Singapore – Singapore is in a festive mood for its upcoming 54th birthday, with promotions being introduced by retailers and service providers, but it seems to have botched up a marketing campaign with a racist ad recently. Faris Joraimi, a member of the public, pointed out on July 26 (Friday) that a recent E-Pay ad was “racially insensitive”.
“We *just* went over this. We really did. We *just* had brownface on Toggle, and on local YouTube shows, within the past what, 4 or 5 years?” wrote Faris Joraimi.
E-Pay, a government-led initiative to have e-payment services available at hawker centers and industrial canteens, had the following poster on their website, which is the first thing visitors would see:
At first glance, it would seem nothing was amiss. The poster had Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others (CMIO) representation in mind with individuals from different races and walks of life posing for the photo.
However, upon a closer look, “one Chinese actor played all the different groups,” noted Faris Joraimi.
The same person, Mediacorp actor and DJ Zhou Chongqing (a.k.a. Dennis Chew) wore a tudung to portray a Malay woman, a wig and pink jacket as a Chinese woman, blue overalls and a mustache to become a Chinese man and had his skin darkened to become an Indian man in office wear. Another photo of the Indian man had him wearing an ID that read “K Muthusamy”.
“They really bothered to invent characters for this campaign, but apparently hiring actual minorities was too much work,” commented Joraimi.
He asked, “Does CMIO mean anything at all if it’s actually one Chinese guy playing caricatures?”
“Malay women are not archetypes or characters for you to assume for comic effect,” he added.
“And you don’t just apply brownface to play Indian characters la this is such a basic rule…”
Netizens were appalled at the initiative and aired their comments on the post.
Others commented on what could have happened as the team was doing the photoshoot, which made them go for the final option.
Since being called out, the E-pay website removed the photo. In fact, it became blank.
On July 28 (Sunday), Mediacorp apologised for the ad, reported The Straits Times.
“We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind the ad is an initiative to provide greater convenience to consumers, merchants, and small food businesses,” said Havas Worldwide, the creative agency hired for the advertisement, and The Celebrity Agency (TCA), Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm.
With regard to Chew’s multiple-character representation, the statement noted that “the message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone”.
“For that reason, Dennis Chew, well-known for his ability to portray multiple characters in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of the campaign. He appears as characters from different walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that everyone can e-pay.” -/TISG