The recently launched e-payments platform E-Pay found itself at the centre of a controversy surrounding visuals on its advertising and its website.
An image that featured Mediacorp talent Dennis Chew playing a Chinese man and woman, an Indian man and a Malay woman, was called out by online commentators for being racially and culturally insensitive.
The controversy was primarily centred around the apparent use of ‘brownface’ to depict the Indian man and about Chew playing a Malay woman.
Several people took to social media to register their protest against the ad, generating debates in the comment threads on issues like representation, ‘punching down’ and why actors who actually represented the Indian and Malay communities had not been used.
In response to the complaints, the images have been removed from the advertising and are currently absent on the website of epaysg.com.
The original homepage banner
The modified banner
The only character to have survived the culling is apparently Chew as a Chinese man. The campaign was created by Havas Worldwide, which along with Mediacorp’s The Celebrity Agency issued a joint statement to the media and said:
“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.
“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.”R
In the FAQ on its website, E-Pay said: “This is an initiative to roll out e-payments in coffee shops, hawker centres and industrial canteens. Consumers can choose from a range of 23 e-payment schemes (as of June 2019, and still growing) to pay for their meals easily and securely.
“Merchants and small food businesses will also benefit from reduced deployment costs and easier adoption processes.”
Enterprise Singapore, the National Environment Agency, the Housing and Development Board and JTC corporation had appointed Nets to unify cashless payments under E-Pay.