Since 2016, bizarrely titled ‘voluntary welfare group’ I Love Children has been running fertility campaigns around National Day to encourage Singaporean couples to have babies—lots of them, and quickly. This year, the time has come around again.
Ad Nut prefers to use trees and fences as day-to-day transport modes, but on the occasional train ride, has seen MRT platforms and trains emblazoned with images of smirky cartoon men with their arms around women, as well as anthropomorphised sperm ‘courting’ fertile eggs. Nothing like a bit of doe-eyed sperm imagery on the morning commute, eh?
When the campaign debuted in 2016 from local agency Pencil, controversy surrounded the tone and messaging of taglines such as ‘Women are born with a finite number of eggs’ and ‘The seed is in place for a perfect landing’ or ‘Even the best marksman could miss the target’.
This year, the spotlight is around fertility health and declining rate of fertility as women push past their 30s. Women, remember that you have an expiry date, after which you will be unable to fulfill the primary purpose of your existence!
(Disclaimer: In the laissez-faire capitalist economy of the woodlands, female squirrels can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Ad Nut struggles to understand why this can’t be the case with non-squirrel females.)
A senior Singaporean PR practitioner got word to Ad Nut that the campaign is “too on the nose, and a bit belittling”:
To us Singaporeans, it's yet another campaign which treats us like a bunch of kids, instead of informing us and letting us make our own decisions. Presumptuous too, because it assumes a lot of us want to have kids, but the only thing in the way is knowing our state of fertility. It's a well-known fact that money, stress and the changing importance of having babies contribute to our low fertility rate, so this campaign sounds very aloof to the audiences it's meant to resonate with.
That such a private thing like fertility or the decision to have a child discussed via ads on public transport is a bit intrusive. The matter is quite delicate and obviously has emotional bearings, so maybe they should consider that route instead of treating it like another ‘Speak GOOD English’ campaign.
Ad Nut also received a comment from local gender-advocacy association, AWARE:
Women are already under considerable societal pressure to form families, given the dominant narrative around Singapore's ageing population and falling birth rates. Instead of sending a message that having children is the desirable outcome for everyone, we urge that more attention be paid to meeting the needs of existing children and their parents.
The real questions is: Does this beat the classic 2012 pseudo-rap track from Mentos Singapore about baby-making? Well, in the grand hierarchy of cringe-worthy fertility campaigns, Ad Nut officially declares that Mentos sits on a hard-to-reach pedestal. But at least it had a sense of humour about the issue.
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