In Vietnam, we celebrate Women’s Day twice. On March 8th, International Women’s Day is celebrated alongside the globe. But today, October 20th, is Vietnamese Women’s Day.
In honor of the occasion, creative studio Little Red Ants Saigon has released an anthem video to celebrate the strength and joy of everyday Vietnamese women. As the center of the mini-campaign titled “Happy To Be Me”, the video is part of the studio’s effort to support gender equality and the many facets of womanhood outside of traditional stereotypes. Watch the anthem here:
Vietcetera had the opportunity to chat with three team members from Little Red Ants to discuss what this occasion means to them, what they hope to inspire with the campaign, and the qualities of Vietnamese women that they admire the most. Read their introductions and the conversation below.
Kang Li (KL): Co-Founder of Little Red Ants and the creative director of this mini campaign, “Happy to Be Me.”
I was supposed to become a journalist after college, but turned down many offers from different papers to start a creative studio with my friends instead. It’s been ten years since.
Cecilia (CECI): Executive Producer of Little Red Ants Saigon.
I’m like Nick Fury with the personality traits of The Hulk. I spend most of my time trying to assemble my Avengers team, from producers to directors to production assistants, etc., so that I can uphold my duty as a guardian of the work that we put out.
Kim Tran (KIM): Writer & Assistant Director of Little Red Ants Saigon, and the shooter of this campaign.
I love to be involved everything in Little Red Ants, and my strength is my curiosity. My team has always given me freedom and their best support so I can try out every role in the creative and production process.
Tell us about Little Red Ants. How did the Saigon office start, and what types of projects are you working on?
KL: Little Red Ants is a creative video agency that started in Singapore and came to Vietnam in 2017. 8 years after we started in Singapore, a few industry professionals we worked with encouraged us to check Vietnam out. We made a few trips to Saigon and really liked the energy of the place. It was a good time for us to get a challenge outside of Singapore too, to get exposed to new people, new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Unlike traditional production houses, we don’t just execute production briefs. Many of our projects start from the ideation stage. We respond to marketing briefs with video concepts, just like a creative team.
Where did the idea for your “Happy To Be Me” come from?
KL: Coming from Singapore, where Women’s Day is not as widely celebrated as in Vietnam, I was quite surprised to see so much hype about it. It’s even celebrated twice a year here, the international version and the Vietnamese version.
When I asked around, I found that Women’s Day appreciation is mostly done in the context of a relationship, i.e. mums, wives, girlfriends, teachers, colleagues etc. In essence, “Happy Women’s Day” is just much broader term for “Happy Mother’s Day” or “Happy Valentine’s Day” or “Happy Teacher’s Day”.
Perhaps, we thought, we should expand this to allow for the celebration and appreciation of women as individuals?
Happy is a celebratory greeting, i.e. “Happy Women’s Day”. Happy is also a “state-of-mind”, i.e. “Happy Women”. We wanted to play on this dual meaning and focus on the word “Happy”. We wrote out a few ideas and tried more wordplay. Eventually, “Happy To Be Me” struck a chord with the team, and we developed the idea around the line.
KIM: It originally started from 8/3 (International Women’s Day). We wanted to make something special for our moms, but the more we brainstormed, the bigger the ideas became.
Eventually, we decided to do it in the form of an “anthem”, in order to reach out to more people and instill this idea in our viewers: we all need to respect and love our women every day.
What conversation do you hope to inspire with this mini-campaign?
KL: I think we’ve added a touch of local everyday-ness to a big topic. Not so much inspiring a conversation, but more so instigating a recognition of all types of women, no matter how ordinary they are, who are out there in the streets, in our homes, at our offices, among our friends. We want to say: “It’s OK to be yourself.”
CECI: Aside from the greater good of advocating more positivity in the perception of gender roles, I secretly hope that it will also spark off more creative individuals to feel encouraged in using their talents to speak up. I mean, we are blessed in that our passion and talent puts us in a position where we can try to make a difference in society through the work that we do, however small it may be.
So through this small little exercise, I hope it speaks out to the creatives out there, in that, “Hey! There are so many ways we can use our talents for something other than a bread-and-butter purpose. Let’s do something great and find like-minded people to do it together!”
Tell us about the women in your lives who have inspired you.
CECI: The woman who really influenced me in my life is my softball coach from secondary school. If you see her on the streets, she would just be yet another woman who looks sporty, tanned, some might say boyish. But beneath that, she has the biggest heart for her students and the sport.
