A heartwarming new ad from Thai Life Insurance has brought southeast Asia to tears and is now making its way to computer screens around the world.
In the East, super-sad ads designed to make viewers bawl and sob as their hearts melt are a time-honored advertising tradition. No mawkish stone goes unturned in brands’ fight to make Asian consumers’ eyes water and throats catch. Google, Thai Life Insurance, and the Thai mobile company TrueMove H are among brands that have aired ultra-heavy ads recently.
The new Thai Life ad, named “Unsung Hero,” shows one virtuous young man as he performs random acts of kindness on a regular basis. He gives up his bus seat to a woman who is standing, brings bananas to an elderly neighbour, and donates money to a young girl on the street raising funds to pay for an education.
Along the way, other people shake their heads in disbelief, unable to understand the benefit our protagonist gets from giving to strangers all the time.
But at about the two-minute mark, one beautiful moment explains what makes his efforts worth it:
The ad, from Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok, is one of a number of uplifting, tear-jerkers commercials to come out of southeast Asia in recent years. In fact, Ogilvy and Thai Life teamed up in 2011 on one of the genre’s most popular ads, “Silence of Love.”
That spot depicts a turbulent relationship between a schoolgirl and her deaf-mute father, whom the girl can’t seem to forgive for not being able to speak like the other girls’ fathers. But when the girl is rushed to the hospital in an emergency, the man’s actions speak louder than words.
According to the viral video tracking firm Unruly, companies like Thai Life are drawn to these tearjerkers because those are the kinds of ads people in South-East Asia are most likely to share on social media.
Take, for instance, this Google ad, which tells the story of how two childhood best friends reunited after being split by the partition of India in 1947.
It has been seen 11 million times on YouTube alone:
Cat Jones, Unruly’s head of business development, said this is in part because people in places like Thailand and China tend to share videos with everyone they know online in one blast, rather than by targeting individual friends or groups as is more common in the U.S., Britain, and Germany.
As a result, the most shareable ads in the region are those that appeal to basic human emotions like the love between a father and his daughter.
Additionally, South-East Asians are drawn to sharing videos that demonstrate a good cause. Like the “Unsung Hero” ad, this commercial for the Thai mobile company TrueMove H shows how rewarding kindness can be. In it, a merchant’s gift to a thief is repaid years later, when the merchant most needs a helping hand:
“It’s quite hard in the U.S. and the U.K. to make people share because it’s a good cause and they want to help,” Jones said. “In Southeast Asia, we’re seeing a lot more of that. People there are a lot more easy to persuade that it’s a good cause and something worth promoting.”
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