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Nets apologises for ‘hurt’ caused by e-payment ad

SINGAPORE — In its first comments since the controversy over an allegedly racist advertisement erupted over the weekend, electronic payments provider Nets has apologised for “any hurt that its campaign has caused”.

Nets’ advertisement featured Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman and an Indian man.

Nets’ advertisement featured Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman and an Indian man.

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SINGAPORE — In its first comments since the controversy over an allegedly racist advertisement erupted over the weekend, electronic payments provider Nets has apologised for “any hurt that its campaign has caused”.

In a statement sent on Wednesday (July 31) night, Nets said the intent of its campaign was to “communicate that e-payment is for everyone”.

It added that the campaign was in connection with the unified e-payment initiative, a multi-agency effort led by Enterprise Singapore, where Nets was appointed as the master acquirer to handle payment transactions and drive adoption of e-payment in small food businesses.

Nets’ advertisement featured Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman and an Indian man. To portray these characters, Mr Chew’s skin was made up to look darker.

In response, a rap video slamming the campaign for its use of racial stereotypes and "brownface" was released by YouTuber Preeti Nair, better known by her username Preetipls, and local rapper Subhas Nair. In the video, the siblings used four-letter words and vulgar gestures against Chinese Singaporeans.

The rap video is currently the subject of police investigations for its allegedly offensive content.

The backlash over the Nets advertisement prompted creative agency Havas and Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency to issue a joint statement on Sunday (July 28) explaining why Chew had been picked for the job.

"The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone. For that reason, Dennis Chew, well-known for his ability to portray multiple characters in a single production in a light-hearted way, was selected as the face of the campaign. He appears as characters from different walks of life in Singapore, bringing home the point that everyone can e-pay,” the statement said.

“We’re sorry for any hurt that was unintentionally caused. Behind the ad is an initiative to provide greater convenience to consumers, merchants and small food businesses.”

Mediacorp issued a second statement on Tuesday saying that “the portrayal of some races in the advertisement was done in an insensitive fashion".

It said: "We take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly. We will have more stringent safeguards in place to prevent a repeat of such a mistake."

Havas issued another apology on Wednesday for "any hurt caused by the recent campaign to communicate that e-payment is for everyone".

"The message behind the campaign is that e-payment is for people across all age groups and demographics," Havas said.

"Our multicultural society defines us as a nation, and we regret if anyone has been offended by the campaign."

TODAY has reached out to Enterprise Singapore for comment.

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