In a previous post, we noted that while many commended clothing line Bench for their recent advertising campaign featuring two same-sex couples, the apparent defacement of one of their four billboards in EDSA Guadalupe enraged a lot of Filipino netizens.
As been widely discussed online, the clasped hands of Preview magazine creative director Vince Uy and his boyfriend, event organizer Nino Gaddi, had been painted over. This became more noticeable since Bench uploaded the original images on their social media accounts.
Aghast netizens launched the #PaintTheirHandsBack campaign, and dozens of Facebook and Twitter users took the time to create their own reimagined version of the billboard image (BuzzFeed‘s Matt Ortile selected a number of these user-created images).
Amid all these hullabaloo, one question begs asking – Whose idea is it to have the billboard image painted over?
Ever since this issue exploded in the social media during the Valentine’s Day weekend, most people blamed the regulatory body Ads Standards Council (ASC) for censoring the image, and for good reason. Speaking to StyleBible.ph, Bench Advertising and Promotions Manager Jojo Liamzon said: “The ad board thinks holding hands is too gay.”
At this point, it is important to discuss what the ASC really does. Its function is to go through all materials for advertising before they get publicized in whatever medium, which is similar what the government-run Movie and Television Review and Classification Board does.
Advertisers are required to have their materials approved at least 24 hours before it is scheduled to go public. A decision from the assigned ASC screening panel can be expected on the same day.
“The ASC is primarily concerned with advertising content and its implications, not on intent, in reviewing the merits of a material or case,” according to the council’s website. In other words, ASC is focused on the means, not the ends.
The ASC Code of Ethics (referred to as “General Standards of Presentation”) has a section titled “Religion, Filipino Cluture, and Tradition.” Under it are two requirements:
a. Advertisements must endeavor to promote the improvement of the quality of life of Filipinos, positive Filipino Family values, customs and traditions.
b. Advertisements must respect religious beliefs, and be sensitive to the diverse religions, mores, culture, traditions, characteristics, historical background and identity of the various Filipino communities and uphold traditional Filipino family and social values.
With that requirement in mind, Bench submitted to the ASC a version of the couple’s image with their hands already obscured. “The governing body had rejected photos of the couple looking lovingly at one another, citing ‘traditional Filipino family values’ as a reason,” Liamzon said in a statement last February 16. Now, if the instructions really came from ASC, where is the so-called black-and-white?
He added: “A digital mockup of the EDSA billboard showing the unobscured hands of Uy and Gaddi had been disseminated to press and is what likely led the public to assume the billboard had been defaced.” Mind you, they issued this clarification several days AFTER the issue had already exploded on social media.
The situation has become too muddled that Rob Cham, the guy who originally pointed out the supposed “defacement” of the billboard last February 13, said out of apparent exasperation that both Bench and the ASC deserves to “take a sh*t.” Meanwhile, the Coconuts Manila website slammed Bench for “playing” with the public, lamenting that the company is no longer trustworthy.
All this back-and-forth is really unfortunate because it takes the attention away from the wonderful message carried by the promotional campaign as well as the issue of better portrayal for gays and lesbians in Philippine advertisements.