#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: Peeling back the layers of Michelin-star chef Andre Chiang

Andre Chiang might be a world-renowned Michelin star chef. However, consumers might not know who he truly is beneath all the glitz, glamour and fame he has received throughout his career. Last year, chef Andre closed his much-celebrated Restaurant Andre in Singapore, much to the shock of fans and regular customers. With chef Andre moving back to Taiwan, Tribal Worldwide Singapore wanted to rejuvenate his brand and allow consumers to have a clearer insight into who he is beyond his reputation as a famed chef. As such, they came up with a film titled "Andre and his olive tree" which not only gained international acclaim but also won Tribal gold for Most Creative - Content Marketing at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent MARKies Awards 2021.

Challenge

Michelin chef Andre Chiang shocked consumers when he closed down his much-celebrated Restaurant Andre in Singapore and moved to his birthplace of Taiwan. Amidst the shock, there was also a need to rejuvenate Chiang’s personal brand as he takes root in another country while retaining his existing customers and converting new ones. Nonetheless, chef Andre is constantly covered by the mainstream media and his brand is saturated in the online space. Despite this, few might truly know who chef Andre really is.

Hence, creative agency Tribal Worldwide Singapore and production house AMOK decided to cut through the online noise by focusing on a theatrical release of chef Andre’s intimate story, upscaling the brand with the silver screen and helping chef Andre remain connected to his pool of customers. This was done in the form of the film titled “Andrew and his olive tree” which was released last year amidst the pandemic.

According to DDB, the move to launch a film last year was “a bold step”, considering that theatrical releases were postponed due to the pandemic. Even high budget blockbuster franchises such as James Bond, Mission Impossible 7, and Pixar’s Soul were also impacted as a result of the virus. 

Strategy 

Chef Andre’s sudden decision to shut his restaurant sparked a string of questions about why he decided to leave. This set the perfect backdrop for a feature documentary with commercial potential, Tribal said, given the legion of fans who followed chef Andre’s journey as a Michelin chef. However, it was important to not only maintain the chef’s brand with existing consumers but also expand his reach to everyday Singaporeans.

Also, news about Restaurant Andre was also oversaturated with media coverage, and the team felt the need to cut through the noise and tell a singular story that would bolster the chef’s brand and set his legacy into motion. According to Tribal, these objectives could only be reached if the team broke creative and safe boundaries, and shoot for a format that no other traditional agency has done before. 

Hence, Andre and his olive tree follows chef Andre as he returns his coveted accolades and closes his beloved eponymous restaurant in Singapore for good. With the silver screen being a medium that is traditionally known to be for the mass market while maintaining a universal appeal that brings with it glamour and glitz, Tribal said the format was perfect to show how chef Andre was relevant, not just to an affluent crowd but also to the masses who might not be familiar with the culinary scene.

With film releases being postponed during the pandemic, Tribal and AMOK knew they had to ensure this film still had a massive release in theatres. Hence, it decided to launch the film first in Taiwan where the pandemic was more or less under control, and use the success of Taiwan’s box office to further create interest in Singapore.

 According to the team, this was necessary considering that many made-in-Singapore films do not typically get as much support from its local audience. However, Tribal said it managed to overcome this with the tried and tested method that many local artistes and films have used. Singaporean singers Tanya Chua, JJ Lin, and Stefanie Sun, for example, all made it big overseas first before their homecoming success. 

At the same time, the date of the Singapore launch was also specifically designed to be during phase three of the re-opening of COVID-19 prevention measures, where many in Singapore would be looking forward to head out for entertainment with friends, albeit in smaller groups. Hence, Tribal chose a strategic time frame that was after the Christmas film releases and before the Chinese New Year international blockbusters so that it would not be met with unnecessary competition. 

Execution 

Tribal’s head of film Josiah Ng chose a treatment for the 104-minute documentary that was both raw and authentic to tell an intimate version of chef Andre’s story that had never been seen before by the media. Additionally, Tribal said the long format was a good medium to navigate his story using the relationships around him. This helped humanize chef Andre as an everyday man on the street despite his accolades.

The film was presented in eight chapters and inspired by his trademark “octaphilosophy” or Chiang’s eight elements of gastronomy: salt, texture, memory, pure, terrior, south, artisan, unique. This helped bridge the understanding to chef Andre’s creative process and created an appreciation for who he is, Tribal said. 

With the media now interested in the never seen before side of chef Andre, the chef was also given further media coverage about his decision to close his restaurant and also his future plans.

Several large scale events were held in Taiwan across four of its major cities including Taipei, Tainan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. The team also invited international celebrities such as Vaness Wu, David Tao and Matilda Tao for the screenings and according to Tribal, those celebrities gave their endorsement for chef Andre’s touching and thought provoking story in the film. The event was also covered by several high profile media outlets in Taiwan, including Apple Daily, Vogue Taiwan and South China Morning Post, as well as lifestyle and culinary blogs. 

To amplify its impact, the film was also submitted to festivals across different continents and was officially selected to be in 26th San Antonio Film Festival (America), the 17th Reykjavik International Film Festival (Iceland), 2020 Taiwan Film Festival in Toronto (Canada). This created much needed pre-launch interest in the film before it was officially released in Singapore. 

The film was officially launched on 14 January this year at Golden Village Cinemas, FilmGarde and The Projector. The premiere event was attended by local influencers and industry professionals including Royston Tan, Benjamin Kheng, Olivia Ong, Roz Pho, Loh Lik Peng, and Anita Fam.

In addition to the theatrical feature film release in both Taiwan and Singapore, Tribal also bolstered the main event with content pieces that would help chef Andre bridge his brand name across geographical boundaries. This included Facebook Live Q&A content, candid behind-the-scenes, and a coffee table photobook. 

The film was lastly sold to Netflix and Discovery Channel for viewing on their platforms, creating further access for many in Singapore during the pandemic. According to Tribal, having the film listed on a popular and ubiquitous streaming platform such as Netflix helped to brand the film as an important one to watch, and by extension, painted chef Andre’s brand in a positive light.

Results 

Since its premiere in Taiwan last August, the film is the documentary with the highest box office takings for Taiwan in 2020. Andre and his olive tree also beat Disney’s Mulan at the Taiwanese box office for two weeks, the team said. 

Netflix also bought over the worldwide digital screening rights to the film, while Discovery channel has bought over the free-to-air rights in Asia. According to the team, this attests to the film’s quality, demand and commercial visibility.

In Singapore, the film also received a positive response from the public. According to the ratings on GV movie club rating, the film received 4.5 out of five stars with earned media coverage spanning The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Tatler Singapore, U Weekly Magazine, Prestige Magazine, Channel NewsAsia radio, Gold 90.5 radio and One FM 91.3 radio. 

At the same time, the film’s ROI was also six times the amount invested in its production and promotion.