Following the furore over a recent "brownface" advertisement, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) plans to issue a recommendation that marketers “take special care” when their projects involve race and ethnicity.

The recommendation will be incorporated into the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP), which is currently being reviewed, ASAS chairman Ang Peng Hwa told The Straits Times.

Creative agency Havas Worldwide Singapore had produced the ad for e-payment firm Nets. It featured Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew portraying characters such as a woman in a tudung and a man with visibly darker skin. Nets, Mediacorp,and Havas have all apologised for the hurt caused by the ad.

The ASAS, an advisory council to the Consumers Association of Singapore, declared that the ad was “in poor taste” but did not breach its code of practice. The council felt the advertisement was not done “with harm in mind or to deliberately put down any ethnic groups”.

The current edition of the 65-page SCAP, has a section devoted to social values and dictates that advertisements should be handled sensitively to minimise misinterpretation of intentions on ethnic issues.

They should also “not jeopardise inter-ethnic understanding or discriminate against any ethnic group or religion or downplay the importance of mutual dependence amongst all groups”.

But, Ang said, adding the new recommendation – which is still being drafted – will help highlight to marketers the potential sensitivities involved if race and ethnicity are in their campaigns.

The ASAS has been reviewing the SCAP for a few months now and intends to complete it later this year. The updated code will adopt the best practices from international guidelines, found in the International Chamber of Commerce's Advertising and Marketing Communications Code, which itself was revised in September 2018.

The upcoming SCAP will include guidelines for advertising in the digital space such as social media – an update to its current guidelines on interactive marketing communication and social media first issued in August 2016.

ASAS is an advisory council to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and the last major revision to the code was in 2008.

Sourced from The Straits Times, Marketing Interactive, Yahoo News Singapore; additional content by WARC staff