Pioneering Duo

Two WKWSCI undergraduates launch Grammy-inspired social media awards — the first of its kind in Singapore.

Ang (left) and Ng's (right) awards debuted to a positive response earlier this year. They are already thinking of making it bigger and better. PHOTO: AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD

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While reading up on the Grammy Awards over dinner at Burger King in Ang Mo Kio last December, Jeremy Ng and Nicole Ang (both CS’18) were struck with an idea to kick-start an awards event that would cater to the millennials in Singapore.

As they brainstormed about it further, the second-year undergraduates from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information dreamt up of the Singapore Social Media Awards — the first of its kind here that celebrates home-grown online content creators.

“We didn’t really want to go with the mainstream stuff,” said Ng, 22, referring to the SSMA’s scope of independent or semi-professional content creators.
 

VIDEO COURTESY OF SSMA/YOUTUBE

The SSMA is an annual awards ceremony that broadcasted over three episodes on a dedicated YouTube channel in its first edition. The channel includes videos on related content, such as interviews with award nominees.

Within four months, the two students turned their idea into a reality. As nominee announcements were sent out via email and the votes began to stream in, Ng began to feel the mounting pressure.

Some of the nominees took the awards seriously and were asking others to vote for them, he recalled. “(We realised) this is quite legit,” he said. “There was some expectation to live up to.”

When voting for the SSMA started in April, it garnered 20,000 views on its YouTube channel and 8,000 votes across its nine award categories, which included Music Video of the Year and Parody of the Year.

Ng and Ang curated three nominations for each category, and the public voted for the best. The highlight of the awards is the self-produced talk show-styled videos, in which the hosts banter, preview the nominees and remove a slip from a gold envelope to reveal the winners — just like the Grammy Awards.
 

(From left) Cleo Chew, YouTube celebrities Hirzi Zulkiflie and Munah Bagharib, Aaron Jansen pose for a photo together. Chew and Jansen hosted the first edition of the SSMA. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SSMA

For three weeks in early February, they spent three hours a day combing several social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram for the nominees. “It was tiring, but quite fun, because we’re quite avid YouTube video watchers,” said 20-year-old Ang.

There were challenges too. “Because we started with a two-man team, and we wanted to go with this nationwide campaign — of course it was a bit hard,” Ng said. “We didn’t have a lot of budget. So for our (video) production, most of it was done in-house; we couldn’t outsource anything.”

The pair made do by scouring for sponsors, loaning video equipment from school and getting schoolmates to lend a hand. “It’s a lot of work,” he added.

They spent close to $1,000 to run the awards, a large portion of which was self-funded. Most of it was spent on Facebook advertisements and logistics.

Another challenge, Ng said, was his lack of experience in getting publicity. “When we released the videos, we didn’t just want to put it up on YouTube and expect people to find out (about them),” he said. “So we had to do things like send out press releases — that was something Nicole and I did for the first time.”

“So you throw out 100 press releases, maybe like 10 people reply you,” he added.
 

Andrea Chong, a Singapore-based fashion blogger, clinched Fashion Icon of the Year.

Despite the setbacks, Ng hopes the awards will help the local media industry thrive by inspiring talented content creators to turn professional. “A lot of these people who are self-publishing are normally just hobbyists,” he said.

Ng also aims to expand the awards with the help of grants from the Media Development Authority and the National Youth Council. Future plans include more elaborate sets, improved programming for the videos and user-generated nominations.

For the next awards in May 2016, he has recruited four WKWSCI students to ease the mounting workload. “Basically, we just did everything (in the first run),” he said. “Now … we have people who will take charge of media relations, programming.”

2015 SSMA Winners

Breakout Star of the YearChristabel Chua
Comedy Video of the YearNight Owl Cinematics (“17 Types of Ah Lians”)
Music Video of the YearCaracal (“Welcome the Ironists”)
Broll of the YearThe Hidden Good
Fashion Icon of the YearAndrea Chong
Online Series of the YearTGIS (“Singapore On”)
Collab of the Year — Night Owl Cinematics (“Shit We Watch on Television”)
Grid of the YearCalvin Bong (@calvinavigator)
Parody of the YearMunahHirziOfficial (“Minahconda”)

The journey ahead might seem arduous, but Ang said interacting with local YouTube personalities like comedian pair Munah and Hirzi and musicians like Joie Tan was a “bonus.”

“All of them were super friendly, down-to-earth and personable,” she said. “I’m a big fan of (local post-hardcore band) Caracal and their music. When they were done with their shoot, they stayed around for a bit and chatted for a while.”

For Ng, the biggest takeaway from running the awards was the all-rounded learning experience it offered.

“It gives us a real-world taste of how to run a campaign,” he said. “I’m sure what we will learn will be quite useful for our Final Year Project.” 

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