Former NMP Eunice Olsen makes police report over 'sexist, derogatory' Circles.Life ad

The ad by Circles.Life at Raffles Place MRT station was removed on Nov 29, 2018.
The ad by Circles.Life at Raffles Place MRT station was removed on Nov 29, 2018. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/EUNICEOLSEN

SINGAPORE - Local actress-host and former Nominated MP (NMP) Eunice Olsen has lodged a police report over a Circles.Life advertisement.

An advertisement by digital telco operator Circles.Life at Raffles Place MRT station had the words: "@euniceolsen Would you rather French Kiss or take me out for the French Film Festival?".

The ad was part of a Circles.Life campaign that invited people to "submit your own Epic Invite and we just might blow it up on a billboard". The company invited participants to choose an event and invite their celebrity crush or friend.

The company has since taken down the ad, according to a Circles.Life spokesman.

The spokesman said: "In regard to the Epic Invite campaign billboard that featured a submission by @alexkrygsman, we never intended to make Ms Eunice feel uncomfortable and we apologise for that.

"We are taking down the ad immediately. We will learn from this experience and appreciate the feedback."

In an Instagram post on Thursday morning (Nov 29), Ms Olsen posted a picture of the ad. She said: "My manager and I do not know anything about this ad and the company did not seek permission to use my name. Just wanted to let all of you know that I am not part of this company's ad campaign."

The 41-year-old added that the ad is sexist and derogatory towards women.

On Thursday evening, she updated with another post on Instagram saying that she had lodged a police report about the ad. She also asked her followers for advice on her next course of action.

Hi everyone, Thank you for your texts, comments and concern. I have officially lodged a police report about the ad. I did this because: 1. Whether it was my name or someone else’s, it was used without permission. And this has nothing to do with the fact that the original post was open sourced. 2. Advertising can play a big role to influence gender equality. As a brand, ad agency, media buyer or media owner, you have the power through your ads to empower women, or disempower them. We are influenced by what we see in advertising whether we like it or not. By having ads like that, you are sending the wrong message and reinforcing stereotypes about women. I am deeply disappointed, and disapprove of this ad and what it represents. It is misappropriation of identity, sexist, derogatory, disrespectful, distasteful and is a cheap shot at a publicity stunt. I would like to ask all of you what you think should be my next course of action.

She said: "Advertising can play a big role to influence gender equality. As a brand, ad agency, media buyer or media owner, you have the power through your ads to empower women, or disempower them. We are influenced by what we see in advertising whether we like it or not. By having ads like that, you are sending the wrong message and reinforcing stereotypes about women."

She added that she was "deeply disappointed, and disapprove of this ad and what it represents".

"It is misappropriation of identity, sexist, derogatory, disrespectful, distasteful and is a cheap shot at a publicity stunt," she said.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Ms Olsen said that she was alerted to the Circles.Life ad by a friend, who thought that she was part of the telco’s marketing campaign.

She will be meeting with the telco after they contacted her on Friday. However, despite making a police report about the ad, she has no intention of pursuing any legal action on the matter. 

“By making a police report, I made a stand on this issue... I had to say that something like this is severe," she said. 

Several people have told her that they felt uneasy seeing the advertisement, she said. “If I had put anyone else’s name on the billboard, they would feel uncomfortable. It’s not nice for any woman.”

The former NMP, who is active in issues of women’s empowerment, told ST that rather than focusing on this incident with Circles.Life, she hopes that a “bigger conversation” can be had in society about responsible advertising and how women are portrayed in advertisements. 

She has been reading netizens' comments about the incident, and believes that this is the right time for society to embrace these topics.

“I’m very heartened that people are weighing in on the conversation,” Ms Olsen said, adding that she has been contacted by people in the advertising industry who are interested in collaborating with her on issues of responsible advertising.