As people in Taiwan celebrate legal approval of same-sex marriage, a very mild Cathay Pacific poster showing a gay couple has been "banned" from appearing in Hong Kong's airport and transit system, according to reports.
The ad in question is part of Cathay Pacific's just announced 'Move beyond' campaign (see "The thinking behind Cathay Pacific's new motto").
The South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources, has reported that the ad (shown above) has been "banned" by the Airport Authority and the MTR Corporation.
A JCDecaux source quoted by the SCMP cited contract clauses stating adverts would not be accepted if they were “immoral" or would "offend the generally accepted standards of public decency or the social or cultural standards of the society”.
Campaign Asia-Pacific reached out to Cathay Pacific, Publicis Communications (the agency on the campaign) and JCDecaux (which holds the concession for MTR and airport advertising) for confirmation and comment. Publicis declined to comment.
A JCDecaux spokesperson said that the rejection of the ad was "a business decision made in accordance with our procedures", adding, "We understand the public’s concern on this matter and we will further consider MTR Corporation’s commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when we consider advertisements in the future."
Cathay Pacific did not respond to any of Campaign's direct questions about the sequence of events that led to the ad's rejection, whether the brand had tried to convince JCDecaux to change its mind or whether the ad in question would run in other markets. Rather, the company provided a statement that affirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion as "fundamental" to its "culture and core values".
The statement added, "The Move Beyond Labels visual is one of 10 key visuals we have developed to communicate our new purpose to our people as well as to the public at different times on different channels. This is just the beginning and there are more to come, so stay tuned!"
The ad in question did not appear among those shared with reporters at Cathay Pacific's press conference announcing the campaign, nor was it on display at that event.
Other ads from the campaign have been appearing in some of Hong Kong's most prominent outdoor and transit spots, including a giant billboard above the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay and a massive installation in the Central MTR station, which includes a line of posters stretching a significant fraction of the length of a train, centred around a large video screen. The same-sex ad did appear at the airport, at least for a time, as shown below, although it's not clear whether the spot shown is an Airport Authority location or one owned by Cathay Pacific.
Edward Bell, Cathay Pacific's general manager of brand, insights and marketing communications, stated at the launch of the 'Move beyond' campaign that the airline aims to be one of the world's premiere service brands. And the airline's manifesto for the campaign makes inclusion an explicit part of that when it says Cathay holds values including the following:
Thoughtful: We respect and care for everyone, wherever they’re from and wherever they’re going, treating them as we’d wish to be treated ourselves. We go to great lengths to understand and help them on their way in life.
Progressive: Inspired by our dynamic Hong Kong home and the Asia-Pacific region, we bring modern, forward-thinking attitudes and ideas to our customers, in a simple way...