NTUC Income ad degrading to property agents

From ‘NTUC Income’s comic ad falls flat’, 7 Sept 2013, article by Maryam Mokhtar, ST

NTUC Income has taken down and apologised for a controversial commercial which insinuated that property agents were untrustworthy. The ad was part of a new branding campaign launched last Monday, offering customers “transparent” advice on insurance policies.

But more than 130 comments, which included one property agent calling it “degrading”, on NTUC Income’s Facebook page led to the plug being pulled three days later on the online part of the campaign. Television ads for the campaign were also halted yesterday.

…The campaign involved one commercial featuring dubious salesmen from the real estate, construction and retail industries, who supposedly delivered less than promised. Another 32-second ad featured just the property agent lying about the perks of a unit to a potential buyer.

In one scene, the female property agent looks at the camera as she describes the flat as having a “rich history”. But the word “haunted” appears beside her. When she claims that the unit’s owner is “relocating”, the caption reads “loan sharks are coming”.

…Said netizen Huang Qi Heng on NTUC’s Facebook page: “Your advertisement is degrading our profession as realtors. We strive to protect our clients’ interests more than ours.”

Property agent Nur Mohammad Hafeez of CrestOne Realty told The Straits Times that the ads were “insulting” to those in the profession. “How can you sell a policy by singling out an industry and stereotyping them?”

Realty bites

Last year, NTUC Income took a more subtle approach to unscrupulous rogues in the service line, with their ‘Terms and Conditions’ TVC featuring a fishmonger being ‘economical with the truth’. It also featured the same ‘asterisk’ to denote ‘the fine print’.  No one complained about that ad stereotyping fish sellers as conmen then, probably because the scene was wildly exaggerated for ‘comic’ effect, something that was clearly lost on people complaining about the latest TVC.

The property narrative somehow seems too close to real life for comfort that it’s no longer funny. We’ve heard of people moving into houses secretly terrorised by Ah Longs or used to be the site of a gruesome murder-suicide because desperate agents would understandably withhold such details from buyers if they want to clinch sales. If not blatant lies, real estate terminology is also laden with euphemisms, from ‘cosy’ (small) and ‘has character’ (old) to the ever debatable ‘affordable’.

People in all sorts of business survive on selectively pitching their product and avoiding the obvious unmentionables, and if they were being totally honest with you they wouldn’t be able to pay for their own homes. Doctors don’t tell you all the rare side effects of a drug that could kill you, megachurch pastors don’t tell you what they do with your tithes and we all know how glib-tongued (and generous) politicians can be just before elections.

NTUC Income itself launched a ‘Think Orange’ campaign in 2011 which took potshots at unreliable insurance agents as a ‘negative demonstration’ of what buying policies shouldn’t be like. If a realty giant came up with its own ads depicting bad eggs as contrast for their staff, I doubt anyone would accuse them of degrading their own profession. You don’t see many property TV ads anyway, probably because they spend most of their marketing budget on annoying flyers or dolling agents up to look like Mediacorp celebrities.

Still, it’s a stark reminder that such scoundrels do exist not just in realty, but in REALITY in general. One reason why estate agents could be taking this snub personally is that housing is such a emotional, delicate topic that affects the lives of generations of Singaporeans. But it’s EXACTLY because housing matters so much that there will always be unethical salespeople exploiting the gullible for their own gain. It’s just unfortunate that when NTUC portrays it, it gets under people’s skin rather than just tickle them.

*The Blogger’s comments, opinions, observations, reflections, thoughts and information posted are the opinions of the Blogger only.


One Response

  1. I don’t see why people can’t be more open minded about all this. It’s just in the name of a good laugh.

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