Malaysian bank apologises for ‘black face’ insurance ad again, says ad made in-house

The Malaysian Hong Leong Financial Group has again apologised for a controversial insurance ad, which centred on a clumsy ‘blackfaced’ domestic worker, which last week provoked a raft of negative stories in the international media and together with a social media backlash forced the bank to withdraw the campaign from TV, online and outdoor.

In the wake of the global media coverage which saw the story about the Hong Kong ad campaign, picked up by Al Jazeera, Time Magazine (online), News Corp’s major Australian online portal and Hong Kong’s largest english language newspaper the South China Morning Post, the bank on Friday issued a second apology for the insurance ad.

“It was truly never our intention for it to be offensive and any unintended miscommunication is deeply regretted. As such, we have earlier in the week taken action to withdraw the advertisement,” said Harry Wong, director and general manager of Hong Leong Insurance.

“We reiterate that Hong Leong Insurance (Asia) Ltd has the greatest respect for the people and we will ensure that we will be more sensitive with our future advertisements,” he said, while confirming that the ad had been made in-house without the involvement of an advertising agency.

In response to questions from Mumbrella Asia a spokesman for the bank confirmed that the ad campaign was only shown in the Hong Kong market and began airing on May 7 before being withdrawn from TV and online on June 18, after negative social media reaction and media coverage, while the outdoor campaign was not withdrawn until June 21 due to challenges in withdrawing all the inventory from buses etc.

Asked about who created the advertising campaign a spokesman said: “The idea of the advertisement was developed during internal brainstorming sessions between our own marketing colleague and the production team without the involvement of any agency.

“As the company head, the general manager of Hong Leong Insurance Asia Ltd (Harry Wong) is taking accountability for the advertisement program.”

Nic Christensen 


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