MONDAY, April 15, 2024
nationthailand

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Advertising experts say the Thai government’s much-vaunted campaign to use "soft power" to drive economic revival faces a major obstacle: Thai people.

Advertising industry leaders joined government agencies to propose ways of building and communicating Thai soft power at the Adman Awards & Symposium 2023 last Thursday.

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Chakrit Pichyangkul, executive director of the Creative Economy Agency, set the scene by pointing out links between the creative economy and soft power while citing economist Joseph Nye’s definition of the latter term. Unlike hard power – or use of force – countries use soft power to attract and entice others to do what they want through three means: their culture, political values, and foreign policies. "The goal is to make people from other countries admire us by using these three components to drive it forward," Chakrit said.

He offered the US as an example of a soft-power superpower.
“During my childhood, everyone aspired to study in America, perceiving it as the desired destination for education. We enjoyed Hollywood movies and were fond of American culture, including hamburgers and fried chicken.”

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Chakrit Pichyangkul, executive director of the CEA

Participants at the symposium said Thailand’s soft-power “weapons” extended beyond tradition and cultural heritage to all aspects of life in the country. So, the government’s soft-power push should tap Thai creativity that evolves and takes on new forms.

Chakrit said the creative industry is already excelling in areas like advertising, where Thailand stands out on the global stage, However, growth of this sector also depends on other industries, he added.

Rati Panthawi, president of the Advertising Association of Thailand, agreed that advertising and marketing communications play an integral role in the creative economy.

He said soft power ultimately involves enticing people to like what we offer.

However, this goes beyond mere product placement by featuring Som Tam in TV shows or Muay Thai in movies, he said. Instead, it should involve a whole marketing ecosystem where storytelling plays a pivotal role. He suggested that content creators could contribute significantly by adding narratives to the soft power push. Otherwise, it's just placing products, he added.

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Rati Panthawi, president of the AAT

Paruj Daorai, co-CEO of Publicis Groupe Thailand and president of the Digital Advertising Association of Thailand said soft power arises when everyone collectively shares a common direction and values.

"Everything can happen when everyone moves in the same direction, forming a collective consciousness that evolves into certain values. For example, people in Japan and South Korea take pride in being Japanese and Korean. They wear traditional clothes on significant occasions. In Thailand, if these things happened in Ayutthaya, it would become a thriving economy. The question is, do people in Thailand wear their traditional costume? Strong soft power requires people in the country to first appreciate and accept [their culture]."

He pointed to a lack of such collaboration in Thailand.

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Paruj Daorai, DAAT President

Another factor dragging down Thai soft power is influencer marketing, said Pathamawan Sathaporn, CEO of M Group (Thailand). She raised concerns about responsibility and ethics in an industry where anyone can sell and advertise Thai products and services. She questioned whether influencers were contributing positively to society and taking responsibility for the impact they have. Prescribing the need for a long-term plan that aligns with Thailand’s strengths, Pathamawan said the soft power campaign must be sustained and coordinated, not just a one- or two-year trend that is then forgotten.

Soft power vs hard fact: Do Thais appreciate their own culture?

Pathamawan Sathaporn, CEO of M Group

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