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Thasorn ‘Pete’ Boonyanate on Changing Lives in Thailand through Creativity

Advertising Agency
Bangkok, Thailand
Wunderman Thompson Thailand’s ECD shares his thoughts on what is driving communications in his native country and how the groundbreaking campaigns he’s worked on have influenced society
When Thasorn ‘Pete’ Boonyanate decided to follow in his parent’s footsteps and join the advertising industry, he did so with the hope that he would be able to positively influence society. This, at times, is an aim easier said than done. To be in a sea of creativity such as Thailand’s and stand out requires a level of creative craftmanship that pushes away from the tide and so far, it seems Pete has been able to do just that.

During his career and working at various agencies from Lowe to BBDO and JWT he’s produced work that has not only been recognised on an international stage, but also changed lives. Point in hand is the observation he made that Thailand’s poorer community steal large sign boards to cover up holes in their housing. So, he and the team worked with leading home improvement brand HomePro to provide 1,000 pieces of material for shelters which also doubled up as advertising material. A simple, yet effective resource which helped the local community and satisfied a client’s needs.

To hear more about his career path and what’s driven him over the years, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Pete to find out more.

LBB> You got into the industry because both of your parents are in advertising, does this mean the career path was one you felt obliged to follow? 

Pete> Well it’s another way around. They did not force me to be in the advertising business at all. My dad even told me not to be a creative, because you will have no time to find a girlfriend!

LBB> With that in mind, when you landed your first role, what was your parents’ reaction? More importantly, how critical were they of your work!  

Pete> They were very happy that someone other than them was going to give me a salary! My family loves to debate, they really do, so when I launch any campaign, we discuss it a lot. It feels like I have two creative directors - one at the office and another one at home.

LBB> I know you worked on The Other Side project which helped the local community through turning signboards into homes for the poorer community. What was this experience like?

Pete> Home improvement retail store HomePro wanted to help the local community and so we found an insight that Thailand’s poor who live in slums steal signboard commercials, political promotions, advertising promotions. They then attach these to their house to cover any holes, such is their despair.

We came up with an awesome idea to turn a wasted HomePro promotional sign-board into a home. One side is a commercial ad, the other side is home. Each signboard could be a different room, toilet, sanctum, living room all using HomePro product plus HomePro wallpaper. This we called “The Other Side Project by HomePro”.

It is one of my most unforgettable projects! It started with 30-50 signboards, then the client added more money so in the end we gave away 1,000 signboards. This is also the first case study that was shot, edited and filmed by me.

LBB> With that in mind, your intentions are to create something that can 'change society', which campaign do you think has been closest to doing that and why? 

Pete> My intention of working in advertising was to create an ad that can change people’s lives or raise a real issue. After “The Other Side Project” we brainstormed and one evening in my favourite bar called Happy Monday, the lighting was pretty dark and they served me food that I could barely see. This lead to a conversation with my creative director where I told him: “Bro I feel like a blind person at the moment, I can’t see what I am eating, so I can’t be fooled by the look of the food, the only thing that matters is a taste right?”

From that moment, we started to develop an idea called “Taste needs no eyes – A food critic show hosted by the blind.” We sold the idea to the Thailand Association of the Blind to create a pilot video of ourselves using a real blind person from the organisation, then pitched it to a television channel until Thairath TV picked it up and signed a contract with us. 

We created at least 250 episodes, for two years, with 10 blind people plus 200+ celebrities! Making it the first show ever hosted by a blind person. It was a very big step for Thai TV show!

LBB> You also worked on Tiny Doll about Thailand’s first ever female MMA athlete - how did this project come around? 

Pete> After BBDO I moved to Shanghai for two years, working with Fred and Farid and BBDO Shanghai. Then I went back to Bangkok and worked at J. Walter Thompson where Kleenex was my first brief and my first client. They wanted to launch the softest tissue ever, with a label that said it was dermatologist tested. This made me think and want to do a story on someone who has had a tough life.  

I chose to work with the director Baz Nuttawut Poonpiriya who helped me find the right person for the ad and he came across Rika Ishege aka “Tiny Doll”. Rika is Thailand’s first female MMA athlete who doesn’t want to attack anyone but defend herself! She used to get bullied when she was young and so we picked up her story and created this emotionally crafted film. 

LBB> Since you started your career Thai consumers have changed a lot, but also perhaps not much at all in other ways. With that in mind you worked on the Tinder campaign promoting Friends with (Other) Benefits, where did the idea come from? 

Pete> It started with a pitch to launch a local brand campaign in Thailand. I asked my wife’s permission to download the app and she said: “Please don’t find a FWB”. So I downloaded the app and found out that this new gen are looking for FWBeer, FWBbq, FWBoard Game. Ahhh, they want to start relationships as a friend first, so I called an idea “Friends with other benefits.” In Thai it’s so much cooler, a word play with a pun, changing sexual relationships to friend relationships. After we launched the film it went super viral and people started to change their Tinder bios to FW(other)B. 

LBB> Lastly, where do you see Thai creativity heading in the future?

Pete> Well I’m not daring to speak as an industry. But for my team, we are stepping up for more “entertainment” approaches, like what we did to TikTok and launched it first ever interactive film to cheer up people in lockdown moment, or creating an airline for Tinder called “Tinder Airways”, an airline that took you away from Thailand to anyway in the world. 

I’m aiming to create a work that provides a brand experience and entertainment because we are suffering enough from Covid! I’m pretty happy with my life at the moment, especially WFH so I can be home with my boy! But who knows? I might consider another country if this government does not change its policy!

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