Helping Abandoned Buildings Shape Up


The skyline of Bangkok bristles with the skeletons of unfinished buildings.  These ghostly structures, frozen in various states of incompletion, number in the hundreds and most are a result of the Asian economic crisis on 1997-8.  Recently, though, I’ve noticed that some of these buildings are being incorporated into advertising schemes.


One that caught my eye was this pair of buildings that appeared to be on a diet.  Viewable from the expressway, I had passed the buildings several times but wanted to get a better shot.  Sunday morning, I set out early and drove around that area of the city, somewhere between Khlong Toei and Rama III, to see if I could get a clear view and a good picture.  It took about an hour to narrow down the location, but finally I eventually found a great view from the front gates of the Colgate-Palmolive complex right where Ratchadapisek Road parallels the Mahanakorn Expressway.  Veering left onto a frontage road that continues under the expressway before turning right towards the railway tracks, I turned on the emergency blinkers, pulled to the shoulder of the road, and hopped out to take a picture.


The advertising is for Naturegift, a Thai company that makes powdered beverages (coffee, cocoa, and ginger) as well as capsules that claim to provide various health benefits.  The message reads something to the effect of “A Mission Well-Suited for Naturegift.”  The buildings’ columns have been cleverly altered with the use of black paint and temporary set pieces to make it look like they curve in at the buildings’ “waists” – giving the buildings more pleasing hourglass shaped figures.  The “belts” on the buildings are also temporary set pieces.  The use of black and red for the two belts implies that Naturegift is good for men and women.

In addition to making good use of abandoned buildings, Thai advertising has a knack for being quite clever.  In this 30-second ad for Naturegift, which ran for many months before movies at cinemas here in Thailand, we see the promise that Naturegift will give you confidence.  The inside joke from a cultural angle is that the women depicted here, while all being skinny, don’t have what would be considered typical beauty in a Thai sense.  But they are most definitely confident!


Burma Shave Jingles

Burma_Shave_Tube While brainstorming ideas with colleagues for an internal contest at my company, I thought it might be fun to ask employees to come up with an advertising jingle for one of our programs, done in the style of Burma Shave.  Many of you may not know of Burma Shave.  It was an American brand of brushless shaving cream that came about in the 1920s and was known for its clever roadside advertising.

In the days before huge billboards, Burma Shave jingles were usually five rhyming lines that were arranged on sequential roadside signs.  The red signs with white lettering would conclude with the name of the product: Burma Shave.  They were clever and are a staple of mid 20th Century Americana.

My colleagues liked the idea and we’ve sent it up the flagpole to see if those higher up approve it.  If so, I’ll have to figure out how to announce the contest in a way that clearly explains to our employees, the vast majority of whom are too young to have heard of Burma Shave, what the objective is.

Browsing an online collection of the entirety of their jingles, arranged by year, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you. 

Burma Shave 

Tho stiff
The beard
That Nature gave
It shaves like down

Are your whiskers
When you wake
Tougher than
A two-bit steak?

Your beauty, boys
Is just
Skin deep
What skin you’ve got
You ought to keep

College boys!
Your courage muster
Shave off
That fuzzy
Cookie duster

If you think
She likes
Your bristles
Walk bare-footed
Through some thistles

Riot at
Drug store
Calling all cars
100 customers
99 jars

His tenor voice
She thought divine
Till whiskers
Sweet Adeline

Cooties love
Bewhiskered places
Cuties love the
Smoothest faces
Shaved by

A peach
Looks good
With lots of fuzz
But man’s no peach
And never wuz

Prickly pears
Are picked
For pickles
No peach picks
A face that prickles

Said Farmer Brown
Who’s bald on top
”Wish I could
Rotate the crop”

If you
Don’t know
Whose signs these are
You can’t have
Driven very far

Maybe we should have a Xanga Blog jingle contest?

A comment
Or a rec
Make me as happy
As all heck

What do you think?

Is the Competition Really That Loud?

An advertising campaign by LG pasted on the Skytrain platforms touts their new beltless washing machine.  The key benefit: it is significantly quieter than the competition.  As you can see, the LG Inverter DD operates at only 50 decibels whereas the competition’s belt-driven washers operate at horrifying 58 decibels.


The problem is, the graphics they use to illustrate these relative levels of sound are very misleading.  Here are some average decibel levels for various types of activity,

10 dB – Normal breathing
30 dB – Whisper
40 dB – Stream, refrigerator humming
50-65 dB – Normal conversation
60-65 dB – Laughter
70 dB – Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
75 dB – Dishwasher, washing machine
80 dB – Garbage disposal, city traffic
85-90 dB – Lawnmower
100 dB – Train, garbage truck
110 dB – Jackhammer, power saw
120 dB – Thunderclap

Not sure what LG is exactly depicting in the 58 dB picture – looks like road work to me – but it seems pretty clear that 58 dB isn’t nearly as loud as road work would be.  And the 50 dB picture – someone sitting in a library – probably isn’t accurate, either.  A library would probably be closer to 35-40 dB.

Note that prolonged exposure to any noise about 90 dB can cause gradual hearing loss.


Eat Woys Crackers

Returning to the subject of Thai culture, there is an interesting series of print advertisements running in the BTS Skytrain stations.  These are for Woys Crackers, a cheese-flavored cracker sandwiched with a butter-like spread.  The ads have some clever wordplay, which is a common feature of the Thai language.


