urges moderation in consuming rich Chinese New Year goodies - has impressed many, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wuxia fans in Hong Kong.

The 90-second video, featuring a gongfu heroine confronting a villain and his posse who add sugar to a family's reunion dinner, was shared by Mr Lee on Tuesday on his Facebook page.

It is the latest in a series of creative public service announcements.

A 2015 video about health insurance scheme Medishield Life targeted the pioneer generation and featured local getai artistes playing characters such as the Monkey King and Spider Spirit from the Chinese classic, Journey To The West.

Director-actor Jack Neo reprised his famous auntie character Liang Ximei in a 10-episode Chinese dialect variety series called Happy Can Already! The series, which premiered last month on Channel 8, aims to educate seniors on government schemes on topics such as retirement and active ageing.

Local film-maker Royston Tan's telemovie, The Provision Shop, which aired in July last year, explored the issue of social integration in Singapore.

Dr Brian Lee, head of Communication Programme at SIM University, points out that other countries around the world have also used humour in their public service announcements. He says: "A creative approach can help soften otherwise boring public announcements and messages, and make them relatively easier to swallow.

"The psychological distance between those communicating public service messages and their audience can be further narrowed if some grassroots elements are added, just like in the ad campaign for the Pioneer Generation Package."

Kungfu Fighter, Hidden Sugar has received more than 1.6 million views on the Facebook page since it was posted last Saturday.

It is part of the Government's campaign against diabetes, which started last year. The chronic disease affects 440,000 Singaporeans.

The video has been shared more than 23,000 times.

Ms Winnie Chung, a Hong Kong lifestyle journalist and lifelong wuxia fan, is among those who shared it. She tells The Straits Times: "It was entertaining for me as a diehard wuxia fan, and the action and stunts were well choreographed and executed. The setting was authentic."

Mr Jeff Cheong, president of Tribal Worldwide, the agency that produced the video, says: "What's Chinese New Year without a good action movie? Many in our target audience grew up with Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan comedy-action movies. We thought this would be the right genre to first entertain and then educate."

Dr Lee adds a caveat - public service messages need to be clearly communicated. He says: "Allowing too much creativity to drown the message can be a huge mistake."

Mr Goh Ker Jia, 41, a business development director in the food and beverage industry, agrees. This is why Kungfu Fighter, Hidden Sugar is well done but "gimmicky and a bit too lightweight in terms of not having enough information for a complex issue like diabetes", he says.

But Ms Chung says: "I shared this post and I've had friends sharing mine, so I think people have found it entertaining. At the same time I think it would be hard for anyone to miss the message here."

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