Raffles Hotels & Resorts, Singapore’s oldest and most renowned hotel, launched a new brand campaign developed by Accor’s Creative Studio. Titled 'Hotel Royalty since 1887', the main film is directed by Welsh director Peter Greenaway and is said to feature a “diverse cast of modern-day royals”.
The ‘diverse’ cast in this self-proclaimed ‘masterpiece’ includes Catharina von Habsburg, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia with her mother Archduchess Anna Gabriele von Habsburg, born von Wrede; Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh, King of Jaipur; George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford; Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark; and Prince Nikolai of Denmark.
A press release Ad Nut received about the campaign describes what the royals get up to in the film:
They embark on a series of marvellous and whimsical adventures. As the day progresses, scenes build to a crescendo through a riot of colours, textures and movement, culminating with the joy of an opulent banquet. Throughout the scenes, simple pleasures become elevated, and the journey inspires a sense of wonder and amazement, reflecting the true essence of the brand and the feeling of Raffles’ guests when in residence.
Sure, Raffles may be a hotel that aims to target the upper-middle class, or in Raffles' words, ‘well-travelled connoisseurs’. But even for Raffles, this is a stretch. Ad Nut wonders if the team at Accor’s Creative Studio conducted adequate research around whether its target customers particularly identify with descendants of archduchesses embarking on activities such as horse riding, painting in well-adorned hotel rooms, or swimming in hotel pools wearing heavily embellished hats.
Perhaps a more interesting approach would have been to centre the messaging around famous guests—which have included authors Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, and actors Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor. Plus, with growing sentiment globally around the abolishment of taxpayer-funded monarchies, Ad Nut is struggling to see how the use of royals as influencers is in any way suited to the trends of modern travel.
But here's the part where this campaign truly leaves a bad taste in Ad Nut’s mouth. The campaign justifies the use of royals as a way to “pay tribute to the brand’s storied history and prestige” during “the golden age of travel”. Based on the hotel’s history, the property was once a refuge for British colonists during Japan’s occupation in Malaya in the second World War. In 1942, it was said that Singapore surrendered to Japan as British colonials gathered at Raffles Hotel to dance and sing ‘There Will Always Be An England’.
It’s all very well if a brand wants to tout its ‘storied past’, but in this case, the past in question is perhaps one that shouldn’t be broadcast as a symbol of aristocracy and aspiration in the present day. Not especially when the effects of British colonisation in Malaya famously resulted in atrocities such as bloodshed, slavery, the depletion of natural resources, and racial antagonism. The effects of which still haunt citizens of Britain’s former colony today. Do better, Raffles.
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