The Electric New Paper :
POPULAR BAR SLAMMED FOR CHEEKY USE OF STARS & CRESCENT OF S'PORE FLAG
ANOTHER year older, all the wiser. So goes the slogan in small words under a close-up shot of a model's crotch and part of her legs.
By Esther Au Yong
12 August 2007

ANOTHER year older, all the wiser.

So goes the slogan in small words under a close-up shot of a model's crotch and part of her legs.

What's unusual is that her striking red swimsuit or underwear is emblazoned with the crescent and five stars of our national flag.

Hmm, you may say.

Now take a closer look at the image, and you'll spot, peeking out from a corner of the swimsuit, a few strands of pubic hair.

What?! Was that intended?

Yes, according to a Loof marketing manager.

The advertisement was sent as an electronic direct mailer to at least 1,500 members of the pub's 'more private' mailing list.

It was part of the pub's publicity campaign for its National Day events.

The marketing manager, who declined to be named, said the ad was actually a continuation of last year's.

He explained: 'Last year, we did the same graphic but without the hair.

'Our tagline then was '41 years later, it still feels like the first time'.'

Then, the point of the ad was 'to show that the feeling of independence and being Singaporean was still as strong and fresh as it was 41 years ago'.

This year, 'the strands of hair were added to show that we're one year older and have in a way, hit puberty', said the manager.

He added that 'the ad was definitely not meant as an insult to the country or anyone'.

'I hope that the ad will be taken in the spirit of humour and fun,' he said.

However, most people The New Paper asked thought the ad was disrespectful and in bad taste.

Said an aerospace engineer who wanted to be known only as Mr Zoll, 40: 'The flag is meant to be prestigious, you can't compare it with underwear.'

Mr H M Tay, a 21-year-old student, agreed: 'It's a bit disrespectful towards national symbols, but more importantly, it's tasteless and slightly revolting.

'I don't like the whole idea of a national symbol being associated with unsavoury bits of a body in a highly-public medium.'

STREET POLL

In a quick street poll of 100 Singaporeans from all walks of life, 83 said the ad had gone too far.

The remaining 17 felt it was acceptable.

At least for some, the ad worked.

Said Miss W T Yeo, a 20-year-old student: 'I have not been to Loof, but now I see it as a fun place because of this tongue-in-cheek poster.

'They may have, in my opinion, crossed the line, but there's no denying their creativity.'

Programme executive Elsie Wong, 30, feels 'neutral' about the ad.

She said: 'I'm surprised though, someone is pushing the limits of advertising, and of all 'off-limits subjects' to challenge, they chose this (national symbols).

'I'm sure it will make a lot of people talk. But as far as advertising goes, it's a success.'

Dr K U Menon, director of the National Resilience Division at the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica), said the ad does not breach the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act.

'The ad reproduces only some components of the flag. For example, it does not incorporate the red and white background together.'

However, he advised: 'Mica does not encourage such ads which treat the national flag with disrespect.

'The image of the stars and crescent against a red background is derived from the design of our flag.

'Symbols should be treated with some measure of dignity and we hope Loof will withdraw the ad on its own initiative.'

Offenders who are found guilty of breaching the act can be fined up to $1,000.

Business owners who wish to incorporate the flag in their publicity materials should take note that it should not be used for commercial purposes unless permission has been granted.

The flag should also not bear any graphics or have any words superimposed on it.

CAREFUL

Other nightspot operators The New Paper spoke to said they would generally be quite careful when dealing with such important symbols.

Said Miss Cheryl Khong, publicity manager of St James Power Station: 'Talk about making an impression! But I'm not so sure if the ad's recipients will take this in a positive light.'

Coincidentally, Powerhouse, one of the St James outlets, also put out an ad featuring the national flag and national colours of red and white. The e-mailer went out last week to promote its post-National Day event.

Miss Khong explained: 'We changed the colours on the Powerhouse logo to red and white, instead of its usual black and white.

'And we did use the Singapore flag as part of the visual, but we used it small and in its totality.'


IT'S TOO MUCH

It's an insult to the nation, how can they think of something like that?

- Mr W H Lee, 31, customer service executive

No, it's not okay, just use common sense.

- Mr Sunny Yap, 50, computer engineer

Cannot! You have to respect the flag. Without this, we are not here at all. It's very rude.

- Mr Simon Goh, 64, retiree

I think it's obscene.

- Benjamin Yen, 18, student


IT'S OKAY

It's okay, I think sex appeal works for this kind of advertisement.

- Ms Suzi, 23, admin assistant

As long as it's tongue-in-cheek and not a malicious attempt to desecrate the national symbol, I think it's okay.

- Mr W L Chan, 23, student


FOREIGN VIEW

I'm from Germany and they have a lot worse things there.

- Mr Timon, 28, a marketing manager from Germany


- Additional reporting by Chew Xiang, Fiona Liaw and Andrew Chin.


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