The Sunday Times says

Right message, wrong method

One can't help but root for a voluntary organisation that promotes the vision of a Singapore that is "children-plenty and children-friendly" as unabashedly as I Love Children. After decades of dismal fertility rates, Singaporeans would welcome all efforts to keep babies in the limelight, more so those that spring from the ground. The informal approach adopted by that civic group to engage a young demographic is a good foil for the logic of official exhortations aimed at a wider audience.

In keeping with its character, I Love Children has no qualms about featuring pictures and stories online of real-life young couples, with headlines like "Virgin birth". It all got somewhat graphic recently with cartoons of sperm taking aim at eggs, accompanied by a reminder that "even the best marksman could miss the target". None of this might have perturbed couples who visited the group's website to seek information and post their photos. However, it ruffled feathers when the same images were made larger than life and placed on MRT station platforms and in trains. Some found it "distasteful and insensitive", while others might have just smirked.

Seasoned campaigners know full well that messages must be tailored for different audiences and different media. But even experienced hands can sometimes get it wrong, as electronics giant Philips learnt when its ad men got too creative in marketing a new shaver and triggered a search for a wild bear. Bloopers will occur from time to time, but calculated efforts to stir up controversy for the sake of publicity would be ill-judged. That is not to suggest the fertility campaign organisers were out to court controversy. That would indeed be a case of missing the target altogether.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'Right message, wrong method'. Print Edition | Subscribe