Chris Reed
Nov 20, 2013

Being banned in Singapore is better than sex for

It’s pretty easy to get massive viral PR in Singapore and increase customer engagement. Create a website that specialises in adultery. “Bring it” to Singapore. Let the politicians, Facebook and public do the rest, then finally “ban it”. Bang, you have the No. 1 “dating” site in Singapore and more than 100,000 new customers with zero spend. Genius.

Being banned in Singapore is better than sex for

Some people never learn do they? It's the oldest trick in the book to get something banned (or at least have people calling for having it banned) for being outrageous/sexy/too much fun/leading people astray/morally suspect. These kind of tricks worked for brands in the UK/US in the '90s! They still work in parts of Asia now.

The greatest example is still Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”. Banned infamously by Mike Read in 1984, it went on to not only top the charts for weeks on end but also stay in the charts for a record-breaking 60 weeks. It led directly to Frankie Goes To Hollywood becoming one of the biggest groups of the '80s, making them millions.Thanks Mike Read! It ensured that Relax was played everywhere else apart from Radio One! Now of course it’s played on every station going (though I have to admit I have never heard it on a Singapore radio station).

No sooner had, (the site you go to for an affair, in case you didn’t know), say that it was coming to Singapore than various people through media outlets and social media said it should be banned. Next a pretty ridiculous “Block Ashley” Facebook site (apparently it nearly reached the 30,000 mark, big deal considering there are 3 million people on facebook in Singapore, that’s 0.01per cent), letters to the press and a great debate about nothing. All the while feeding the amount of times someone has heard of the brand

In case the various people complaining, media companies, self-righteous letter writers and misguided, hypocritical Facebook users haven’t noticed, there are plenty of other opportunities for people to have affairs in Singapore if that is their choice, none of which are banned (KTV anyone?). clearly targeted this outrage and merely by announcing that it was coming to Singapore ensured wall-to-wall media coverage on TV, newspapers, radio, on line, word of mouth by the bucket load. Everyone was talking about the brand! And they didn’t spend a cent to do it. They didn’t even need to be here in Singapore!

It’s not exactly hard to have an affair in Singapore should you wish to do so (existing dating sites, for example, ask the same question does—“Are you in a relationship?”—and the only reason you ask/answer that is if you want to have an affair). None of these sites are banned. is merely providing a business service that connects these dots up even easier. But it’s hardly either revolutionary or going to increase the amount of people having affairs. If you want to have one, you have already decided to do so by the time you have found the “how”.

Since we have had all the shouting and screaming about banning from Singapore, do you know what has happened to the amount of people who have visited on the site in Singapore? According to my sources it’s now the No. 1 “dating” website in Singapore. It has added over 100,000 new customers. Without spending a cent on marketing.

Now that the site is “banned” in Singapore it will increase customer engagement yet further through being something that “you can’t have”. All you need to do is use a vpn/non-Singapore IP or visit Malaysia a few minutes away to use the service. But now the kudos is in being a member of a banned brand and getting around the rules—adding to the excitement and risky nature of the brand itself.

I am not actually sure how "banned" the site is. It was announced that it was banned a couple of weeks ago, but purely for research purposes i have tried the site in Singapore to test this and it works, even without a VPN or different IP. has just posted a PR agency brief to keep itself in the news. That must be the easiest PR brief in the world. Before an agency has even been appointed, people have already been talking about the brand non-stop.

When I posted this news on LinkedIn it was even suggested to me that the winning agency wouldn’t want to list the company as a client! Why? Since when did marketing/PR agencies start taking moral judgements about who to have as a client or not?

What about the obesity-driving fast food brands, the sugary, diabetes-giving FMCG brands, the global emission-busting petrol brands, the brands that use sweat labour and don’t pay the minimum wage and make kids work in terrible conditions without a break? What about estate agents, banks—the list is endless. If you’re going to start judging clients on some moral high ground that you yourself probably do not keep yourself you probably shouldn’t be running a marketing agency.

Ultimately what the people who asked for a ban on have achieved is confirm the old adage that there really is no such thing as bad publicity. says thank you Singapore for increasing its customer engagement numbers by more than 100,000 and making it the No. 1—all for zero marketing spend. If only it was always this easy for every brand.


Campaign Asia

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