Watchdog: Pink Dot ads have not breached code

Asas explains request to remove tagline after its move sparks debate online

Singapore's advertising watchdog yesterday clarified that Pink Dot advertisements at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard have not breached its code, specifically the section dealing with family values.

Instead, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) requested the tagline "Supporting the freedom to love" on the banners to be removed as advertisements in public spaces should be "prepared with a sense of responsibility to public sentiments" and avoid contributing to "heightened public sensitivities".

Asas also explained it made the request after receiving feedback on the ads. Meanwhile, the organisers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rally said there are no plans to change the ads.

Asas' explanation came after its request last Thursday for Pink Dot and Cathay to remove the tagline ignited debate online.

The ads for the annual LGBT rally are up on the front door panels and along an escalator inside the mall, and had drawn complaints from a Facebook group which is opposed to the event.

In a statement yesterday, Asas' chairman, Professor Tan Sze Wee, said the council makes decisions through a vote when it receives feedback on advertisements.

He added that Asas had received public feedback on the Pink Dot advertisements, but it could not disclose the source of any feedback it receives.

Prof Tan said: "Members will have one vote, and all decisions will be (made) by a simple majority of the members present. In the event that the votes are divided, the chairman will have a casting vote.

"Any member of Asas who has a vested interest in a dispute must immediately declare that interest and be absent from all deliberations."

Asas had voted after receiving feedback on the Pink Dot advertisements and concluded it did not breach the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (Scap), and made the suggestion for the tagline to be removed.

The advertising watchdog, which comes under the Consumers Association of Singapore, was set up to promote ethical advertising while reflecting community standards. There are currently 27 council members who are appointed by their respective organisations, representing industry players such as advertising agencies, media owners and government agencies.

It is able to rule on disputes and can issue sanctions on advertisers or agencies who breach the code by withholding advertising space or time, and withdrawing trading privileges through its members.

Asas can also name errant advertisers and refer matters to Case for action under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act when it encounters recalcitrant advertisers who make false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims.

In 2015, Asas ordered eatery OverEasy Orchard at Liat Towers to remove an ad that was deemed indecent and in breach of the Scap. The ad that featured three scantily clad women exposing their buttocks and the tagline "Seriously sexy buns. Two are better than one. Smack that, Aug 2015" was taken down soon after.

When contacted yesterday, Pink Dot organisers said that Asas had not reached out to them and reiterated that they were open to having a "frank discussion" on the matter.

A Cathay spokesman had earlier said it was not in the position to decide on the removal of the tagline as ownership of the ad belonged to Pink Dot.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline Watchdog: Pink Dot ads have not breached code. Subscribe