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Bring back that lovin' feeling, SIA

There is a timeless quality about the gracious Singapore Girl, says Batey. (PHOTO: SIA)

Publication Date : 11-02-2013


That's the advice from brand guru Ian Batey, who helped SIA create the Singapore Girl icon


If Ian Batey could croon to the Singapore Girl, he would sing that Righteous Brothers evergreen: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".

"The passion is not there any more," he said of the global branding icon he helped Singapore Airlines (SIA) create in the 1970s.

The British-born advertising guru, 76, founded Batey Ads in 1972 and grew it into Southeast Asia's largest independent advertising group. Besides SIA, the agency also helped to develop Raffles Hotel, Tiger Beer and Tiger Balm into global brands.

He said the airline's recent campaigns could do with greater flair and imagination.

"SIA still believes in the romance of travel, and this emotional statement does not get enough play in the recent work," said Batey, who sold his stake in Batey Ads and has not been involved with the company since 2005.

Now living in the United States, the straight-shooting ad man and his old Batey Ads team recently donated S$250,000 (US$202,000) to Singapore Polytechnic (SP) to start a scholarship for its Diploma in Media and Communication students.

"It's a little bit of payback for all the stuff that Singapore has given us. It is our small contribution to making Singapore a more exciting creative centre," he said of the Batey Scholar Award which has a matching grant from the Ministry of Education and which will take effect in April.

In an interview with The Sunday Times while he was in Singapore, the conversation returned naturally to SIA and the Singapore Girl.

Elaborating on his complaint about the airline's recent advertising campaigns, he said: "They've lost the love. The passion and the commitment is not there any more. I call it wallpaper advertising; it just fills up a page.

"A good ad should make you turn the page and gulp on your coffee. If it comes on the television, you got to go, 'Good God, that felt good'."

But what would he say to those who believe that it takes more than the Singapore Girl to sell airline seats these days, and that she may even be obsolete?

He makes clear his view that SIA stands apart in the crowded, cut-throat airline industry.

Many travellers now view most global full-service airlines as being much the same, he said, so their choice is determined mainly by the ticket price.

"On all airlines except SIA," he added. "Because paying more to fly SIA is seen as exceptional value for the experience. It offers the kind of inflight service even other airlines talk about."

SIA's superior service is what still sets it apart from the competition, he believes.

"And what better way to present this powerful difference than through the key inflight service personality - the Singapore Girl?

"In my book, there is a timeless quality about the Singapore Girl in her sarong kebaya. And long may she reign as the living, breathing, warm, gracious branding icon of SIA."

Ad agency TBWA, which won the SIA account in 2007, could not be reached for comment on Batey's views.

SIA declined to comment too, but a spokesman told The Sunday Times the airline constantly reviews its brand communications to ensure they evolve with the times.

Among those who agreed with the veteran ad man was Lim Sau Hoong, executive creative director of ad agency 10AM Communications, who said of the airline's advertising: "They should do something to bring back the charm, the soul and the old magic of SIA."

Branding expert Joseph Baladi, chief executive of BrandAsian, said: "The uniqueness of the SIA brand is anchored in the Singapore Girl. She's real and she's consistent and she's a natural expression of the brand."


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