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'Confusing' banner asks public to stare into homes: Does OOH need more regulations?

'Confusing' banner asks public to stare into homes: Does OOH need more regulations?

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A banner by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) at Pinnacle@Duxton in Singapore, encouraging passers-by to stare at residents' windows till they notice, has caused "confusion" and "discomfort" among locals, according to media monitoring company Truescope. 

The banner was part of an initiative by SAM's public art project, "A Daily Act," which aimed at getting people to notice everyday objects and details with a creative lens. The project includes various messages around Tanjong Pagar, promoting mindfulness and observation in daily life​.

The banner at Duxton Plain Park embraces the natural human impulses that arise when we pass by residential flats such as those at the Pinnacle, according to SAM in a statement. For example, we might observe how tall the Pinnacle is or wonder when a person might appear at a window, it added.

Based on social media data analysed by Truescope, most discussions originated from forums, peaking on July 4th after initial reactions surfaced on Reddit and coverage on online news sites.

Don't miss: What are some of the must-know rules and regulations around fake OOH ads in SG?

The response was predominantly mixed and negative, it said. Many voiced concerns about the banner, suggesting it encourages voyeurism and could potentially harass residents. They stressed that even art installations should respect residents' privacy.

On the other hand, some netizens supported SAM and the banner, arguing that art should provoke thought and dialogue, a goal which the banner effectively achieves. Meanwhile, a few critics questioned the People's Association's support for the project, suggesting it might be perceived as a misuse of funds, said Truescope. 

Media intelligence firm Meltwater also picked up that words that stood out in the word cloud included those such as 'confusion', 'banner' and 'inhabitant'.

Stretching the creative bounds of OOH in Singapore

True enough, according to Shufen Goh, principal and co-founder of R3 and president of AAMS, while the ad message is intended to positively encourage people to recognise "art in the everyday", the banner placed in this particular context borders on being "intrusive".

"It is commendable for brands to strive for site-specific creative OOH activations, but it is also equally important for brands to consider how their audience might feel when encountering their ads," she said. 

She added that creativity in OOH should be encouraged as it can drive innovation, generate excitement and boost a brand's organic reach. However, that should not encroach on the lives of others, as this ad unfortunately does.

Agreeing with him, Goh explained that there are several regulations on outdoor ads in Singapore, mostly pertaining to the installation process and formal aspects of the ad's design. However, approvals are mostly up to a brand's discretion, rather than based on a set of standardised guidelines.

She added:

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the brand, agency and the media owner to ensure the content is safe for use.

Meanwhile, Ben Baker, managing director, Vistar Media, APAC, explained that OOH advertising is a public art form that should spark joy and be effortlessly understood.

"Unfortunately, this banner misses the mark, potentially confusing passersby. For building residents, it invites unwanted attention into their personal space, disrupting their privacy," he said, adding: 

This approach is out of step with the spirit of creativity and community that OOH should champion.

Does OOH need more regulation in Singapore?

Baker added that in Singapore, OOH advertisements must receive approval from local authorities. Both digital and static ads need to adhere to "stringent guidelines" established by the Building Construction Authority, ensuring that outdoor signs do not contribute to a cluttered streetscape.

"Respecting these local regulations is vital to maintaining the integrity of public spaces and respecting the people who inhabit them," said Baker. "This approach ensures advertisements enhance rather than disrupt the environment."

Baker added that brands should aim to engage audiences authentically, avoiding confusion or backlash, especially with regards to privacy concerns. "The objective is to foster genuine connections, enriching public spaces without intruding into private ones," he said. 

Saying that, Baker is not of the belief that OOH needs more regulations as over-regulating OOH can stifle the creativity that makes it so impactful, he said. 

"Instead, we should focus on educating marketers and brands about the responsible use of OOH. This ensures the interests of all stakeholders—building owners, city authorities, marketers, agencies, and the public—are balanced and respected," added Baker. 

Photo courtesy of, Reddit

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