Saturday, August 3, 2013

National Geographic Channel's guerilla marketing for OCS documentary misfires badly

Decorations and Uniforms Act
(Original Enactment: Ordinance 5 of 1922)

(30th March 1987)

An Act to prevent the unauthorised use of or wearing of certain orders, decorations, medals, emblems and uniforms and for purposes connected therewith.
[10th March 1922]

Short title
1.  This Act may be cited as the Decorations and Uniforms Act.

Unauthorised use of insignia, uniforms, etc.
—(1)  If any unauthorised person uses or wears —
any insignia of any order instituted by the President;
any decoration or medal, or the ribbon of any decoration or medal, so instituted;
any naval, military or air force decoration, medal, bar, clasp or ribbon;
any badge, stripe or emblem supplied or authorised by the Armed Forces Council or by the President;
any uniform or part of a uniform of the naval, military, air or police forces; or
anything so nearly resembling any insignia, decoration, medal, bar, clasp, ribbon, badge, stripe, emblem or uniform or part of a uniform as above-mentioned that it is calculated to deceive,
and if any unauthorised person assumes or uses any title of rank in the military, naval or air forces, or any letters after his name indicating the possession of any order, decoration or medal, that person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction before a Magistrate’s Court to a fine not exceeding $400 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months.

The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) should send a clear and unambiguous message to the National Geographic Channel that its guerilla marketing campaign for an upcoming TV documentary misfired big time.

If publicity for Every Singaporean Son (ESS) is what they seek, perhaps slapping NatGeo with a fine and imprisoning the fake soldiers for offences committed under the Decorations and Uniforms Act would send awareness of the documentary sky high.

Images from Straits Times online

Their publicity stunt in the heart of Singapore's business district on Friday, where passersby were invited to shout drill commands at a platoon of "soldiers" dressed in regulation SAF garb makes absolute ESSes of the Singapore Army.  

From the get-go, the ESS marketing effort appeared to be led by rank amateurs who are clueless how to profile the SAF in a proper fashion.

The print ad which appears on Page 2 of this month's edition of Pioneer magazine should have been a leading indicator of the liberties their marketing gurus are prepared to take to sell their product. The picture of two SAF servicemen is reversed, resulting in the sword being held in the wrong hand and the SAR-21 assault rifle shouldered improperly.

It would be interesting to find out whether the FA for Pioneer's August issue raised any eyebrows with MINDEF/SAF when the draft issue went through the usual clearance process.

With 20:20 hindsight, that lapse could have afforded MINDEF/SAF a timely intervention to ask NatGeo about the publicity blitz planned for a documentary that would show viewers what Officer Cadets go through in their 38-week quest to become commissioned officers.
MINDEF/SAF could have asked the critical question, "What else do you have planned for ESS publicity?", before the Defence Ministry, SAF and the institution of National Service in Singapore ended up as collateral damage from a misfired publicity stunt.

That stunt may prompt Singaporean tax payers to ask just what sort of storyline ESS will have across its various episodes and whether similar liberties will be taken in the story telling. 

Concerns flagged out by netizens are natural, expected and reasonable as the first touch points before ESS even airs (the print ad and marketing gimmick in Raffles Place) both bombed.

We have experienced a number of guerilla marketing stunts going wrong in recent years. It's high time we send a strong deterrent message against creative minds who believe they can execute, then backpeddle with an apology and get away with lunatic ideas.  


Philip Wong said...

Sadly, the Uniforms and Decorations Act has the following exception which many hide behind:

4.—(1) Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to prohibit the wearing, use or supply of ordinary regimental badges or any brooch or ornament representing them.
(2) Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to prohibit the wearing, use or supply of any insignia, decoration or uniform for the purposes of any bona fide theatrical or similar performance.

Anonymous said...

Oh... That means this can be considered a "theatrical or similar performance"? And hence is not an offence? Just bad taste?

Anonymous said...

I find it very unacceptable that the Army responded to the incident by merely stating that they did not sponsor the event and that NGC would respond separately to the matter.

Does it mean that the Army has no control over the use of their uniforms? Worse yet. That they have no control over their servicemen? So what if they are paid actors? Many of them should be reservists.

I also find it hard to believe that the Army did not know about this. Afterall, isn't the NGC series sanctioned by the Army?

Anonymous said...

no excuses, no matter which side of the political fence you are, we need to demand a full investigation, those in the SAF must be demoted and send to DB. those in the NGC should be haul to court, fine, jail and canned if the law permits.

r0bT said...

Personally, I'm pretty sick of the lack of any reflection from you or just about anyone else writing about military affairs in Singapore.

Your only justification for claiming that Nat Geo is somehow harming the nation is that their actions break the law (or because you think it is an unforgivable sin to shoulder a rifle wrongly). Not all crimes are 'wrong'. And as far as I can see, I don't detect any malice or harmful intentions.

You claim that your blog is "above and beyond the obvious". But to be honest, I don't see much that is truly insightful.

You say that the SAF's involvement in Afghanistan is a "national necessity", and an unqualified success with a "storybook ending", all with scant justification. One VCR cassette shouldn't account for an expensive overseas operation. There is just paragraph after paragraph of empty bluster.

Are you hearing yourself? That SAF states certain things as 'facts' doesn't justify your parroting them. I don't think all Afghans share your views about foreign armies restoring dignity to their lives. You can talk all day about how the SAF mission is a success, but the greater war in Afghanistan (albeit through no fault of the SAF) will end as a trillion-dollar stalemate. There is no common enemy, but a salad of militias with fluid loyalties, and most strangely of all, the US spent millions bribing al-Qaeda operatives to not strike their logistics convoys.

And that's the reality that bookends your "storybook ending". I can't think of any military expert anywhere in the world who would ever dare use such a phrase.

