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Is the controversy surrounding the “Love All Kinds of Love” campaign of Bench all just a ploy to get people to talk about it?
Members of the LGBT community have been expressing its disdain online after the lifestyle brand revealed that not only was it responsible for covering up the hands of real-life boyfriends Vince Uy and Nino Gaddie — it was a case of self-censorship.
Bench had every intention to cover the hands of the two male lovers because it assumed that that was the only way the family friendly-Ad Standard Council would approve its installation.
And yet Bench distributed — intentionally — a publicity photo of the pre-covered up billboard for media release without clarifying that the actual billboard would be different. That publicity photo was published by several media, including Coconuts Manila.
“We knew the press would not inhibit. They won’t hold back on the message,” says Paolo Lorenzana, editor of the Bench blog, who also worked on the controversial campaign, and Coconuts Manila’s source for the photo. We got played.
And so when people started comparing the photo of the billboard they saw on news reports and social media with the actual one standing on Edsa, they just assumed that a gay-hating third party — the Ad Standard Council — had vandalized the ad.
A #PaintTheirHandsBack hashtag campaign was started by independent artists and it quickly went viral.
Surprisingly, no one from Bench stepped in to absolve the Council, or to admit that they were, in fact, responsible for the covered-up image.
“That Bench remained silent when things were blowing up over the weekend was perhaps wrong,” says Lorenzana, who made it clear that he was in no position to talk on behalf of Bench.
Over the weekend, the Council finally cleared its name.
“This particular series was not blurred by ASC. We were surprised [Bench] blurred it… Possibly because they think they will be given approval if they do that,” executive director Mila Marquez told Rappler. “We had a discussion with [Bench] particularly because they put up the billboards without clearance to display. If at all, they were given approval to produce it.”
It was only after this ASC statement that Bench decided to issue a clarification.
“After having discovered the governing body’s clarified stance recently, where its director was quoted in Rappler to be accepting of Uy and Gaddi’s billboard, Bench would like to propose a replacement of the couple’s current billboard with that of the original image, hands clasped,” said Jojo Liamzon, head of Advertising and Promotions division of Bench, in a statement released to Stylebible.ph.
Too late the hero?
In any case, the hoopla did Bench more good than bad. How this affected sales is still too early to tell, “but based on the outpouring of love and solidarity of the LGBT community on Instagram, I’d say it did the brand more good than bad,” says Lorenzana.
Trust is another matter.
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