The headline of this post is the exact same message that is featured in a number of ads put forth by breathe.sg. I’d like you to first watch both videos, as they’re the focus of the rest of the post.
Keep on reading to find out where these ads came from and why they were made. I’ve broken the post up because it is a long one, and I know how much you guys hate massive stories on the front page.
The last time I posted an ad that featured a heavily modified person there was a healthy debate over the implications from the ad. This time though, the implications are pretty clear. These two people, who have great stories to tell about their modifications and the meanings behind them, should be looked at negatively as they’re on the same level as a binge drinker.
It took a little digging, but I discovered that the breathe.sg campaign began in 2008 as an initiative put forth by the Singapore government’s Heath Promotion Board (HPB). In a press release dated Oct 9th, 2008, the HPB announced the creation of the Breathe campaign.
NHLC 2008: “Breathe”
2 The theme for this year’s campaign is “Breathe”. It seeks to encourage youth to choose (breathe in) life, truth and self-expression and not succumb to (breathe out) insecurity, pessimism, pressure and judgement. “Breathe” will also brand health as exciting, vibrant and an asset youth should treasure to help them achieve their fullest potential and ambitions in life.
3 “Breathe” is targeted at youth aged 12 to 23 and will be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Padang on 7 November 2008.
“Breathe – Game for Life” – Launch Event
4 The campaign’s launch event, “Breathe – Game for Life”, aims to showcase non-conventional, youth-centric activities to encourage the young to cultivate healthy habits for lifelong health. These include Human Bowling, Human Table Soccer and remote control speed racing. Conventional games such as Captain’s Ball will also be given a new twist to demonstrate how these activities can be made more exciting to engage our young in an active lifestyle.
5 Strong elements of music – a universal language among youth – will feature prominently at the launch event. In line with this, the event will feature an exhilarating new dance fitness routine, a hip-hop competition with a healthy lifestyle theme and a dance party under the stars. All these will encourage youth to keep active while grooving to their lively beats.
Launch of “Breathe” Portal
6 A new “Breathe” portal (www.breathe.sg) will be launched to engage youth on various health issues and provide them with information on events and activities held in conjunction with NHLC 2008.
In December of that year, todayonline.com wrote an article describing the efforts of the campaign, as well as it’s initial goals. The article has since been removed, but there there is a cached version of it available on a blog located here.
HE GOT drunk at a friend’s house and ended up taking off all his clothes in the bathroom. “The next thing I knew,” said :student Mervyn Lee, 19, “I woke up in my friend’s bed wearing a fresh pair of shorts.” Tales like this may raise a titter, but the dangers of excessive drinking are all too real. That is why the Health Promotion Board (HPB) will embark on its first nationwide campaign against binge drinkingnext year, aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds. Binge drinking — consuming five drinks or more for males, or four drinks or more for females, within two hours — is an “emerging issue in Singapore”, said HPB in a tender document posted on the GeBIZ website.
The HPB intends to create awareness through student-led projects and educational material targeted at tertiary students, among other things.
– Alicia Wong and Sufian Suderman, todayonline.com
Finally, as part of the 2008/2009 annual report, the chairman of the HPB, Lucas Chow, goes on to describe just how positive the campaign is meant to be. The entire report can be found here but it is a large .pdf file, so just be aware of that if you want to give it a read.
The annual National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign (NHLC) took on a youth focus for the first time, with the theme, “Breathe”. It encouraged young people to appreciate health as an asset for them to achieve their fullest potential and ambitions in life through an array of activities and events.
Now with the mandate of the campaign being intended to bring a positive outlook on their health and lifestyle, I find it interesting that their initial ad campaigns were so negative. To be fair, in addition to the ads, the Breathe campaign does sponsor a number of youth oriented events such as a hip-hop dance competition, as well as other youth themed events. But the question still remains, if the purpose of the campaign is “ to choose (breathe in) life, truth and self-expression and not succumb to not succumb to (breathe out) insecurity, pessimism, pressure and judgement”, aren’t these ads completely disingenuous? When I see the people in the videos I see two people who have chosen truth and self-expression, and aren’t showing any form of insecurity at all. The ads themselves even run counter to the notion of preventing pessimism, pressure, and especially judgement. If anything these commercials are huge examples of judgments being passed on young people in order to put them down and discourage them.
While the 2009 programs seem to be targeted towards reducing the number of teen smokers, the binge drinking campaign is still being promoted on the site’s YouTube channel.
Looking back at the ads, the question arises if the individuals in the ads knew exactly what the campaign was about. I find it hard to believe that two people with such high self-esteem would allow themselves to be used as a metaphor for an unhealthy activity. What I also find interesting is that the 2009 campaign against smoking had a fashion show event where you can obtain temporary tattoos that you’re encouraged to show off, as well as receive discounts at stores for wearing the tattoo. So while in 2008 having a lot of tattoos is equivelant to binge drinking, in 2009 suddenly it’s cool to show off a tattoo, even if it is temporary.
If the comments for the videos on YouTube are any indication, I’m not the only one who finds these ads offensive in they way they portray heavily modified people. It’s a shame that they took this approach because they may not receive the results they intended.
So ModBlog readers, what are your thoughts on this campaign? Is there a big enough cultural difference between how we see these ads, and the target audience would, that our perception of it is skewed? Or did the HPB completely miss the mark, and put out a campaign that will infuriate more people than it could help?