Maybe in the short run, the SAF mission was indeed 100% successful, which I doubt. But that seems an awfully shallow thing to write. You as a military expert should be able to convey the wider perspective. There is no end of mission, or end of war.

Not everything that the SAF does is a masterstroke, or an unqualified success, or beyond reproach, or beyond question. We have the third highest per capita military spending in the world behind only the US and Israel. Is that justified? Now, *that* is a topic that deserves your expert opinion.

It is people like you who willfully fuel a false sense of security based on your cheerful bullshit, and abuse of phrases that invoke absolutes and ideals and perfection. Please leave that to the Straits Times.

David Boey said...

Dear rObT,
Thank you for taking time to write.

I'll take your points in the order in which they were delivered.

re: Nat Geo. Shouldering a rifle wrongly is not an "unforgivable sin" and would probably not even be noticed by the majority of people who saw the ad.

Here's the bigger picture: The fact that the marketing team felt it was ok to flip an image around indicates, to me, a mindset and workflow that led eventually to the hullabaloo over the Raffles Place guerilla marketing concept. Why? Because downstream consequences appeared too trivial to think about.

You may feel the matter does no harm but that's your perspective to the uproar in the cyberworld and real world.

The post states that a proper check and balance for marketing collaterals/events would have helped Nat Geo (which apologised) and MINDEF/SAF avoid reputational risks from this situation. If we don't learn from this, who knows what systemic faults (I know, this is too strong a term) will lead to in future?

re: Above and Beyond the Obvious. I think it's time for me to reveal that this line is a play on two organisations which use the mottos "Above & Beyond" and "Beyond the Obvious" respectively.

If Nat Geo could film a documentary on what the "Above & Beyond" organisation does, I am quietly confident your line of argument in the feedback above would change.

You may feel there is nothing insightful here. But web tracking data gathered for posts like the one on radars on HDB flats and assorted posts on SAF hardware and training deaths indicates otherwise.

Feedback from your kind self and other commentators who responded previously on other posts will nonetheless spur this blog to push the envelope a little more. You don't have long to wait: Look out for the "Guide to MID numberplates" due out over the coming long weekend.

re: SAF involvement in Afghanistan. A book review and an update on the OBR exhibition will be uploaded here around the Hari Raya and National Day long weekend. These will address the points raised on the matter.

re: expert. This is a term I have never tagged on myself, either during my time with the 90 cents newspaper and especially thereafter. It is plainly absent in the "About Me" description on this blog too.

Just as you claim postings here are skewed to a certain perspective as they paint MINDEF/SAF in a certain light, I hope you don't end up holding the same paint brush by tagging people with monikers that they themselves have not ever used.

Finally, the record of postings on this blog - indeed how and why it started back in 2009 - will debunk the evocative phrase "cheerful bullshit" - which I like and will add to my phrasebook. :)

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

i don't know David personally, but i believe he has to walk a tight rope balancing between writing articles, if need be, critical of the military establishment which one will never get to read from the 90 cents broad sheet and still granting from the same sama sama establishment invites to mil previews, and bringing us write ups.

Of course David is bias towards the SAF having served like the rest of us as conscripts (David you din sign on right, i assume?) that love-hate relationship with the SAF (i assume?) and seeing for the last decade how Singapore has change, not for the better to ordinary Singaporeans ( i feel personally)...

Keep on writing, this is your blog.

Anonymous said...

Well said David. rObT clearly has much anger and a spleen to vent. Though I think he vents it at the wrong person. I have found your posts over the years to be well balanced on the whole and at the same time never short changing the efforts and skills of the real people keeping us safe. All within what Ops sec can allow you to reveal!

Anonymous said...

I agree with David's treatment of most subjects AND with rObT's point on Afghanistan.

Some things you can criticize, some things you cannot. Afghanistan is one of those things. For example, can anyone question how the SAF justice system treated someone who spammed a few generals' emails? Granted, we cannot draw comparisons because we don't know any other person who has done such an audacious thing before.

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan is still in flux due to political and religious reasons which many people cannot understand, a deployment there by SAF is only successful as there was no casualties and field trained many operatives, too bad these field trained operatives will not see command, as these well regarded positions are for paper general groomed from the tweed.

Anonymous said...

Nobody takes Afghanistan, not the Brits, not the Russians, not the Americans. That terrain is jinx ... good luck.

Anonymous said...

The main question to ask is, did the ministry of defence or any pertinent department get inform by NatGeo prior to the stunt ? I don't think it is fair to blame NatGeo if they ask permission, and the department must share the blame if they give the green light.

Is it strange that any tom, dick and harry can masquerade as soldier ? So next time, can masquerade as police ?

The said...

Why do our SAF and power that be think that Every Singapore Son is a good show? Even an ex-Minister thought it shows positive aspects of NS. To me, who ROD (not ORD) long long ago, it was painful and embarrassing to watch our soldiers struggling to climb up the short rope. Visit the expat forum, and you see how they are laughing at our weaklings. Why are we showing the whole world how weak and pampered our boys are? And now part 2. Our enemies and potential enemies are now laughing at out man power. No, make that boy power.

Anonymous said...

Every Singapore son is only showing the regular son, not the well known white horse type that we hope to serve together coz of the more humane treatment.

Anonymous said...

The @ August 6, 2013 at 2:17 PM

I venture that the logic is, Singapore has a large foreign population of families that are serving NS for the first time. ESS is also shown regionally on Nat Geo to families that are considering to potentially migrate to Singapore. In some of their their countries, the military has a bad or dangerous reputation.

By showing that NS is not a place of suffering or a life and death experience, these families become more willing to stay and serve NS or migrate to Singapore. Thus, this supports the 6.9M population goal.