Social media (and society) was abuzz when news broke out that Bench released a series of billboards along EDSA Guadalupe showing “all kinds of love.” In the clothing brand’s latest campaign, four billboards showed couples: one featured actress Gloria Romero and her grandson Chris Gutierrez, Solenn Heussaff and Nico Bolzico, Preview magazine creative director Vince Uy and boyfriend Nino Gaddi, and makeup artist Ana Paredes and interior designer girlfriend Carla Pena.
Suddenly, the billboard featuring Vince and his boyfriend Nino had a black smudge covering their clasped hands, and the blame game began. The story has been so confusing that we decided to collect the official statements of Bench and the Ad Standards Council (ASC), the two entities who have been battling over the issue, and arrange them in a timeline. We’ll let you decide:
Bench’s ad campaign was released online, without the paint job.
The two versions of the campaign: the one on the left shows the couple holding hands, while the one on the right was the billboard seen by Filipinos
People noticed the black smudge covering Vince’s and Nino’s hands clasped together. Conspiracy theories were developed by netizens. Social media influencer Thysz Estrada shared the photo (taken by Niche Dumlao) that became viral, sparking the #painttheirhandsback campaign, where artists like Rob Cham and other creatives found humorous takes on painted hands.
Later on, Bench Advertising and Promotions Manager, Jojo Liamzon told Style Bible (the official website of Preview), “The ad board thinks holding hands is too gay.”
Vince has also released his own statement, saying:
Actually, we don’t know the full story as to how the painting over our hands came about. I do have a feeling that perhaps it was to get AdBoard to give a go signal on the materials.
On the bright side, we are still happy and thankful because, holding hands or not, Bench was still given the opportunity to spread the message of acceptance, tolerance and equality of any kind of love— perhaps slowly, but definitely surely.
The ASC released their statement. In a weird twist of events, they said that they did not vandalize the image. According to Executive Director Mila Marquez:
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.
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.
The approved version of the campaign. Notice the blur?
Bench released their own statement. It turned out that the photo of Vince and Nino holding hands was the second option. The first one was of the couple, looking lovingly at each other. This was rejected by the ASC. According to Jojo:
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.
Jojo also revealed that the photos of the billboard showing them holding hands was only a mock-up sent to the media. As a result, people thought the mock-up was the real thing. It turned out that it was painted right from the start. According to Jojo:
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.
But Bench still put up the billboard even with the hands painted over because they believed the message was still there. Jojo said:
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.
In the end, Bench offered to replace the original image, without the paint, showing Vince and Nino holding hands. There is still no word what will happen next.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below!