ShopBack has issued an apology, after it was called out for its TikTok ad that featured a Bollywood-inspired dance. In a TikTok post, ShopBack said: "We sincerely apologise for the TikTok Ad released on 1 April 2021 which might have caused feelings of confusion and frustration, amongst other emotions, within our community. The music video (from props to costumes, music, dance and set) drew inspiration from various cultures of Singapore and aimed to bring generations together. It also hoped to blend kampung spirit and modernity.
The selected snippet for the TikTok ad failed to represent this. Upon reflection, we fully acknowledge that the selected TikTok ad was misleading and chosen in poor taste. We have since taken it down.
ShopBack also took full responsibility of the ad in its apology, stating that it should be recognised that the ad is a production by the brand. As such, all accountability lies within its creative direction and management of the situation. "Therefore we urge the people to please refrain from directing negative comments to our creators and crew," ShopBack said in its statement, adding that it would like to take the opportunity to thank its supporters, and the individuals who have taught it how to grow to be a better company.
This comes after a TikTok user @krazzysingh and social media influencer Preeti Nair criticised ShopBack's TikTok ad for not being fully-representative of the Indian culture. The ad in question saw a short clip of TikTok influencer Kevin Tristan leading a dance choreography to a Bollywood-inspired tune. It was, however, pointed out that most of the dancers were not Indians, and while they were wearing traditional Indian outfits, the dance was not a traditional Indian dance. "What's the point of this video? What are you using my ethnicity and my culture for?" the TikTok user, Harwinder Singh, commented in his reaction to ShopBack's ad.
In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Singh said although he is aware that the TikTok ad was just a snippet of the full ad that featured local comedian Kumar as its main character, he was not impressed because ShopBack "could have done so much more" than focused on the fact that Kumar was an Indian.
“Just because someone is Indian and well-known, you cannot just use him or her as a token to represent our culture," Singh said, adding, "When I watched the full ad, I felt that my culture is only relevant when Kumar was involved."
However, he revealed that after his reaction video was noticed, ShopBack reached out to ask for more insights into his point of view so as to learn from the incident. According to Singh, ShopBack said it wanted to use the ad to raise awareness and help educate the public about Indian culture, but he felt that there was no education done through the ad. "If ShopBack really wanted to educate the public of Indian culture, they could have incorporated some real Indian dances instead of something inspired," he added.
A day after Singh uploaded his reaction video to ShopBack, he posted a separate video stating that TikTok flagged the original reaction as a community guideline violation, and categorised the content under "harassment and bullying". Soon after, both of Singh's videos were removed.
Explaining the incident, Singh said he appealed for his original reaction video to be reinstated after it was flagged. However, after approximately 10 minutes, TikTok rejected the appeal and said the video will not be reinstated. Wanting to bring the incident to light, Singh had made that second video about the removal of his content. Later in the day, Singh said his original video was reinstated without him taking further actions.
Although his video was reinstated, Singh voluntarily took down the video because he realised the public was targeting the lead dancer, Tristan, with a lot of negative comments. "That was not my intention. My intention was to alert ShopBack about its ad and since that was done, I didn’t see the need to leave the reaction video up," Singh said. As a TikTok content creator himself, Singh currently has 527 followers and 9759 likes on his TikTok account.
In a previous statement to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, TikTok's spokesperson said: "At TikTok, we prioritise safety, diversity, inclusion, and authenticity. We believe that a safe environment helps everyone express themselves openly, and we strive to maintain a supportive space for our community."
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