ASAS: Now they’ll know we can bite

Last year, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) found itself unexpectedly thrust into harsh limelight when it suspended a saucy ad by Abercrombie & Fitch.

It faced questions from local media about its role and authority in pulling down the racy commercial.

ASAS chairman Tan Sze Wee(pictured) said that after the whole incident and a press conference to educate the public, things have been running smoothly for the organisation, as it  found itself working more closely with government agencies, such as the Land Transport Authority and the Building Construction Authority, which means it can now act on a complaint faster.

“There’s a lot more attention on us, because they know we can bite.” This, he said, makes it easier for the ASAS to act on wayward advertising.

It has also been working with the Media Development Authority on new areas of media and marketing, including emerging media platforms, digital and social channels.

With about 85% of media owners coming on board with the ASAS, I ask is creativity across the media industry at risk?

“I think the ability to come up with new ideas is intrinsically present. But the way you execute it… I haven’t seen honestly, a lot of very innovative executions. I know you may say it is very strict here, but it is equally as strict in Australia and the UK, but you see very well executed campaigns,” said Tan.

Behind-the-scenes quotes:

On portraying ‘alternate’ lifestyles in local advertising:

“Definitely open promotion of this is something you won’t see, it’s still something the Media Development Authority(MDA) is very tight on. But compared to a couple of years back when we had a lot of activities to support the pink culture and the pink dollar, in the last few years it has not been so prominent.”

On creativity in the local advertising industry:

“I think the challenge is for the industry to be able to come out of what is the environment here and do something unique. I mean once in awhile you see very interesting campaigns, either funded by the private sector or multinationals, public sector. I think the ability to execute that is ever present. If you were to argue that it’s because we are risk averse, I don’t agree, I think that’s not the only reason why we don’t see very good activities coming from Singapore. A lot of good campaigns are a follow -through of overseas campaigns.”

On ASAS’s vision for the next few years:

“There’s a vision we are looking to achieve in the next few years and it is this, the consumer has to pay for product safety but ultimately the market pays for it. If the market demands high quality services, which is promoted in an ethical safe, transparent manner, the market will have to pay for it. The way this is done in Australia and UK there is a levy for advertisements. This is something I’m driving over the next few years. Until then we are in discussions with MDA and MICA as ASAS is trying to do more proactive work as we try to do more, but we will need more resources.”

On local culture and advertising:

“Society in Singapore over the past 40 years has also started to become more liberal but we still have a very strong ‘centre right’ mass in Singapore. These are still very conservative, and very moderate in their views on race and religion and culture. That is the uniqueness of the Singapore makeup, we are very modern, there is diversity of race. But we need to recognise the fact our heartland is still very conservative. As society matures, we still need to be very sensitive to topics of race and religion and alternate lifestyles.”

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