Shaw Marketing & Publicity Department
Charity premiere ad banner on an overhead bridge, Singapore, 1969
"You must advertise, put up the posters, put it in the newpapers... you must think what are the kind of people, what kind of advertisements to attract the people"
- Tan Sri Runme Shaw, Pioneers of Singapore, Oral History
Daily newspaper ads, cinema standees poster displays and movie trailers provided the mainstays of Shaw promotions. Hand painted posters hung not only at cinemas, but also poster boards at road junctions and overhead bridges.
One extremely visible spot for these posters was the 'sky board' on top of Capitol building. Other locations include shopping centres, supermarkets, fairgrounds, schools, coffeeshops and even the Singapore Turf Club where Runme held the position of Chairman.
Ben Hur shop window display, Penang, 1956
A billboard along Penang Road, Penang, 1962
Turf Club promotion, Singapore, 1956
On race days, the art department would run promotions and mount banners at strategic locations around the club, thereby engaging huge crowds. One early promotion was the 'Alexander the Great' promotion in 1956 that utilised not only banners but the 'troops' of the Greek conqueror parading around the tracks in full costume.
For additional impact, billboard trucks travelled all over the island, broadcasting coming attractions and distributing handbills.
More elaborate outdoor promotions for blockbusters involved the hire of buses, taxis, floats, cars, river boats, trishaws, even armoured trucks and airplanes. These vehicles were outfitted with advertising banners and billboards created by the inhouse art departments in both the head offices of Singapore and Malaysia.
'Movie theme' marketing was another effective method at drawing attention. Within the cinema itself, the Shaw marketing team would organise theme screenings with audiences dressed up in movie themes.
A typical one was held in 1949, where a movie ball at the Capitol had guests dressed up as various film characters popular at the time such as 'The Three Musketeers', 'Charlie Chan', 'The Marx Brothers' and 'Dorothy Lamour'.
Another was the red head promotion at the Capitol in 1956 for the premiere of 'Slightly Scarlet'. Girls who flaunted the loveliest red hair was given a spray of flowers and a voucher for free hairdo with a leading hairstylist.
A billboard truck dressed as a tank, Singapore, 1965
A billboard boat, Kuching, Borneo, 1956
An armored truck was used to transport the film for "Goldfinger", Singapore, 1964
Rickshaw billboard, Telok Ayer, Singapore, 1959
In 1958, an elaborate promotion for 'The Pajama Game' gave free admission to audiences who came in only half a pajama suit. They were then treated to a fashion show by a bevy of models in American lingerie. Couples arrived with the men dressed in only pajama pants and ladies the tops sans bottom. Yet another imaginative theme screening was the female impersonation one where men came dressed as Marilyn Monroe for 'Some Like It Hot' (1959).
Costumed characters were also used by the marketing team to promote films.
These wandering mascots thrilled audiences with photo opportunities as they travelled around town handing out flyers.
Such promotions were frequently conducted by both Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, among the many popular stuntmen hired for such promotions in the 1950s were Sarban Singh and Tarlok Singh.
With crowds trailing behind them, characters such as the alien from 'The Man From Planet X' (1951), the skeleton from 'Jungle Manhunt' (1952) , the Indian from 'Indian Uprising' (1952) and the scuba diver from 'Under the Carribean' (1957) walked the streets. In Malaysia, stuntmen from Rex, Kuching terrorised the neighbourhood with 'The Creature' (1957); the Federal, KL brought to life 'The Magnificent Seven' (1961) and 'Ben Hur' (1960).
Lawrence Of Arabia contest, Lido, Kota Bahru, Kelantan, 1962
Pyjama Game, Singapore, 1958
State Theatre, Singapore
Sometimes part of the cinema would be dressed up in line with a movie theme. With the creative use of actors, lights, props, music, exhibit, product display and even ambient temperature control within the cinemas, the Shaw marketing team could recreate any setting - from the cold, eerie atmosphere of a horror film to the hot, exciting feel of a desert war epic.
These imaginative marketing efforts often received the extra-milage of receiving enthusiastic press support.
Typical of stage dressing were those at the Capitol and Lido in 1960.
In Capitol, the promotion of 'Operation Petticoat' (1960) involved a full scale cardboard submarine which was lit on the Capitol stage prior to a petticoat fashion show.
In the Lido, a painted skyline of Singapore provided the backdrop for an ethnic dress fashion show for the South East Asian premiere of 'On the Beach'.
A bomoh at The Exorcist premiere, Lido, Kota Bahru, Kelantan, 1973
The Mysterians promotion, Singapore, 1959
Magnificent Seven, Federal KL, 1961
Ben Hur promotion, Federal, KL, 1960
Operation Petticoat, Capitol, 1961
Documentary films often provided the backdrop for the most daring promotions. In 1967, an exhibit of eyeballs was set up in conjunction with 'The Mystery and the Pleasure' at the Capitol.
The St John Ambulance Brigade also stood by to render first aid to patrons who 'fainted' during the medical documentary film.
Another memorable documentary promotion was the animal exhibit at Capitol for 'The Living Jungle' (1970). Patrons were invited to guess the names of the various animals.
State Theatre, Singapore
State Theatre, Singapore