Netizens criticize optical shop's billboards

Posted at 06/20/2012 6:33 PM | Updated as of 06/21/2012 10:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- After local clothing brand Bayo received flak for its recent ad campaign, an optical shop is now being criticized by netizens for its allegedly racist advertisements. 

“Don’t be a loser. Have your eyes checked,” read a billboard by Executive Optical (EO) along EDSA, showing a woman being embraced by a dark-skinned man wearing a polo, knitted vest, a bowtie and glasses, while another suitor, a light-skinned man with no glasses, looks on in dismay.

The woman was presented by a bouquet of flowers by the man with glasses, while the other, whom she supposedly rejected, is holding a large head of cauliflower.

A photo of the billboard was posted on Twitter by @shihboy, who commented, “This is so much worse than the Bayo campaign!”

“I agree to catchy ads. They're quite entertaining actually but I'm surprised Pinoys don't find this one offensive.”

This Executive Optical billboard is going viral on social media. Courtesy of Mike Shih

The billboard is part of an ad campaign by Executive Optical, which has been running since 2009.

The previous ads also featured a woman with a dark-skinned, bespectacled partner. A print ad has the caption “More women have eye damage than men.”

EO’s marketing consultants have denied that the ad is racist.

“There is no intent of presenting racism at all,” said Karen de Asis, Chief Brand Strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting, the company that conceptualized EO’s ads.

“It’s a presentation of a real-life situation. The two suitors have contrasting personalities. Both are Filipinos. It’s not about color. The ad is simply about poor eyesight,” she explained.

"The ad simply showed that the suitor with flowers won over the girl versus the suitor who inadvertently gave a cauliflower," she added.

Bayo Part 2?

Netizens said the ads are reminiscent of those of Bayo’s “What’s your mix?” campaign, which earned flak for being “poorly executed.” The Bayo ads have since been pulled out.

“Following the steps of the infamous Bayo ad recently?” tweeted @tweetingsince09 about the EO billboard.

@akgroa said, “That's not the first of this kind from EO. You wonder why they noticed Bayo, but not this one.”

@p0pfiction said, "I was actually just waiting for someone to give a violent reaction re:Executive Optical billboard ad along EDSA. Thought ako lang ung WHAT?!"

Netizens have also questioned if the Ad Standards Council (ASC) should move against supposedly racist ads.

“Anong ginagawa ng Ad Standards Council tungkol sa racist ad campaigns tulad ng sa Bayo & EO?” @jeffcrisostomo said, encouraging others to email their complaints to the council.

“People should now flood the Ad Standards Council w/ complaints onExecutive Optical's racist ads,” said @adrianbaccay.

According to the ASC Code of Ethics, "Advertisements shall not directly or indirectly disparage, ridicule, criticize or attack any natural or juridical person, groups of persons or any sector of society, especially on the basis of gender, social or economic class, religion, ethnicity, race or nationality."

De Asis defended the ad’s conformity to the ASC code, saying all EO ads have been screened by the council.

“The ad has been screened by the ASC. Even the ASC has seen and approved the ad. All Executive Optical ads including the ‘Cauliflower’ ad are pre-tested before they are implemented in media,” she said.

“Metrics include audience appeal, understanding and comprehension of message…that poor eyesight can affect performance and relationships,” she said, adding that this was from the findings of a study by the World Health Organization.

Other EO ads depict different “awkward” situations people can get into if they have poor eyesight, such as tattooing a man’s name on a heterosexual man’s back, giving a customer a very bad haircut and feeding a dog food meant for a child.

Executive Optical was founded in 1968 and has over 75 branches around the country.