The big news that came out over the recent National Day Rally 2022 was the repeal of the archaic law, 377A. But long before this was announced, plenty of brands and companies were already showing allyship with the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore.
To mark this momentous occasion for activists nationwide, we take a look at some of the best inclusive ad campaigns done by brands in Singapore.
1. Income’s “Made For The Moments That Matter” video
Videos shot on drones are cool. Videos shot in one take, even more so. Videos shot on a drone in one take? Now that’s very impressive, and the team over at BBH Singapore pulled this off for Income’s “Made For The Moments That Matter” campaign video which now boasts a combined 4.4m views on YouTube and Facebook.
Launched in 2021, the 2-minute film features a community of Singaporeans from all walks of life living in the Pandan Valley Condominium. There’s a small wedding party in one unit while a mum changes her baby’s diapers in another. And then in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, viewers are treated to a couple rolling an inflated pineapple into what looks like their new condo.
What makes this short film stand out is that the featured couple is an interracial lesbian couple. In a country where same-sex couples still can’t marry and buy a home together, this moment feels like something out of a pipe dream. However, the message it sends is loud and clear: LGBTQ+ couples do belong within our communities. Kudos to Income and BBH Singapore.
2. W Singapore’s Instagram post featuring a gay couple
The W Hotel is known for eclectic and energetic branding while championing inclusivity. The hotel even declared that it’s “dedicated to promoting equality and giving a megaphone to inspiring voices that deserve to be heard.” This is why it came as no surprise when the Singapore outpost of the hotel franchise posted a photo of a gay couple embracing in one of their rooms back in 2020.
Andee and Hugo, the featured couple, are two of Singapore’s most prominent LGBTQ+ content creators. Their staycation was uploaded onto both Instagram and Facebook and met with plenty of support from netizens. While there were some negative comments, they were quickly drowned out by the hotel’s social media team and other commenters pointing out accurately that nothing illegal was depicted in the picture.
At the time of writing, the post on Facebook has 4.6k likes, 1k comments, and over 900 shares; the post on Instagram has over 8k likes and 1k comments. This is a huge spike compared to their usual posts which averaged around 200-300 likes.
The increase in organic engagement could be attributed to the “controversial” nature of the post coupled with the many media features this post got on sites like Coconuts, Mashable, AsiaOne, and Marketing Interactive. CEO of Wunderman Thompson Singapore Nimesh Desai also told Marketing Interactive that “the post is a bold and very unconventional move” and he hopes that it “paves the way for more to follow.”
3. Naumi Hotel’s Pride campaign featuring a gay couple
Image credit: Dear Straight People
Another hotel that showed its support for the LGBTQ+ community before 377A’s repeal was Naumi Hotel. In partnership with Dear Straight People, the hotel kicked off a campaign featuring a married gay couple to celebrate Pride month in June 2021.
In a series of photos, the couple Dwayne Wang and Nicholaiv Villalobos can be seen cosying it up in various corners of the hotel. The hotel also held a giveaway where an LGBTQ+ couple would walk away with a free staycation. To our knowledge, this is the first time a hotel in Singapore has done such a high-profile paid partnership with an LGBTQ+ couple.
The Instagram post promoting the giveaway on @dearstraightpeople received over 1.6k likes and over 400 comments taking part.
4. Poh Heng’s “A Journey of Trust” features 2 gay couples
Image credit: Nicholas Deroose
Some campaigns took on a subtler approach, as is the case of Poh Heng Jewellery’s “A Journey of Trust” campaign that was executed in 2018. A series of portraits shot by photographer Lenne Chai was displayed outside the Poh Heng store on Orchard Road.
One couple featured were the restauranteurs Dennis Chong and Chong Kok Keong, while the other comprised Kenny Lim of the local fashion brand Depression and his partner, Andrew Loh. Their names and relationship status were also displayed next to their portraits, leaving no obscurity about where Poh Heng’s values and principles lie.
Image credit: Nicholas Deroose
The campaign went viral on platforms like Reddit and Facebook, with commenters lauding Poh Heng for their progressiveness. As it went live just before PinkDot 2018 was about to commence, plenty of LGBTQ+ netizens also added that they’re more likely to support the jewellers in the future if they need any bling.
5. Pink Dot’s banner at Cathay Cineleisure
Image credit: Bjorn Yeo
Pink Dot is an event that needs no introduction, but sometimes traditional advertising means are still required to bring awareness to its advocacy. Ahead of its 2017 edition, the organisers had a banner installed along an escalator in the Cathay Cineleisure shopping centre with the words “supporting the freedom to love” in a big, bold font.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) decided to take offence at the banner, asking Cathay’s management to remove the line from the banner as it “may affect public sensitivities due to the issues at hand,” the watchdogs said in a statement to Today.
Cathay was not about to back down from its ideals so easily. In a statement made to Marketing Interactive, a spokesperson for the company said that Cathay has always had a “mission of bringing people together,” and the organisation hopes to “inspire people to embrace the values of equality where one can live and love freely.”
Image credit: Bjorn Yeo
In what might be the cherry on top, a bigger 8m by 2.5m-long advertisement was installed at the front of the shopping centre in the days following the saga. Unfortunately, this was a scheduled activation and not a form of sweet retaliation.
6. Samsung Singapore’s “Listen to Your Heart” ad that was pulled
Earlier this year in January, Samsung Singapore came under fire from all sides. They had just released a video to promote their noise-cancelling earbuds that showed a Muslim mother was shown embracing her drag queen son.
This drew ire from the Muslim community at large, and Samsung subsequently removed the video from all platforms. In what became a lose-lose situation, the removal went on to enrage LGBTQ+ activists.
The Pink Dot organisers questioned the initial outrage from conservatives. “To date, it is still unclear what these people were offended by – the fact that LGBTQ+ people exist in Singapore, or that we are deserving of loving relationships, or both,” they said on an Instagram post.
It was a bold move on Samsung’s part to shine a spotlight on these stories, especially within the Muslim community where drag is condemned. And just because it was frowned upon, doesn’t mean that people like Vyla Virus – the drag queen in question – don’t exist. However, it is understandable Samsung feared a boycott of their brand and thus removed the video.
LGBTQ+ ad campaigns in Singapore
As much as Singapore’s pledge preaches equality for all, LGBTQ+ issues are still a polarising topic. However, more brands are seen to be willing to take a stand for diversity and inclusivity, even before 377A was repealed.
The stance that some brands have taken despite potential backlash goes to show that they’re not in it to milk the pink dollar, something that activists are rightfully wary of. We’ll be watching the space to see if more LGBTQ+ ad campaigns will take place in Singapore in time to come.
Read other case studies:
- National Day campaigns
- LGBTQ-friendly bar disguised as a “conversion clinic”
- Viral Thai ads
- Iconic Singaporean mascots
Cover image credit: Bjorn Yeo, Nicholas Deroose