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31 MARCH 2023

Welcome to this week’s edition of Culture Wire, a newsletter brought to you by Singapore-based pop culture and lifestyle marketing agency Culture Group.

In this week’s edition:

  • Innovation of the Week: All aboard the AI hype train! 🚂 
  • Fax, No Printer: Happiest country in Southeast Asia?
  • Regional Round-up: A sweet collab, local content rides high, Jordan takes flight in Shibuya and more!

Innovation of the Week


You’ve probably heard of Naomi, Christy and Linda. But what about Aadhya, Faye and Melur? This new trio is on the cover of Vogue Singapore’s March issue – but the catch is that they’re AI-generated models, dreamt up by Varun Gupta, creative director of Mumbai-based We Create Films. Inspired by the theme ‘Roots’, the models represent a range of Southeast Asian women, and are depicted in digital renderings of designer fashion. Gupta used AI tools including MidJourney and Dall-E to create the images. 

💡 Our take

New day, new viral AI story. This week we were fooled by Pope Francis’ swagger style and Kanye West’s ‘apology’ track – both created using AI. It’s hardly surprising that 65% of people worry technology will make it impossible to know if what they are seeing or hearing is real. Just on Wednesday, experts and execs (including Elon Musk) penned an open letter calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful that GPT-4, citing the risks to society and humanity. 

In the meantime, brands are racing to capitalize on the buzz for marketing – for instance, Coca-Cola’s Create Real Magic platform is inviting consumers to create Coke-branded artwork. But, like the tech itself, these efforts aren’t without controversy. Levi’s plan to test AI-generated clothing models to ‘improve diversity’ was met with backlash – this particular use case of AI could actually reduce the hiring of more diverse models. 

One theme we have observed with every new technology? In an attempt to jump on the Shiniest New Thing, many brands often overlook something fundamental – the tech should serve people. Vogue Singapore focused on creative representation. Similarly, First Choice Thailand reimagined the future of humans through a film, where the AI-generated protagonist was played by gender-fluid actor, model and singer Krit Amnuaydechkorn – an actual human representing the values the brand claims to advocate for.

It’s clear that generative AI will have an important role in the future of creativity. Rather than racing to adopt the tech, take the time to consider how these tools can be put to use to serve humans. From amplifying self-expression to furthering diversity, what value will your brand’s application of tech generate?

Fax, No Printer*

For those of you born before 1997, ‘fax, no printer‘ is Gen Z speak for ‘undeniable facts I agree with’

Which SEA country ranked highest in the UN’s World Happiness Report 2023?

Indonesia 🇮🇩

Singapore 🇸🇬

Thailand 🇹🇭

Regional Round-up

🍨 We’ve got the scoop! Singapore-based utilities company Geneco is celebrating its fifth anniversary by collaborating with local ice cream shop Apiary on an exclusive flavor. The ice cream is carbon neutral-certified and comes with Geneco’s #Seed theFuture messaging around sustainable lifestyles.

🎶 There’s a million things you haven’t done – and if that includes seeing Hamilton… No more waiting in the wings 😉 The hit musical will premiere in Asia in Manila in September 2023. Could this renew interest in theater-going among gen Z in SEA? (PS. you can tell our writers love this musical!)

🎞️ Highlighting demand for local content, Star Cinema movies Partners in Crime and Labyu With An Accent were among the top trending movies on Netflix in the Philippines following their release on the streaming platform last weekend. Is your brand working to uplift uniquely SEA stories?

✈️ TV shows and movies are shaping vacation plans: 70% of Gen Z and Millennials travelers have been inspired to travel to a destination after seeing it on screen. The news that White Lotus season 3 will be set in Thailand means that the country could continue reaping the rewards of the Netflix effect!

🏀 The first Jordan World of Flight store is now open in Tokyo. Bringing court culture to an IRL setting, it includes a content studio where shoppers can film unboxing videos. It’s the latest step in Nike’s plan to grow sales from DTC channels and highlights how brands can build community around commerce.

⚠️ ICYMI: It’s time to power up bathtime! Ahead of the launch of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the cosmetics chain Lush unveiled a Mario-themed range 🧼. Sure to appeal to kidults everywhere, it’s yet another reminder that all sorts of brands are giving consumers permission to play!

This Week's Trivia Answer

🇸🇬 B. Singapore

Singapore is officially the happiest country in Southeast Asia, and the 25th happiest in the world (up from 27th in 2022 and 32nd in 2021). The next SEA country in the list is Malaysia (55th) and Thailand (60th). This is according to the UN’s World Happiness Report, and not the average Singaporean on online comment sections

Happiness is subjective, hard to quantify, and always invites passionate discourse – especially at a time when consumer priorities around mental health and wellbeing are at an all-time high. Over the past few months, we’ve been tracking the shift towards nostalgia and the growth of the Joyconomy, and this report reinforces the need for escapism and play. Brands that provide moments of escapism through community and creativity will always be welcomed.

🚀 Over and Out!

Got thoughts on generative AI? We’d love to hear them – just reply to this email! 

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki