Hong Leong Bank slammed for racial stereotyping

A domestic helper insurance ad from Malaysia's Hong Leong Bank has come under fire for running a commercial in Hong Kong depicting a local actor as a Filipina maid with a black face.

The ad, aimed at employers of maids, has been flaked on social media with groups representing the city's legions of domestic helpers calling for an apology.

The bank has since removed the ad from its website.

When reached by Marketing, Sally Fong, marketing manager of personal insurance at Hong Leong Insurance Asia, said the group regrets that the ad has caused negative comments while “the group cares all ethnicities”.

The ad, she said, is created to aim at employers of Hong Kong’s domestic helpers via a light-hearted approach.

“We have taken fast action to fix the issue and we have responded to all inquiries as quick as we can.”

An official statement from Hong Leong Bank reads:

Hong Leong Insurance (Asia) Limited has always placed great emphasis on being a responsible corporate citizen. We regret that our recent advertisement involving an individual playing two characters resulted in comments about the advertisement being deemed inappropriate. We wish to emphatically state that at no time did Hong Leong Insurance (Asia) Limited intend to offend any person or be to any extent discriminatory on grounds of race, sex or otherwise. Our sole intention has been to draw the public's attention to the benefits of having appropriate insurance protection for employees, in this particular case domestic helpers. Nevertheless, we have taken action to withdraw the said advertisement as we sincerely do not wish to upset any member of the public.

After the ad launched, one Facebook user, Yael Marwah said : "The advertisement featuring a domestic worker in ‘blackface’ is racist and deeply offensive. It is simply dehumanizing and there is no excuse for it. Your management and board ought to be ashamed.

"I urge you to withdraw this advert from all forms of public display (whether on TV, online or on buses) and make a full public apology. That is the minimum needed to show you do not support discrimination and racism."

"If you cannot even take those basic steps, consumers should boycott all Hong Leong products and services."

Another respondent Lyn Gregg said the ad was negative and humiliating to Filipinos.

"It’s so sad that they make advertising that belittles the color of other nationalities. It's a shame!”