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22 MARCH 2024

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: Digging into Exhuma’s success in SEA 
  • Fax, No Printer: Which creative field was AI-ified this week? 
  • Regional Round-up: Pop-ups, food blockers, playable movie trailers, and more! 

Innovation of the Week


Exhuma or 파묘 (pa-myo, which means ‘to dig up a grave’) is the new Korean horror film that’s breaking records in Southeast Asia. Written and directed by Jang Jae-hyun, it recently overtook Parasite to become the highest-grossing Korean movie in Indonesia, selling 1.8M tickets in 20 days. It’s proving popular in Vietnam, too: the film raked in US$660K on its opening day in the country—that’s the biggest opening for a Korean film in Vietnam. Let’s dig into the story behind the numbers… 


First, a quick (spoiler-free!) primer on the plot: Exhuma follows two shamans, a feng shui master, and a mortician as they work to lift a generational curse impacting an uber-wealthy family. The exhumation of an ancestor unravels something greater, and the group must face the consequences. Buzz around the film has been building since it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. 

In Indonesia, Exhuma still has a way to go to beat the success of KKN di Desa Penari, a local horror film about six students who enter a sealed-off portion of a village (9.23M admissions in 2022) but it’s proof that demand for horror stories rooted in local culture and tradition hasn’t gone away. While Exhuma is set (mostly) in Korea, the themes—ancestors, local folklore, and the supernatural—appeal to local audiences. After all, the very best horror movies almost always offer commentary on contemporary social issues. 

Let’s not forget that viewers in Southeast Asia love a fright-fest—back in 2022, Netflix reported that horror content was on the rise in the region, growing by 20% of viewing hours in Asia-Pacific. During the same period viewing hours of horror content in SEA increased by over 40%. The blend of horror and the occult, combined is clearly still a winning formula for this market, and it’s resulting in creative storytelling that has real audience appeal. 

But this newsletter isn’t just here to persuade you to watch Exhuma this weekend (although you might want to). Horror might not seem like the most obvious foundation for brand storytelling. But these stories are incredibly popular with audiences and finding creative ways to play in this space could help you stand out. It’s also worth considering the overarching theme here too, namely the fusion of cultural components and the mix of now and then that could fuel your next cultural narrative. 

Fax, No Printer*

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

Which creative field was AI-ified this week?

A. Crafting

B. Photography

C. Music

Scroll down to the end of the newsletter for the correct answer!

Regional Round-up

🐭 Hey kidults! This week, Disney+ hosted a pop-up experience in Singapore where fans could visit four rooms themed around popular films and series. This interactive experience brought viewers closer to some of the streamer’s most iconic IPs and helped them discover new genres. If you typically play in the digital space, how might IRL experiences help you connect with consumers?

🎙️ Looking to uplift artists and creators, Sony Music Entertainment recently launched its first recording studio in Southeast Asia, and it is located in Jakarta. The studio can also host livestreams and live jam sessions. With the region set to experience an explosion in digital audio consumption over the next 10 years, is it time to consider what your brand can do to support local talent? 

🚫 For Muslims fasting during Ramadan, online food ads can be a temptation. Enter FoodBlocker, a Chrome extension that automatically hides all food-related photos from browsers during fasting hours. Do your Ramadan campaigns blend solidarity and practicality? Note that the appeal of FoodBlocker goes beyond Muslims, extending to anyone who might be looking to improve their diet and resist tasty treats!

🥤 If you haven’t installed FoodBlocker you might come across Epic Night Out, a new campaign from Coca-Cola Thailand that celebrates the country’s street food. Developed in collaboration with local artists, the song lyrics reference food items and locations popular with Thai Gen Z. A reminder that working with culturally relevant artists isn’t always enough—younger consumers will appreciate brands that go the extra mile to show they really get them.

⚠️ ICYMI: Ahead of the release of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Warner Bros launched a playable trailer on Roblox. The trailer includes an obstacle course that players need to complete with the help of Suko (AKA ‘mini Kong’). According to the company, it’s the first time a 2D trailer has been transformed into a playable format. With some blockbusters struggling at the US box office, studios need to find more creative ways to connect with fans—could gaming be the solution?

This Week's Trivia Answer

C. Music 

Described as ‘a ChatGPT for music’ by Rolling Stone, US-based platform Suno turns text prompts into songs, complete with lyrics and a title. This magic is the result of two AI models working in collaboration: one, developed by Suno, creates the music, while ChatGPT is responsible for the words. The founders are bullish that giving people the tools to turn their imagination into music will democratize creativity in the same way Instagram democratized photography; detractors ask do we really need more mediocre music?

Musicians themselves are having a hard time navigating these tech developments: Lauv recently came under fire for using AI to create a Korean version of his hit Love U Like That while Grimes offered a 50-50 royalty split on any successful AI-generated song that used her voice.

Generative AI is likely to ramp up the era of mass creativity, and could offer more opportunities for brands to work with creative consumers (we’re already seeing the start of this with things like Burger King’s Million Dollar Whopper Contest). So, while there is plenty to ponder when it comes to the ethical and social implications of technology like Suno, can you start using generative AI to ramp up co-creation and collaboration? 

🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Angela, Catherine, Kiko, Teri, Twila & Vicki