ART, DESIGN & CULTURECULTUREThai Invasion Hits the Asian Pop Culture Scene

Thai Invasion Hits the Asian Pop Culture Scene

These Thai celebrities are giving K-Pop idols a good run for their money.

Thai actors like Mario Maurer, Nonkul Chanon and Gulf Kanawut have amassed millions of followers on an international scale via social media. All three have gained a solid fan base not only in Thailand but also in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and even South Korea.

Thanks to advances in technology such as ultra-fast internet speeds typified by 5G-enabled smartphones and tablets, streaming and connectivity have made the world smaller and a lot of global content more accessible. Thai drama series and films are now making a strong impact overseas, creating their own massive cult following that rival those of K-Pop music and K-drama fans.

In the Philippines, a country known for embracing international pop culture like no other, the popularity of Thai celebrities has skyrocketed to unprecedented heights.

Mario Maurer is a prime example.

In 2011, Mario was launched by international celebrity agency PUBLICITYASIA to a region-wide audience. The agency continues to represent him for commercial contracts abroad and is now working on a deal to bring the 32-year-old actor closer to Hollywood.

“Mario’s popularity in the Asian region is unprecedented,” says Joyce A. Ramirez, the actor’s long-time project collaborator and PR representative. “He’s like fine wine that gets better and better. In fact, he never seems to age.”

A so-called “Thai Invasion” is sweeping through the international pop culture scene.

Following in Mario’s footsteps is Chanon “Nonkul” Santinatornkul. The 24-year-old actor is best known for his breakout role in 2017’s “Bad Genius.” The teen heist thriller is considered the most internationally successful Thai film ever, grossing more than $42 million at the worldwide box office.

Even before he became an actor, 23-year-old Gulf Kanawut was a sought-after model in Bangkok who appeared on several magazine covers. But it was Gulf’s role in TharnType The Series, an adaptation of a popular Thai web novel, that turned him into an international fan favourite.

All three Thai actors were recently launched by TNT, a prepaid mobile brand under the Philippines’ largest telco company, Smart Communications.

“TNT’s move comes as more Filipinos have turned into big fans of Thai series and films, giving in to the so-called Thai Invasion, a term used to describe the phenomenon of Thailand’s growing prominence in the international pop culture scene,” says Jane Jimenez Basas, SVP and Head of Consumer Wireless Business at Smart Communications.

As part of the campaign, Mario, Nonkul and Gulf headlined a virtual fan meet in the Philippines. Dubbed “TNTCON2021,” the event immediately became the No. 1 worldwide trending topic on social media and also trended No. 1 in Thailand.

Indeed, technology has made it possible for Mario, Nonkul and Gulf to interact with their fans in a virtual space. While travel restrictions have limited their potential to meet and greet their Filipino fans in a physical capacity, all three are nonetheless happy to meet their fans again in a country that has wholeheartedly embraced them as their own.

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