NTUC Income apologises for offensive ads

Three days after airing the ad, NTUC Income has apologised for inadvertently depicting property agents as dishonest.

The ads are part of a new brand campaign for its insurance offering and have since been pulled down.

One commercial saw a sketchy salesman from the real estate, construction and retail industry, delivering less than promised. Meanwhile, another spot portrayed a property agent lying about unit to a potential buyer. In one scene as the agent describes the flat as having a "rich history", with the words "haunted" popping-up in the screen behind her.

In a Facebook post, NTUC said:

"We took the decision to pull the advertisement portraying some sales people as unprofessional in the real estate industry. The advertisement was insensitive and unfair to many professional people in that industry. We apologise for this. In our enthusiasm to promote the message of honesty, we have not taken into account that professional and honest sales people exist in every industry including the real estate professionals."

Some netizens have said "the ad brings insult to the profession" and questions why "NTUC has to put down other profession to push up its profession."

Others poignantly pointed out that ads have to be regulated by government bodies for ethical advertising and are not allowed to put certain terms like we are the best or specialist unless it can be justified.

"We respect this rule and would very much expect it to be practice across the nation and especially by government related companies so as to ensure there is no double standard. If we should give them space for creativity then this space should also be given to us from here on," the netizen added.

The agency behind it was BBH Asia Pacific. "Our ads for NTUC Income have always been consistent with the brand's beliefs. We most recently used humour which has resonated very well with our audience," said BBH spokesperson.

The agency went on to say that many of the ads it had run with NTUC Income had won accolades from the public, including being voted as Singapore's favourite ad by Mediacorp's Laurels Viewers Choice Awards.

"We are very sorry that in this one instance, the execution has generated negativity amongst some viewers. We are carefully considering all feedback we receive," added the BBH spokesperson.

However, not everyone was offended with some saying they did not find "anything wrong with the ads" and since an apology has been made, "NTUC should be forgiven."

It is not the first time NTUC Income is taking a jab at the competition in general. Last year, it took a subtle jab at insurance agents and companies as it rolled out a marketing blitz to show its consumers how it is eradicating jargon and complicated terms and conditions in its policies.

It depicted a big red asterisk as an "enemy", which is what is often placed on insurance disclaimers. Charles Wigley, chairman BBH Asia, the agency behind the ad, then said the campaign is expected to have a "major impact in the market."