Everything Else

Bearing the Conflict of a Nation

Overheard on the radio this morning that Singaporeans really need to make up their minds about whether creativity should be groomed or suppressed. Government calls for nurturing creativity are constantly stifled by members of the public voicing their disagreement over how creative agencies disrupt their way of life.

Consider the recent Ulu Pandan bear sighting incident, which turns out to be a publicity stunt for Philips shavers. I think the first question running through everyone’s heads upon learning the facts behind the video is, what in the name of the God of Public Relations does a bear eating out of a trash can have to do with shavers? Does the bear need any part of itself shaven so it can dig into a trash can? Is there a high incidence of electrically shaven animal fur being swept up on the bus stops in Ulu Pandan? Of all things, Philips decides to choose a bear, in Ulu Pandan?

I’m sure Fleishman-Hillard got what they wanted, in the end. I’m blogging about it, which will count as another addition into the post-campaign statistic to be presented to their client. But at what cost to Philips? And to what effect? No one’s asking about the shaver. Everyone’s asking about who’s in trouble now, though.

That being said, I must applaud the agency for pitching this into action. in a closed culture of complainants such as ours, it is refreshing to see a corporate entity willing to go out on a limb for the sake of creative thinking and experimentation. And actually, like the Flying Dutchman on radio this morning, I too am quite fed up with the public reaction over this matter (and this would include the public sector figures involved as well).


I will agree that the stunt was misguided, but instead of taking it up with the law, shouldn’t the matter be redirected to MICA instead? We understand in the media industry, light touch regulation is maintained by MICA. On the one hand, it’s “light-touch” because we do want the creatives in our nation to be able to exercise and grow their talent as only creativity can be managed. On the other side of the coin, doesn’t “light touch” also mean creatives shouldn’t be put on the guillotine if the mistakes they make, however misguided, were executed for purely commercial reasons?

The balance between our nation’s constant call for growth in the creative industry and public dissent over how experimental our antics are becoming is creating a rift not unlike the beginning of our 1964 racial riots. No wonder I can’t even get an entry-level job in advertising; our ad people just aren’t willing to take the risk on mavericks that dress up in bear suits to get attention.

Make up your minds, people.

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