After reading the recent developments, it saddens me that the most logical explanation to the “defaced” BENCH billboard is publicity stunt. It seems like BENCH self-censored the billboard by painting over the hands.
It is also interesting that StyleBible.ph was one of the first to feature the new campaign, which includes Vince Uy (Preview Magazine’s creative director) and his boyfriend. StyleBible.ph is the online website of Preview Magazine.
In the interest of fairness, it is also entirely possible that it was a simple misunderstanding. BENCH used the uncensored version of the photo for its media releases, which StyleBible picked up. So naturally, people were surprised when it was the censored photo they saw mounted on the billboard.
Here’s the official statement of BENCH:
“When billboard images for Bench’s ‘Love All Kinds of Love’ campaign were submitted to the governing body, the company received concern over the photo of Vince Uy with his arm around partner Niño Gaddi, hands clasped in a show of affection. Prior, the governing body had rejected photos of the couple looking lovingly at one another, citing ‘traditional Filipino family values’ as a reason.
The approved version with hands obscured is the billboard that Bench had printed and that now stands on EDSA. A digital mockup of the EDSA billboard showing the unobscured hands of Uy and Gaddi had been disseminated to press and is what likely led the public to assume the billboard had been defaced.
Despite its deviation from the original idea, Bench decided to move forward with the billboard showing obscured hands because the company believes that its message was still intact: that of well represented diversity, and the message that same-sex relationships are just as substantial and valid as heterosexual romantic love and familial love. We respect ASC’s commitment to ‘adhering to prevailing moral and social standards of the country’ and salute them for upholding their beliefs. However, we were resolute at championing a cause we strongly believe in.
The thrust of the campaign had always been inclusion, acceptance, and respect. We saw no better time for it than the week of Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love. We still stand by a message of unity, not division. And while the message has been compromised to an extent, the most important thing is that at least, for the duration that the billboards are up, the voices, lives, and loves of the LGBT community are unavoidable and undeniable on an avenue Filipinos from all walks of life cross everyday.
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.”
Meanwhile. the Advertising Council of the Philippines also aired their statement regarding the issue. As reported by Rappler:
We are always adhering to prevailing moral and social standards of the country. We believe advertisements should not be offensive, derogatory nor should [they] alienate certain sectors of the community,” said Executive Director Mila Marquez.
“This particular series was not blurred by ASC. We were surprised they blurred it… Possibly because they think they will be given approval if they do that.”
“We had discussion with them particularly because they put up the billboards without clearance to display. If at all, they were given approval to produce it. If ever there is violation, the violation is more procedural than conceptual.”
“The ASC is not a censorship body. What we’re promoting is self-regulation, meaning clients and ad agency are the ones who should also regulate themselves,” she adds.