She was like a mother to us. She was always patient, even when we made costly mistakes. I remember I used to ask her, “Coach, why don’t you yell at me for all these mistakes? Why are you always so nice to me?” She would always shrug and not want to answer that. Years later, she told us, she didn’t see a point in that when we already felt bad enough on our own; there’s no point in putting us down even more because we might not pick ourselves up during the game. What mattered was that we learnt to see past it and continue to push hard in the game.
She would tell us her strategies, how she understood each of us as a player and why she did certain things. This really got me to see how to manage a team, and to this date, I think these teachings subconsciously guide how I run my team as well.
Most importantly, the reason why I am where I am now is a phone call I had with her when I was 15. She said to me, “Since you like media so much, why don’t you study communications in the future?”
I’ve never looked back since then.
KL: There are too many…
For a start, my colleagues at LRA Saigon (almost all are female). All of them are strong-minded, independent, smart, resourceful and tender-hearted. I can’t remember the number of times that they have stepped up to push through with things when I have moments of self-doubt.
What are the main challenges that feminism faces in Vietnam today?
KIM: I think Vietnam is improving a lot, and I love how the traditions are blending with the western cultures now, creating an interesting picture of the relationship between man and woman. The challenge is that not all women got the chance to acknowledge the world and see how it’s changing. I attribute that to the outdated education system and a traditional mindset.
CECI: In my short stint here, I see that many of the youngsters are starting to strike out on their own. I think the biggest challenge that many young ladies face now is how to balance their desire to see the world with their family obligations and duties, because Vietnamese are generally very family-oriented.
What traits of Vietnamese women do you admire?
CECI: I like that Vietnamese women are gentle yet very resilient, and have a toughness in them. I like that females are allowed to hold senior positions in a company and definitely admire the entrepreneurial spirit in the ladies. In Chinese, there is a saying that a woman should be able to hold up a household while simultaneously hold their foot in society, and I think Vietnamese women are true emblems of that.
KL: I think that Vietnamese women are super capable. A friend once theorized that because of the Vietnam War, during which many men were drafted into the military (and many women too!), the household responsibilities of women greatly increased and it seems like the imbued resilience, strength and independent streak have remained a part of the Vietnamese women’s psyche ever since.
How do you think brands and platforms can better advocate their social values?
CECI: I think brands can be more risk-taking in terms of what they try to say. What we struggle with most of the time is to find the balance between brand insertion and holding strong to the message and letting the narrative come through. Many times, the “branding” aspect wins.
Platforms can do more by generating conversations, whether it’s through partnerships with brands or coming up with original content. There could be more investigative pieces or even profile features that are related to the topic in order for people to form their own conversations.
KL: Use well-known “Key Opinion Leaders”! Haha, just kidding.
Broadly speaking, I think brands and platforms can afford to curate who they work with better and align their social values with the brand ambassadors or social influencers or content that they sponsor or use.
It’s an age of authenticity, so if you don’t make sure your brand has the same values embedded within your culture and products, your consumers will find out sooner or later. So the other thing is to look internally and create processes and cultivate a culture that is aligned with the social values that the company wants to promote.
In short, there has to be consistency and permeability. But most importantly, there has to be genuine intent.
How does Little Red Ants plan to stay involved after the video release on Vietnamese Women’s Day? What campaigns do you envision for the future?
KL: We don’t have big ambitions for it, nor hope that it will grow into something really big. But we will definitely keep a close eye on the responses that come in, and see if there are clues in there that might inspire the next phase of this project. Otherwise, I am already pretty happy if this little project that we’re putting out resonates with people out there, or even inspires other creatives to embark on their own mini personal projects that might result in a bit of a positive intervention on society, however small it might be.
On a personal level, topics like urban conservation, responsible drinking, financial literacy and responsible waste management jump out at me as relevant issues to talk about in Vietnam.
CECI: I think it was good that we were put through this practice of coming up with a suite of materials for a mini-campaign like this, because it helps us get in the mindset of brands and their consideration when planning for campaigns. So I hope that we will be able to do more of such, in partnerships with brands, especially the SMEs.
And if it is within our power, I would personally really like to have LRA do something children related, whether is it working with NGO on their campaign materials, or working with schools or brands who advocate education and well-being of underprivileged children in Vietnam and the larger region.