These are the cracker’s normal packaging.  It shows a group or friends or siblings laughing.  The script reads “Woys: with creamy butter” and “creamy butter” is actually a phonetic translation of the English words.  If you want to sound Thai, accent the second syllable of both words: “Cree-MEE But-TUH”.

As their spokesman, the manufacturer has hired the biggest movie and TV star in Thailand, a comedian named Petchtai Wongkamlao (pictured below) who goes by the stage name Mum Jokmok.  His nickname, “Mum” (หม่ำ) is a funny word for “eat”, kind of describing how a child might eat food. 


Mum Jokmok is the hardest working man in Thai showbiz right now, producing an endless stream of films.  He has a very expressive face and a gift for physical comedy.  Playing off the meaning of his name, the ad reads “Mum Woys” – both his name and the name of the crackers, as well as “Eat Woys”.


The series of billboards continues in a spoof of the original packaging, in which he plays, with the help of some clever photoshopping, all three of the characters in the photo.

That must answer the question – they are siblings rather than just friends, right?  But how does the mother look?


That question is answered in another billboard, where we see that the mother is another actor and Mum is the father as well as the children.  The tag line: “Eat Woys together with the family.”

Thai advertising is generally clever (although prone to a bit of base humor) and this is a good example of it.


Your “K” Bank

Thai banking institutions have undergone quite a cosmetic transformation in the past few years.  Hardly surprising in one of the globe’s cosmetic surgery capitals where an afternoon bite can easily be preceded by a nip and tuck.  Within the last five years, the Thai banks have gone from boring to beautiful, with new logos, vibrant color schemes and careful marketing and promotion.

Thai Bank LogosSiam Commercial Bank, the 100-year-old original Thai bank, has its royal purple.  TMB, the Thai Military Bank, has a patriotic red and blue color scheme with an umlaut that is intended to represent two people working together (or two soldiers holding hands in a don’t ask, don’t tell sort of way).  Ayudhya Bank has a very “We Love the King” yellow for its color.  Kasikorn Bank, previously known as Thai Farmers Bank (“kasikorn” being an older word for farmer) has adopted a fertile green color and brands itself as K-Bank.

The competition between the banks is fierce and each works hard to convince consumers that they have something to offer you besides the miserable 0.25% interest rates.  (Which climbs to 3% if you lock at least 5 million baht into a 3-year certificate of deposit.)

Recently, K-Bank has launched a new campaign emphasizing how customer-friendly they are.  (In full disclosure, K-Bank is one of the two banks where Tawn and I have accounts, the other being the Singapore-owned UOB.  Yes, I am a Thai farmer.)

When you enter a K-Bank branch, there are complimentary bottles of K-Bank water to quench your thirst.


And as the weather is so warm here, you might need to freshen up after entering the branch.  If so, please feel free to help yourself to the K-Bank moist towelettes.

P1090770But the K-Bank hospitality doesn’t end there.  There are also K-Bank condoms, free for the taking.  Yes, you probably saw that one coming, didn’t you?


The thing about the “K-Condom” is that there is a terrible double-entendre lurking in plain sight.  The Thais have borrowed the word “cock” from English as a slang for, well, you know…

Since “cock” is a very harsh sounding word, they us the word เค (pronounced “kay”) as an abbreviation, much in the same way as in English we euphemistically refer to the “F-word”.  So that makes the K-Condom very much like saying the cock condom, which to a gaggle of juvenile boys would be hilariously funny.

(Have I mentioned that Thai comedies are quite sophomoric in terms of what is considered funny?  Bodily humor is considered the pinnacle of wit.)

Anyhow, after a week of politics both Thai and American style, I thought we deserved a laugh.  Have a good weekend.


Spontaneous Singing in the Boarding Area


Above: Not quite 5:00 in the afternoon and yet the sky is dark as a storm consumes the central part of downtown Khrungthep.  Picture taken from the Thong Lo station looking northwest.

P1060633 According to the guides, charts and historical patterns, we’re a little bit ahead of the normal rainfall for May, which as I understand it, marks the first of the two monsoons (the other is in September, the wettest month by far).  For the better part of the past two weeks we’ve had daily rains.  Not just the late afternoon thunderstorms mind you, but drizzly, temperamental rains that come at all hours of the day and night.  Our power cut out twice yesterday evening and once again while we slept last night, waking us up a while later when the unconditioned room became too warm because the air conditioner had been reset by the power interruption.

The rains are okay by me as they keep the temperatures cooler, especially with the dark clouds blocking out the tropical sun.  Sure, you have to plan a bit so you don’t get caught on the back of a motorsai without protection, as Tawn did on his way home this evening.  Actually, he had protection, but he sacrificed his sweater to wrap his bag.


I encountered this funny advertisement on, of all things,  It is for a British travel website called and as far as I can tell from a bit of research, the advertisement is exactly what it appears to be: a Candid Camera-type moment in which a group of professional actors conduct an ad hoc musical performance in the waiting area at London’s Stansted Airport to the surprise and amusement of those in the lounge.

From my perspective, this is pretty much the story of my life: breaking out in spontaneous song to drive my personal story line forward.  Does that happen to you?