Was GrabTaxi's apology for 'Love Boobs' campaign really necessary?

Following the “Love Boobs?” campaign, which received mixed reaction from several members of the public, GrabTaxi’s group VP of marketing Cheryl Goh has officially apologised for the insensitivity of the campaign.

Goh told Marketing in a statement that the campaign did indeed draw in mixed reaction for the tagline #GrabitBeatit. She explained that the tagline was chosen to capture the public’s attention because greater awareness can save lives.

“We apologise that it comes across as insensitive to breast cancer survivors, their families and the wider public. Breast cancer is not a trivial issue and we regret that the taglines are not reflective of the seriousness of the issue,” said Goh.

“We wanted to support this cause in women’s health and safety because it is close to our hearts; we also have colleagues and loved ones who have or are going through treatment, and are completely supportive of them,” she added.

Here’s a series of statements the company put up on its Twitter page:




While apologising for the campaign might be a quick fix for those insulted by the cheeky texts, is this necessarily the right move?

Personally, I find that too often today, brands are quick to hide behind an invisible cloak of apology following any form of campaign criticism. In some ways, it is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission?

While I was not personally a fan of the text or the hashtag promoting the cause, what bothered me more was the prompt apology from the brand.

The campaign no doubt was bold enough to cut through the clutter and get people talking. It was also found funny by some. So if advertising is supposed to make a difference and gain awareness, why should a brand feel the need to apologise because a handful of people did not share its sense of humour?

If it aimed at pleasing everyone, it shouldn’t have come up with that copy in the first place. (You know better safe than sorry!) We are all after all different people with different tastes at the end of the day. So, why are brands really that eager to please everyone?

(Read also: Crisis control: Is deleting an offending ad always the best move?)

Agreeing with me was founder and managing partner of Rice Communications, Sonya Madeira who was of the view that brands really do not need to apologise unless the piece of content or advertisement is really offensive or racist, misogynistic or potentially inciting religious disharmony or violence.

Was the apology necessary?

Madeira added that for regular users of GrabTaxi, this is probably not that big of an issue. However with any ad with a sensitive subject, it is not possible to get everyone on their side.

“There was some backlash but not everyone hated the ad. Some even found it funny and attention grabbing. GrabTaxi managed to cut through the clutter and get people talking so in that way I think it is a win for GrabTaxi,” Madeira said adding that the apology was probably done in a bid to appease the naysayers.

Wesley Gunter, PR director of Right Hook Communications was of the view that in this instance, since Singapore is still a somewhat conservative society, having controversial advertising campaigns will no doubt invoke negative reactions from many.

"I do think the #GrabitBeatit campaign did fulfil its objective in creating awareness of breast cancer even if it did ruffle a few feathers. It is very important for creative agencies to push the envelope especially when it comes to public awareness campaigns like in the US and UK which tend to shock and awe," said Gunter.

Like Madeira, he was of the view creativity only goes too far, if it involves race or religion. And if an apology is really necessary, added Gunter, brands need to find an avenue to apologise to the specific groups of people while still defending their idea with clear logical explanations.