The president of Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS), Shawn Lum, is one of many who were distressed by a marketing campaign engineered by local telecommunications firm, Circles.Life.
Circles.Life recently ran an advertisement for a hunting workshop called ‘How to catch a wild boar in Seletar Reservoir’. The S$257 full-day hunting course, which was touted to be the “very first of its kind in Singapore,” promised to equip and take participants to “the forests surrounding Upper Seletar Reservoir to hunt wild boar native to the area.”
The event description, which was listed on the Circles.Life website and a dedicated Facebook event page, stated: “The highly experienced hunting guides will be with you through the entire process, from planning and prep to stalking and hunting of the boars. All equipment for the hunt will be provided. An immersive and exciting experience in Singapore, not to be missed!”
The organisers said that the event would take place on 22 August and asked interested parties to sign up to be sent a purchase link.
The event riled many Singaporeans, including NSS President Dr Lum, up. Dr Lum is a prominent environmentalist and longtime conservationist who serves as Senior Lecturer at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Asian School of the Environment, besides his work with NSS.
The botanist, who is credited with saving an entire tree species from extinction, received the President’s Award for the Environment – a top environmental accolade – in 2017.
Dr Lum wrote an extensive forum letter and expressed his disappointment with the ‘catch wild boars’ event. Revealing that he was forwarded the event announcement in his forum letter that was published by the Straits Times, Dr Lum wrote:
“I cannot understand why the hunting of wildlife in a protected nature reserve would be promoted, even as a publicity gimmick. No one would possibly think of promoting, even as a joke, anything that is not only clearly illegal but also abhorrent.”
Asserting that wild animals are protected in Singapore for ecological, scientific reasons, Dr Lum added that the marketing campaign left a bad taste in his mouth. He wrote:
“By writing this letter, I am buying into a marketing stunt. But many of us, especially in these tough economic times, want to get behind companies whose values we admire or whose products and attitudes resonate with us.
“Respect for cultural diversity, gender equality, inclusiveness, and wildlife and the environment are just some of the things that are important for many Singapore consumers. We will spend hard-earned money on companies we can believe in and feel right supporting.”
Circles.Life, however, has revealed that the contentious event is simply a marketing ploy – it is not a real event the company is planning to conduct. A spokesman representing the telco told the press:
“This post was put out as a prank by our Discover Team and is definitely not an actual initiative or event that we were planning to conduct. We have responded to readers to clarify that we were not serious about this and it was a part of Discover Fun.
“Discover Fun is our latest category that allows users to browse and book workshops from five categories including Arts & Crafts, Culinary, Fitness, Beauty and Hobbies – but certainly not catching wild boars!”
The event announcement on the Circles.Life website has since been taken down. The Facebook event page is still up although the event is listed as cancelled.
This is not the first fake activity that Circles.Life has carried out to promote its Discover Fun category. Earlier, the telco left slips of paper that looked like parking offence notices – or ‘samans’ – atop several cars parked at Waterway Point, Tampines Mall and Westgate shopping centre.
The back side of the ‘samans’ showed that it was another marketing ploy ‘fining’ people for being too boring and inviting them to join Circles.Life’s Discover Fun initiative.
Instead of drawing praise for its creativity, Circles.Life’s marketing strategy appears to have distressed many individuals. Those who found the ‘samans’ were upset and asked how the telco could conduct such a misleading campaign while others responding to the ‘catch wild boars’ fake event have asserted that hunting wild animals is no laughing matter.