O&M's provocative 'Mums and Maids' spot sparks heated debate

Going viral right now is a campaign done by Ogilvy & Mather along with non-profit organisation The Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

The polarising campaign draws attention to the fact that sometimes maids tend to know children of the household better than the working mothers. It tries to drive home the point that families, and more specifically mothers, should give maids the day off and aim to get to know their children better.

(Click here to watch the video)

Whether loved or hated, the video has sparked a heated debate.

This morning, Marketing received a call from a mother, who asked not to be named. Angered by the video, she said that she found the ad distasteful and offensive, questioning the ad's objective. She shared her own story, saying her son had passed away from a serious ailment last year, and she had to work to pay off his medical bills. "Living costs today are immensely high and it is necessary for the mothers to work."

"Is the ad really to promoting giving workers a day off or is it rather to shame and offend mothers?" she asked.

While others may not have had such a strong reaction, there were others who disagreed with the direction of the ad.

Firstly, some pointed out that the relation to its final objective of pushing for day offs for maids was unclear.

Working mother Natasha Nair, 39 who works in the communications industry, also told Marketing that had she not read the article initially published on the site, she would have not known this is an ad asking families to give a day off to the maids.

“The ad doesn’t drive home the point that maids need a day off. It could have worked better if the story was a more direct one where we could understand the plights of the maids. Everyone needs a day off. The ad simply comes across as mothers needing to be less busy and more present with their children,” Nair said.

Alethia Tiang, 28 who works in the media industry said: “It drives home a very fair and valid point in our society today. However I don't really see the obvious link in the campaign to giving the maids a day off. I get the idea but it's like saying ‘give your maids day offs to chase them away from spending too much time with your child.’”

Secondly, others felt both parents should be targeted, and not just the moms.

Echoing similar sentiments is  Nabila Zia, 30, working in the shipping industry, who told Marketing that she feels that the ad should have been directed to both parents and not the mother.

While not a mom, Ankita Varma, aged 27 who works with a local newspaper also said the ad should not be applauded. Most mothers today have to work, which is often why families have to have help in the first place.

“While it's shocking we have to still cajole people to give their helpers a day off (an issue that should by no means be ignored), this campaign misses that point entirely if you ask me. Also, why were fathers not quizzed in the video?” she asks.

However there were others who were not as offended by the ad.

Berlinda Gooi, 46 who works in the education industry added that while she is not personally affected by the ad, she can see why it can be offensive to mothers who might not be able to know their children as well as the helpers.This is only natural when helpers spend more time with the children then working mothers.

Meanwhile, administrative assistant Crissana Miguel aged 34, who is living in Singapore while her daughter is back home in Manila with her extended family, said that her family clearly knows more about her daughter than she does.

“It is natural they would know a lot more about her than I do because they spend more time with her. So I think the video is alright as it just shows that the maids are more aware of what is going on with the children. This can be a good thing because it shows parents place them in good hands. Parents should not feel bad about that.”

Meanwhile gender equality advocacy group Aware also added its view.

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TWC2 does fantastic work and we 100% support the call for domestic workers' rights and days off. It's a pity that this...

Posted by AWARE Singapore on Thursday, April 23, 2015

O&M and ad agencies speak up:

When asked to respond to the comments by the public, O&M told Marketing that the agency is "glad to see that the film is attracting attention and raising awareness of the issue of worker rights."

"Our mission is to bring the problem to light, get people talking and ultimately change behavior. There will be many opinions on the video but the important thing is to focus on the end goal – making sure domestic workers have a weekly day off."

Marketing also reached out to creative experts in the ad industry to share their views.

Valerie Cheng, chief creative officer at JWT said that while the observation is a disturbing one, trying to use it to convince parents to give a day-off is a stretch.

"I think the ad needs to get down to the root of why parents are so dependent on their maids that they can’t even survive a day without their help. Do the parents need the weekends for themselves to recuperate from the week? Are they so afraid of handling the child themselves for a full day? Currently, it feels like a forced-fit based on an interesting observation,” said Cheng.

“ Maybe there’s a more positive way to approach this campaign because there’s real enjoyment in being with our kids and even working together as parents to overcome the little naughty trials,” said Cheng.

Irene Wong, CEO of Grey Group Malaysia also echoes similar sentiments raised by our readers. She asks why only mothers are at the center of this conversation. She adds that this is a “backward Asian approach” towards family role as fathers are not in the video at all.

“Do they expect fathers to know the kids as well as in this video? […] Mums are doubling up as a second dad to win the daily bread to help secure the future of their kids,” she adds.

“I like the ad for its simplicity and execution. However, I think denying maids their day off to look after the children is just a small part of the problem. The bigger issue is that most of these employers believe that a maid isn’t an employee, therefore shouldn’t be entitled to a day off accorded to all workers. They mistake ‘maid’ for ‘slave’,” Patrick Low founder of Goodfellas added.