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Singapore – Singapore is in a festive mood for its upcoming 54th birthday, with promotions being introduced by retailers and service providers but it seems to have botched up a marketing campaign with a racist ad recently.

On July 26 (Friday), member of the public Faris Joraimi pointed out a recent E-Pay ad that was “racially insensitive.”

“We *just* went over this. We really did. We *just* had brownface on Toggle, and on local YouTube shows, within the past what, 4 or 5 years?” wrote Joraimi.

E-Pay, a government-led initiative to have e-payment services available at hawker centres and industrial canteens, had the following poster on their website, which is the first thing visitors would see:

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Photo: FB screengrab/ Faris Joraimi

At first glance, it would seem nothing was amiss. The poster had Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others (CMIO) representation in mind with the individuals from different races and walks of life posing for the photo.

However, upon a closer look, “one Chinese actor played all the different groups,” noted Joraimi.

The same person, Mediacorp actor and DJ Zhou Chongqing (a.k.a. Dennis Chew) wore a tudung to portray a Malay woman, a wig and pink jacket as a Chinese woman, blue overalls and a moustache to become a Chinese man, and had his skin darkened to become an Indian man in office wear. Another photo of said Indian man had him wearing an ID that read “K Muthusamy.”

“They really bothered to invent characters for this campaign, but apparently hiring actual minorities was too much work,” commented Joraimi.

He asked, “Does CMIO mean anything at all if it’s actually one Chinese guy playing caricatures?”

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“Malay women are not archetypes or characters for you to assume for comic effect,” he added.

“And you don’t just apply brownface to play Indian characters la this is such a basic rule…”

Netizens were appalled at the initiative and aired their comments on the post.

Photo: FB screengrab/ Faris Joraimi

Photo: FB screengrab/ Faris Joraimi

Others commented on what could have happened as the team was doing the photoshoot, which made them go for the final option.

Photo: FB screengrab/ Faris Joraimi

Since being called out, the E-pay website removed the photo. In fact, it became blank.

Photo: Taken from E-pay’s website

On July 28 (Sunday), Mediacorp apologised for the ad, reported The Straits Times.

“We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind the ad is an initiative to provide greater convenience to consumers, merchants, and small food businesses,” said Havas Worldwide, the creative agency hired for the advertisement, and The Celebrity Agency (TCA), Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm.

With regards to Chew’s multiple character representation, the statement noted that “the message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone.”

“For that reason, Dennis Chew, well-known for his ability to portray multiple characters in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of the campaign. He appears as characters from different walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that everyone can e-pay.” -/TISG

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