Halloween publicity failures caused advertising complaints to spike in Singapore last year

A mannequin had been installed on Sept 18 as part of publicity efforts for *Scape’s Halloween event.
Facebook/ Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family

Advertising and publicity can be dicey business. When the success of a campaign or event hangs upon capturing the public eye and enticing their patronage, there is very little room for marketing blunders.

Potentially controversial themes, when involved, often raise the stakes.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) revealed on Feb 13 that it received a total of 269 feedback across industries. Electrical and electronic product advertising received the most with 29 feedback. The entertainment sector took second place.

This news comes as surprising as the entertainment advertising sector tends to receive a low volume of feedback. In 2017, the industry’s number of complaints jumped to 26 from 16 in 2016. In 2015, only seven complaints were registered.

Notably, 12 were feedback pertaining to advertisements for Halloween-themed events by entertainment centres. The publicity stunts executed in bad taste were the main reason for the spike.

For instance, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) drew flak from the public when they erected marble memorial walls to commemorate the lives of victims of a fictitious shopping mall collapse.

The stunt was pulled to publicise the seventh instalment of Halloween Horror Nights. However, the marketing campaign backfired with netizens commenting that it was tasteless and insensitive.

A spokesperson from RWS told advertising and media news outlet Marketing that the objective was to creatively drive awareness in an eye-catching, original and unconventional way.

Nonetheless, with the dawn of the Seventh Month (or Ghost Month) festivities at the time, very few were impressed by the bold move.

Youth-targeted establishment *Scape’s attempt to deliver shock value through its Halloween event publicity stunt also led to disaster. The organisation hanged a life-size bloodied mannequin from a tree in Orchard Road to promote its 2017 Halloween event.

The promotional campaign resulted in criticism that pointed out its distasteful nature and depiction of self-harm. The installation was removed soon after.

In a statement, Asas warned that any allusions to violence or negative influences to children and young people in advertising is a breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice guidelines.

Suggestions of mental, moral and physical self-harm are also prohibited.