Dr Mumbo

Occasions not to use ‘poverty porn’: When a telco is selling data

Dr Mumbo may come across as a somewhat miserly old sod sometimes, but that doesn’t mean he is immune to some of the tearjerking ads produced by the likes of UNICEF.

You know the type: hollow-cheeked children, usually from a stricken African village, looking painstakingly at the camera, as a David Attenborough-type voiceover implores you to part ways with just $5 a month – the price of a Starbucks, as they say these days. Hackneyed as the formula may be, it’s hard not to be moved.

However, Dr Mumbo was somewhat less moved to come across this recent outdoor campaign for no-contract mobile operator Circles.Life.

As you can see, the ad follows the familiar format: powerful gaze directed straight at the camera. The hard-hitting slogan: “6 out of 10 Singaporeans barely get by…” And then the punch to the stomach “…on their data plans,” the text concludes.

Really?

And this isn’t the only one Circle.Life’s creative agency VML has proudly unveiled on their Facebook page.

This time the text reads: “Nearly 70 per cent of Singaporeans are hungry… for more data.” Oh dear.

And here’s one more:

Powerful stuff indeed. Apart from the slight issue that Singapore is one of the world’s richest countries. And while not everyone here can afford a five-star condo, you could hardly say the nation is deprived.

And on using what some would refer to as ‘poverty porn’ to sell the largely first-world commodity of data, Dr M need say no more. Case closed.

Unsurprisingly, there were some on Facebook who weren’t best pleased at the ads either.

Dr Mumbo wonders if this great idea may have originated from VML’s recently created Centre of Excellence in Singapore. The agency is certainly setting the bar high, if so, but perhaps not for the right reasons.

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