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Sugared drinks ad ban: How the global media coverage shapes the world’s view of SG

With the recent restrictions and bans around ads for packaged drinks with high sugar content, the Singapore government made headlines on global media titles for being progressive and becoming the “world’s first country” to implement stringent guidelines on advertisements around unhealthy beverages.  While details of the measures will only be revealed in 2020, the ministry has already proposed colour-coded labels on packaged drinks to inform consumers of sugar levels.

According to statistics gathered by Digimind for the dates 10 to 18 October 2019, the news circulated on media channels with a total reach of 43.6 million in a week. Major news media from cities around the world shared this information on their respective news and social media channels, commending Singapore for her actions.

Health related concerns including diabetes, unhealthy, health warnings and obesity epidemic trended as the reasons why such measures had been imposed. Top emojis used were the ban and label emoji, Singapore flag, clapping hands, and a variety of cake and candy emojis.

In addition, the Coca-Cola Company was mentioned as some articles included a quote from its Singapore and Malaysia country manager, who welcomed the plans and would work to reduce sugar levels in drinks sold in Singapore. Meanwhile, netizen comments on the news posts were mainly positive, praising Singapore for taking concrete actions against the war on health and diabetes. Some compared and contrasted it to actions already taken by other countries to reduce sugar consumption.

Industry players Marketing spoke to also said that with the global coverage, Singapore comes across as a health focused nation.

Agreeing on the affirmative stand that Singapore has taken, Luke Lim, group CEO, Louken Group said the ban will create a ripple effect on a global scale. It will also cement Singapore as a progressive nation, and will raise the profile of Singapore as a country which is “forward-looking, green, eco-friendly and health-focused”. He explained that these key words will be now associated with Singapore and its drive towards a “smart and modern” city.

Echoing the same sentiment is Jacqueline Thng, partner at Prophet, who said this move shows the forward thinking and boldness of the Singapore government to tackle healthcare issues at its roots. “For a nation which heavily subsidies public healthcare, and one with a fast aging and growing silver generation, it’s important to start education and strict behavioural change focused at the core causes,” she explained, adding that:

This is a bold move that signifies Singapore as a first world country unafraid to be offensive even with the large CPG companies.

According to Thng, Singapore has for a long time managed it nation and country branding very well and beyond the cliche focus only on tourism country branding by many countries, Singapore builds its brand from an economic, business investments, its people, talent, education, safety, stability and all round hot spot for tourism.

“This ban on sugary drinks advertising is aligned to the consistent image crafted by the government since its founding years. It also shows Singapore taking a leadership position on the world stage to show a country who cares more for the well being of its people than pure economics of money,” she said.

However, Andrew Crombie, managing director of Crombie Design, doesn’t think this single initiative alone positions Singapore as a progressive country in health and lifestyle. Nonetheless, it is a move in the right direction. Crombie was of the view that in the context of the many other public health initiatives Singapore has taken in recent years, as well as its overall clean and green image it has built, the ad ban merely adds to its strength.

“Even though some would argue that the ban is not far-reaching enough in addressing all high sugar foodstuffs, it is a positive step and does add value to brand Singapore,” he said. According to Crombie, actions such as the ad ban on sugared drinks and regulations on public smoking continue to shape Singapore’s brand image globally, and positions Singapore as a place that will help nudge people away from the ills of modern life without completely restricting their access. He added:

This is in keeping with Singapore’s broader image as an attractive, safe and efficient place in which to enjoy a high quality of individual and community life.

To Crombie, taking on issues that have a significant economic and social cost to greater Singapore’s society, despite the risk of being seen as “velvet-authoritarian” is becoming a hallmark of Singapore’s social management and, as such, its brand image.

“The impact of these actions is positive but incremental. Singapore needs to keep its course and steadily build upon these initiatives if they are to become a strong and positive pillar of its brand image over time,” he said.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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