To Advertise Or Not To Advertise, That is the Question
It's with fear and trepidation that I head towards the point of no return, the time when I lose my virginity in Thailand. No, not in the bars with one of the little darlings, that went by the by long ago. I mean my first submission to Stickman. I
know, I know, Dana’s done it 150 times, Cassandra, Marc Holt and other have done it so many times before me, so why should I be a quivering mess…..well it's my first time and we all remember our first time.
I’m a recent newcomer to LOS having only lived here a couple of years. I’ve been a very interested daily reader of the Bangkok Post to try to get a grip of the situation here and an understanding of the cultural political scene. I have heard it said by The Nation readers that the Nation is far better at this, but I like the satirical comic and other sections in the Post…..that’s just the way life is.
I have followed with interest, you could also read disgust, the affairs of the former prime minister and his cronies as he led the best bought way through his landslide re-election, the golden boy popularist. Amazing what a few purple notes of your own helped with huge handouts from the national coffers can achieve!!!! All to be lost overnight when he finally got caught with his hand in the till when his incredibly intelligent, high business acumen children were able to sell his company totally unknown to him……will wonders never cease!!!! Let’s call a snap election to see if I can shed some of the lime light over the sale and at the same time cost the country billions of baht so I can get away scott free. Enough of this rant about the former pm, its all been written before and there be plenty more come out.
I arrived after they began to close the bars at 1 – 2 AM, depending on where you were…..”I mean it's not my fault if I can’t read my watch cos it's dark, here have anther few pieces of paper!!!” I was used to being able to go out till sun rise in Godzown, so it was a shock coming here.
Then it was, let's restrict the times when you can sell alcohol during the day, because in the middle of the afternoon when most are at work, not being able to sell alcohol will stop people drinking.
Now with utter amazement I read this week that a total ban is going to be placed on alcohol advertising from November 1. The anticipated effect of this is of course to immediately remove all the alcohol related issues like drunkenness, domestic violence, drinking and driving and probably smoking at the same time, cos everyone knows that when you drink you smoke. It's like a little green man comes to you with a smoke with every drink delivered.
This morning I got even a greater shock when I opened the Post and found that an even greater way to curb the Kingdom's desire for alcohol is to lift the purchasing age from 18 to 25. Not forgetting of course that you can vote and enter the military at 18. Now this would have a huge impact. The initial banning of advertising on even the darling little beer and whisky girls in the bars and beer gardens will have a huge impact on the income capacity of the girls. We don’t want them to go, we all enjoy watching them. I’m sure it makes all of us buy at least another bottle of Tiger or Singha. Yeah, right! Of course these girls will no longer be required so where will they get their money from? Well we are already working in the bar so let's just slip to the dark side and start paying bar, just a few nights a month to help ends meet. But no, this option won’t be open to them either cos most of them and the already working bar girls are under 25 so they won’t be able to have drinks, so won’t be able to work in bars. What is happening in the LOS or should we just call it “The fundamentalist Buddhist Kingdom”. Better not let George W know it’s a fundamentalist state, isn’t that where all extremists and terrorists come from. Might have to invade!
Thailand has this wonderful system of alcohol taxation; you’re taxed on production costs, not on alcohol content, as most countries around the world do. Based on this taxation system, high alcohol content drinks like whiskey and the near meths, Samsong are taxed very lightly. In typical Thai style, you go where you get the best bang for your buck, straight to the Samsong cos it's cheap gut rot you can get drunk on for next to nothing. Don’t think I can recall seeing any huge billboards for it anywhere, yet millions of litres are sold annually and over the years have turned the manufacturer into the richest man in Thailand.
I guess one of the things that I’ve found since I’ve lived here is that here you can’t do anything by halves. Let's use a sledge hammer where a tack hammer would do just nicely. The implications throughout many industries, bars, advertising, entertainment to name a few, will be horrific. Well I guess if you are a sign maker you‘ll do very well for the first 6 months or so, take a look around next time you are out and about at the number of bar name signs that advertise some form of alcohol or another, they’ll all have to be changed. The Baiyoke Tower has the huge Johnny Walker brand and the words Drink Don’t Drive, in English I might add. I guess it will have to be a big paint job the cover that one up. Heineken has been a very prominent supporter of music festivals around he country, including the Bangkok and Hua Hin jazz festivals. Who do they think will pick up these sponsorships so quickly?
What happened to education programs about the social and physical effects of alcohol, don’t drink and drive and other social responsibility programs. What about a staged introduction over time, not 1 November, 2 weeks away.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy my nights out mongering with the best of them, nothing like having the company of a delightful little darling. I can relate to the often misquoted “I’ve spent my money of wine, women and gambling, and the rest of it I’ve just wasted”.
What happens if I walk down the street in on of my many T-shirts – Singha, Tiger, Guinness, Beer Lao – will I immediately be arrested cos I’m advertising alcohol? Guess you could take the cynical approach and say where there are laws and proclamations in Thailand, there’s money in it for someone, a change in government style isn’t going to change that in a hurry…..who’s going to be the big bribe winner out of this one I wonder?
This is another of those laws that may be enforced "selectively".