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Winner of Singapore’s unsung heroes of adland award described as ‘MILF’ and ‘visual treat’ for creatives in nomination

In a submission for an award show to celebrate the unsung heroes of Singapore’s advertising industry, a female executive was described in her nomination as a “MILF” and a “visual treat” for the creative department.

Michelle Tan

Nomination for Michelle Tan on Creative Circle’s website

The copy for the nomination at the Gong Creative Circle Awards for Michelle Tan, a traffic manager at Tribal Worldwide Singapore, part of DDB, reads: “Our resident yummy mummy/MILF who chases the blues and the suits away. Her model-like figure and act-cute abilities are always a visual treat for tired and stressed creatives.”

Tan received more than 10,000 votes, almost twice as much as the next most popular nominee, and was named among three winners of the unsung heroes vote.

Jolene Tan, programmes and communications senior manager at AWARE, a gender equality group, said the copy portrayed the nominee as a “decorative object” and not a staffer whose work is valued.

She said: “This is a highly inappropriate description in a professional context. It portrays the nominee not as a colleague whose work is valued, but solely as a decorative object for ‘creatives’ (who are all assumed to be people sexually attracted to women?).”

“The term MILF is particularly offensive. Even if it is meant as a joke, or if the nominee herself does not mind, it sends a clear message to everyone in the industry about how women are viewed and valued – based on appearance, not professional contributions,” she said.

The CEO of the organisation behind the awards show, the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Singapore, defended the blurb as “tongue-in-cheek” and said the 4As did not see anything wrong with the description.

4As Singapore boss Bernard Chan commented: “We did not see anything sexist nor derogatory in the entry text, as it was obviously written with tongue-in-cheek. If anything, the comments exuded what we took to be a high level of fondness and closeness between the nominee and her supporters. With over 10,000 likes, we don’t see the need for anyone to read anything else into the entry.”

DDB also took issue with highlighting Tan’s nomination in a negative light. The agency said to do so “puts an unjust angle on the people who work here; it dishonours the good work, great spirit and character of Michelle and her colleagues in this agency. They all deserve better.”

Comments beneath the entry for Tan mostly alluded to her capability at work. Some did not. They included: “dam you mean she is married shit there goes my chance”, “she’s a milf nothing more to say”, “cutest traffic ever”, and “i wanna drink her beer”.

BBH’s creative services director Jasmine Quek received the next most votes after Tan, with 5,468. She was described as “The fuel of the mothership.”

The third executive to receive an unsung heroes award was Suzana Kamis, a personal assistant formerly at Grey and now at McDonald’s, with 4,520 votes. The nomination reads: “Suzana doesn’t act her age. Which is what makes her such a bubbly and energetic personal assistant to have around. No work from Grey, no matter how great, would have been awarded at any show if not for her tireless effort and commitment.”

The winners at the Gong Creative Circle Awards included BBH’s ‘Bookbook’ video for Ikea that won campaign of the year. BBDO won agency of the year.

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