About Pet Sins Webzine
Skip navigation and go to main content
Pet Sins July 2005

The European as the 'default' human in Singaporean advertising

Walking about neighborhoods on various parts of Singapore, I couldn't help but notice the over-representation of Europeans in advertising images, and the under-representation of Indians and Malays. Images of Europeans are used to sell everything from display ads to children's playgroups and tuition classes. A few non-ethnic businesses (including a certain insurance company) use Malays or Indians in their ads, but by and large, such images are very few. The subtle message that is being sent through the barrage of ethnically exclusive or homogeneous advertising images we see everyday is that some segments of the population are not significant enough to warrant advertising dollars.

It is perhaps understandable if international retailers with a predominantly European or European-descendent customer base utilize European models in their local ad campaigns, but why are some local businesses using images of ethnic Europeans, which only comprise a very small percentage of the Singapore population, to sell local products and services to a largely Asian local consumer base? C'mon, how many European children are there in a typical Singapore neighborhood? And yet we see images of blond-haired, blue-eyed youngsters on advertisements for children's playgroups and after-school classes. I suspect the answers to the former question may indicate that while our country is no longer physically colonized, our minds still linger under European colonialism. The blame for this internalized racism and the responsibility to decolonize our minds lies only with ourselves. (Really, there are no Europeans forcing us at gunpoint to use their images in advertisements.)

We hardly see images of Indians and Malays in advertisements displayed in public places. From what I observe, it seems the frequency with which their images occur in advertisements is even lower than their actual proportions in our population. There are many Chinese faces in advertisements. Some of the ads that sell non-ethnic products such as watches even have both Chinese text and English text. Is it that hard to include Malay and Tamil text with the ad? If including all 4 official languages is that hard, perhaps we should be consistent and stick with only English in advertisements. I really wish that more advertisers would make an effort to be inclusive towards all Singaporeans. A business can't lose money by targeting its ads at a wider customer base.


Comment from 'Ed.'
On a similar topic, the article The White Media by totalitariantiptoe does a pretty thorough job on showing the brainwashing effects of the ubiquity of white media, not just on whites but on non-whites, and beyond the borders of the countries producing said media. While I don't necessarily endorse or agree with everything in the article, the author does make a good point: "Obviously this consolidation of media power into the hands of one group will naturally tend to represent itself more (and more positively for that matter) than other groups which it cannot naturally relate or identify with. This is why it is so critical to address and expose this centralization of power. Failure to dissolve this centralization of power will only contribute to the ongoing process of mass indoctrination which involves more and more people subconsciously seeing the world and themselves according to what the media owners want them to. When the masses are constantly fed the same themes in the media, they will begin to internalize those things subconsciously. This is how the Subconscious Mind operates..."
Jul 07