The unexpected pitfalls of regional TVC production

This post is by Clive Duncan a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. As a Director and DOP he has an appreciation for the value of great creative and outstanding production values, while also recognising the importance of delivering value for money solutions to the advertiser.

It has been common practice for many years to produce television commercials on a regional basis to yield the potential economies of scale. The problem is that many regions are not populated by homogeneous markets. Instead, the region is filled with diverse and vibrant but often contracting and conflicting cultural norms that must be considered during the production process.

Often the need to accommodate these difference within the production process can significantly diminish the anticipated savings, depending on the creative concept, as more and more additional versions are shot to cover the specific and individual requirements of each market within the region.

Cultural_Considerations_In_ProductionSome years ago when I was an agency producer I was sent to Malaysia to oversee the production of a series of regional TVCs for our client a producer of a beverage / cordial aimed at mothers and their children.

The cordial contained a large amount of vitamin C our client from America was quick to point out this was the products USP (unique selling proposition), ideal for promoting happy, healthy growth in children.

The client had briefed the agency to make a TVC that could be easily adapted to the regional areas of China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The Agency had come up with a TVC that had a jingle based upon a classic Beach Boys tune. What this had in common with the target demographic I failed to recognize, nevertheless the client had bought the publishing rights and the deal was done.

All was going swimmingly until preproduction when the cultural requirements and sensitivities for the various markets began to clash. The Brand Manager from Sri Lanka and their counterpart from Bangladesh began discussing the wardrobe for their collective version.

For Bangladesh, the Brand Manager insisted the mother in the TVC wear a sari, the traditional dress of the region. As the production manager I personally remained neutral as both views were valid for the respective markets.

Eventually it was decided that the sari would be used for both versions.

The production proceeded well, the Chinese / Singapore and the Malaysia / Indonesian versions were completed without a hiccup.

It was the last day of the shoot and the mother was supposed to sway gracefully in time to the Beach Boys music as her children danced about holding and drinking the product, a magical and innocent advertising moment.

After the rehearsal the Brand Manager from Bangladesh approached me concerned that  ‘her movement it’s, it’s too lascivious!” referring to the mother in the scene.

Now the word lascivious does exist and I knew what he meant but I had never heard it used in contemporary language. How a woman in a sari gently swaying could be considered lascivious was beyond me. I of course had to find a solution to the problem which was easy to do, with a re edit for the Bangladesh version, the lascivious mum ended up on the cutting room floor and the kids got extra close ups dancing and enjoying the product.

At the time, on the studio floor I thought how sad it was that a woman in a sari, gently swaying could be considered lascivious.

While we may think of the world as an increasing global village, the fact is that cultural diversity is alive and well and very healthy and must be considered when planning regional productions. Additional scenes, multiple shoots with different talent, wardrobe and even locations will be required and this will add to the cost and reduce the expected savings.

Greater Asia is a place that demands careful consideration when planning regional TV campaigns, and as a word of advice, always avoid anything that might be considered lascivious.

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About Clive Duncan

Clive has spent all his working life in the film and television industry and was invited to join the TrinityP3 team as their TV production senior consultant. Clive has the unique advantage of having hands on experience at almost every level of TVC production and understands the complex relationships required to produce creative and cost effective TVCs. View Clive's full bio here
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4 Responses to The unexpected pitfalls of regional TVC production

  1. Shirley Kirkwood says:

    Cultural sensitivities can be a minefield Clive – it's hard enough being PC here in Oz let alone o/s. Even the "cultural" differences of oz folk in different regions here can create challenges in advertising. One shoe doesnt fit all!
    Good article, enjoyed reading it and sympathised with you and your crew.

  2. Vic says:

    I have had the pleasure of living in a few places where lascivious dancing would not be tolerated!
    Thanks for an interesting read and for the touch of humour for the bus ride home

    • TrinityP3 says:

      Thanks Vic, I am glad it bought a smile to your face on the bus ride home. And it is important to remember that lascivious dancing is not to be practiced randomly anywhere. Check first on the acceptability to the culture you are inhabiting first.

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