NETS breaks silence with apology over controversial E-Pay ad

Days after the viral “brownface” E-Pay ad was slammed on social media, NETS has apologised for any hurt that the campaign has caused. Echoing its agency Havas and Mediacorp, the company said in a statement to Marketing, the intention behind the ad was to communicate that e-payment is for everyone.

According to the spokesperson, the campaign was a multi-agency effort led by Enterprise Singapore as part of the unified e-payment initiative that was rolled out in September last year. Marketing has reached out to Enterprise Singapore for comment.

Meanwhile, a complaint was also filed against E-Pay’s ad for causing “discomfort and dissatisfaction among the citizens and residents”. In a Facebook post with a copy of the police report, the netizen said that according to Minister Shanmugam, if something is viewed as “criminal”, a police report should be made instead of that individual crossing the line. He added that the ad potentially breaches Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act which prohibits seditious acts and speech including publications.

In the latest development of the uproar, CNA also removed local rapper Subhas Nair from an upcoming musical documentary called ROAR which was slated to air this weekend. The documentary that Subhas Nair produced aimed to highlight his collaboration with Migrants Band Singapore to share their voice in a larger platform. In addition to removing Subhas Nair from the documentary, articles related to his involvement in the programme has also been taken down.

In a statement to Marketing, a CNA spokesperson said it “strongly objects” all offensive content which threatens racial harmony and will not associate with individuals who intentionally create such content.

This comes after Subhas Nair and his sister, Preeti Nair, widely known as Preetipls, produced a rap video calling out the viral E-Pay “brownface” ad for being racist. In the video, which has since been removed after a police report was lodged, the sibling duo were repeatedly said “Chinese people always out here f***king it up”. The video also caught the attention of Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam who said it was intended to “make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans”. He added that a line has to be drawn against the use of vulgarities to attack another race.

Meanwhile, through a Facebook post, the Singapore police and IMDA jointly advised the public to refrain from circulating the sharing Preeti and Subhas’ rap video as it is a subject of police investigations. A report against the video for “offensive content” was lodged on Tuesday and the police said in a statement that it will not tolerate any offensive content that causes ill-will between races.

The campaign raised concerns last weekend for featuring Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew impersonating different races with darkened skin tones. Several netizens questioned why individuals of the actual races were not engaged instead of having one person play different roles. Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency and Havas Worldwide which were behind the E-Pay ad have jointly apologised any hurt that was unintentionally caused and clarified that the ad was an initiative to provide greater convenience to consumers, merchants and small food businesses.