Analysis: Local ad for home security wins netizen praise, but criticised for portrayal of women by creatives

Amidst the increasing clutter of ads online, one sure-fire way of grabbing consumers' attention would be through a controversial social media ad. However, brands should tread carefully on the line between being humourous and offensive. Recently, the team at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE saw a Facebook ad that was lauded by netizens but not creative experts the team spoke to.

The ad, created by local content creator Double Up for SG Gate Door Window, promoted home security products such as the Philips 9300 digital lock and DV001 Smart Viewer.  

The ad featured a protagonist named “Ah Beng” who brought a girl home after a couple of drinks, but was soon reminded that it was his anniversary with his girlfriend, and she was headed to his place to celebrate the occasion. The protagonist then asked his friend to head over to his place to help set the table and ask his companion at home to leave. His friend then enters his place (this is where the products are showcased) and kicks the woman out (literally) while dragging her out of the home by pulling her hair. He then proceeds to help his friend set up the table for romantic dinner. 

The post was accompanied by the caption in mandarin, which translates to “If you are afraid of meeting the same dilemma as Ah Beng, head to SG Gate Door Window to help you install the Philip 9300 digital lock and DV001 Smart Viewer. This way, you can call for backup if you need someone to clean up messy situations for you”.

doubleup ahbeng ad

When asked about the ad, Double Up declined to comment on MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's queries about its creative direction.  Despite the hair pulling and kicking, the post on Facebook, saw positive comments left under the ad. At the time of writing, the post garnered 3.9k positive reactions (consisting of like, laugh, and love), 416 comments, and 1.8k shares. Netizens also raved about the ad, with one stating that this is the “best paid advertisement commercial” and another saying that this is how “online advertising should be done”. Separately, one other netizen also said that although he doesn’t like to watch advertisements in general, he liked this one. Aside from praising the ad and the creators for its creativity, most netizens expressed their amusement at the ad.

However, creatives that MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to were not amused. Tay Guan Hin, chief creative officer, BBDO Singapore said the type of humour depicted in the ad does not sit well with him. “It promotes wrong moral values and really treats woman as objects which I find offensive. When his friend pulled the woman's hair to kick her out of the house, it also made me feel uncomfortable,” Tay said.

Agreeing with Tay is Jeffrey Lim, founder of social media agency 8traordinary, who said the ad contained questionable moral issues such as cheating in a relationship, as well as not giving women the proper respect.

While the ad may have received some praise for SG Gate Door Window, Philips may not be agreeable to such content or approach when it comes to marketing its products. A spokesperson from Philips told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it has since divested the business and products portrayed in the ad, and thus declined to comment further on the ad.

Meanwhile, Pat Law, founder of GOODSTUPH said the ad, which shows a woman being intoxicated and inferred to have had her clothes removed thereafter, and the implied adultery, as well as the positive comments the ad received, is a “good indication of the erosion of the country’s values”.

The very fact that this ad could run is a clear reflection on our advertising governance on social media, is it not?

Law’s sentiment comes as Singapore witnessed a rising number of cases of sexual assault. In an article by The Straits Times earlier in January, there were 6,988 reports of sexual assault made from 2017 to 2019. This includes rape, sexual assault by penetration, outrage of modesty and sexual offences involving children and vulnerable victims. Among the cases, 40% of them involved victims below the age of 16, the article added.

Just last week, The Straits Times reported that a night club manager was jailed for raping an unconscious woman at a chalet back in 2018. The victim was said to be “severely intoxicated”, and was raped and sexually assaulted by two men, while a third filmed the attack on his phone. Separately, a former Grab driver was also accused of attempting to rape a drunk passenger in 2018. He admitted to having fondled the passenger, and while he claims it was consensual, the passenger was said to be severely intoxicated as well.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has also reached out to Association of Advertising and Marketing Singapore (AAMS) for a comment. 

What worked for consumers?

Despite the blurred lines that the ad has crossed, industry players said the ad may have worked due to various factors that connected with some Singaporeans.

8traordinary’s Lim pointed out that the showcasing of the product and its features, as well as the mention of vendor are well-weaved into the video story. Additionally, the ad leveraged on the strength of the key opinion leaders (KOLs), and such content or angle is what they are known for and the reason behind gaining their staple audiences. Therefore, this content could have been relevant to its target audience. The ad also contained sexual elements, which had the ability to grab consumers’ attention.

The creator of the ad, Double Up, currently has 66k and 6.5k followers on Facebook and Instagram respectively. It portrays itself has an entertainment company which aims to provide interesting and funny content for its audience.Although Lim said he found the ad questionable, such ads are a matter of choice for brands. “There is this saying that any form of publicity (good or bad) is still publicity. For me (and maybe for some other brands out there), we may not opt for such approach,” he added.

Tay also said even though he was not fond of the ad, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t work for everyone. Tay also agreed with Lim that the ad could be relevant and appealing for the specific target market that Double Up engages with. “If the brand wants to reach out to a specific target market by creating content that is relevant and appealing for ‘Ah Bengs’, this content works very well. They use the authentic local language, shot in a way that tells a story that resonates,” he said. Overall, a good social media ad should be provocative, trigger conversation and generate as much awareness organically, according to Tay.  

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