BANGKOK -- A TV commercial for an energy drink has become a social phenomenon in Thailand as it depicts the privileged elite being humbled, to the delight of the majority here.
In the commercial for Lipovitan D, a drink from drugmaker Osotspa Taisho, a wealthy young woman driving a luxury sports car speeds into a parking garage and parks in a spot marked with a wheelchair sign for the disabled. Security guards look annoyed, but no one says anything -- until one of them walks toward the driver and says: "Please park on the third floor."
That is when the woman utters the incredibly bratty response: "Do you know who my father is?"
The guard does not budge.
Then passersby whip out their smartphones to record what is going on. The woman, apparently feeling uncomfortable, finally leaves. The screen cuts to the guard's gallant face, then the commercial ends with Lipovitan D's logo.
The ad is unusual in Thailand, where business is dominated by conglomerates and the upper class. It caught fire on the internet immediately after it started airing in March, with social media users saying they have been inspired by the commercial or are worried about the fictional guard getting fired.
The commercial has also reminded viewers of the heir to the family that created the predecessor to rival energy drink Red Bull -- who is effectively in exile.
Headquartered in Austria, Red Bull, the company behind the popular namesake beverage, created the product from the Thai energy drink Krating Daeng, with involvement of Chaleo Yoovidhya, now-deceased developer of the original drink. His clan is said to control 51% of the Red Bull empire today, making the family the fourth-wealthiest in Thailand with an estimated $12.5 billion in assets, according to Forbes.
The heir, a grandson of the founder, drove off after hitting and killing a police officer in 2012. He allegedly even blamed the accident on a servant and used his influence over police to sweep the incident under the carpet.
Even after the truth came out, the man continued to ignore orders to appear in court, and it seemed the case would be forgotten, with him having fled overseas. But another hit-and-run by a son of a rich family reignited an outcry over police favoritism for well-connected offenders. Finally, Thailand moved to revoke the passport of the Red Bull heir in May.
The timing of the Lipovitan D commercial was a pure coincidence, said an executive at the ad production house. But many consumers are staying away from Krating Daeng, with a 60-year-old man saying he has "no thirst for the drink for a while."
Despite deeply entrenched social structures, economically disadvantaged people in Thailand are gaining a voice slowly but surely, at least in the consumer market.