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April 14, 2022
Sporting bright pink rubber shoes, kangaroo-pouched blue dungarees (sans shirt), and with a matching head and tail with sharp red spikes, Ah Tak (阿德; a3 dak1) stands as your unlikely hero promoting civic engagement to keep Hong Kong’s streets clean.
An ancestral successor of the much-adored Lap Sap Chung (垃圾蟲), conceived as an ambassador of clean streets and a litter-free Hong Kong in a city-wide health campaign launched in the ‘70s, Ah Tak is the modern rendition of a government policy to educate the masses on public cleanliness and hygiene.
Launched in June 2016, Ah Tak was heralded by a government spokesman as a “righteous and civic-minded [creature] who loves cleanliness.”
“Through his Facebook page, he will share photos, videos, […] provide various information on personal, household, and environmental hygiene, [and] the latest news about keeping Hong Kong clean," the spokesman said.
However, the design, social and marketing teams at Hong Kong-based digital agency FevaWorks Solutions, outsourced by the government’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to run the 清潔龍阿德 Keep Clean Ambassador Ah Tak Facebook page with 46,000 followers, prefer a more jocular – and abstract – path to enlighten Hong Kong’s residents on how to take care of themselves and their city.
Memes from the 2020s are parodied with Cantonese humour infused in, with Ah Tak’s Facebook page representing the mascot’s horny, sexy, driven, sophisticated, and modern ambassadorial role in driving cleanliness, albeit through the format of pop culture.
Translation: Spending time chasing girls / Spending time cleaning
Translation: I wanna go out!
“What we are doing is we are promoting a hygiene message for the government,” Rondo Mak, content marketing director of FevaWorks Solutions, told The Beat Asia. “Our client, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department asked us [in 2017] to help manage and build the popularity of the mascot Ah Tak.”
“When we first took over the project, his Facebook page had [fewer] than 6,000. Now, it is over 46,000. This is what we have achieved.”
“What we are doing is trying to use our creativity and memes to create original content to build Ah Tak as a funny, acceptable mascot and lovable to the people of Hong Kong. After being [found] lovable, it is easier for us to communicate the core hygiene messages.”
Translation: When a public toilet “look” meets a public toilet
Translation: I feel the same every time I see rubbish thrown away everywhere in the street.
“Using social media to promote [hygiene], our primary target must be the young people in Hong Kong. We have to use certain styles and content directions that appeal to younger [netizens]. We use memes referencing Hong Kong pop culture, classic films and television, and daily news to connect with the younger people in Hong Kong.”
"Firstly, we're so glad and flattered that our approach has been a success. We always want to improve Ah Tak and make him more popular. But to be frank, the performance [of Ah Tak’s social media presence] is a little bit better than what we expected. We’re very happy about that.”
“What we have done is we have tried to make the mascot as human as possible. We wish that [the public] feel that they are talking to a friend, instead of a page or a spokesperson from the government. Our friendly and wacky approach is what makes people like Ah Tak.”
Translation: Recently, due to the epidemic, I have been cleaning a lot; I have done a lot of physical labour, and even my waist has lost weight!
Translation: Anti-epidemic measures eased, but I'm still alone.
“The working team of Ah Tak in our company is mostly all young people. We are all obsessed with memes and online culture, so that when [we] notice trending memes or classic memes we think [are] suitable for use again, we try to put Ah Tak and the hygiene message in there. We try to evolve with the meme culture so we can make the most appropriate memes.”
“We are so thankful that our client, the FEHD, trusts us and gives us a lot of support for our creations. We have regular meetings with them, and we present our ideas, including the memes, in every meeting.”
“The government officials are more mature and less familiar with meme culture, so we often have to explain why we are using this meme or even explain what the meme is.”
Translation: Flower Market 5 Furious
Translation: Ah Tak sends the girl back to her room
Translation: DEET is of course good, but it must be used correctly! Be careful when you go to the countryside to see flowers and butterflies, because the rainy season is coming, and the mosquitoes will come out.
"We always try to make the content appropriate, not only [to] ourselves, but also adapting to the government, the mascot Ah Tak, and the message of keeping clean.”
“This is a very healthy collaboration between us agency and our client because we have [this] strong trust. The FEHD help us with professional suggestions [about what information to include regarding cleanliness] and fact checking with government hygiene measures. They give us full support and the synergy is very strong.”
“We are very focused on the interaction [between Ah Tak and his fans]. We are not only producing memes, but we discuss and chat with our fans online [about hygiene and Ah Tak’s life]. We have created a special interaction. Ultimately, we want people to enjoy the process of knowing how to be hygienic.”
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