Banner ad in Jurong advertising body massage for kids startles some members of the public

"Quite unsettling."

Joshua Lee | April 01, 2024, 06:01 PM



If you are feeling uncomfortable seeing this banner advertisement put up in public, you are not alone.

A Reddit forum user, who posted the photo in a thread, called it "quite unsettling".

There are a couple of things about the banner, claimed to be located in Jurong, that make it quite uncomfortable to look at — the biggest being the photos of young girls, seemingly topless, being massaged, as well as the placement of a website address in close proximity to the photos.

Those who saw it were appalled and nonplussed that the design was conceptualised, and passed muster, for it to be put up in public.

One Reddit user even suggested that the person who created the ad wasn't "in tune with today's climate".

Several called for the business to be reported to the authorities.

Others asked if the girls in the photos or their family members were aware that their photos would be used in this manner.

Website address on banner not working, call went unanswered

However, when we called the listed number on Mar. 31, the call went unanswered.

Neither was the website listed on the banner working.

However, a search online led to what is believed to be the business' actual, functioning website.

It's a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and beauty establishment that bears the same name, "Goodlady TCM".

Its listed address is the same one featured on the banner.

The shop offers massages for kids at S$38 per half hour, as promoted in the banner.

Instead of a landline though, the spa's website listed a mobile number, which we texted.

Goodlady TCM physician: Massage for kids "reputable" and done under supervision

The person who responded identified herself as a physician from Goodlady TCM.

She also said she is registered with the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Going by the surname Chen, she said the kids' massage is known as 小儿推拿 (paediatric massage therapy).

It is meant for children between six months and six years old.

"We use soothing massage techniques to improve our children’s health—improving their delicate constitution, balancing yin and yang, and reducing their tendency to fall sick," said Chen.

She went on to explain that the procedure treats digestion problems, such as stomach flu and indigestion, as well as respiratory issues like the common cold and flu, by massaging stomach, spleen, or lung acupoints.

Chen also clarified that the kids' massage at Goodlady TCM is done under the supervision of the child's parent or guardian.

They have to be in the same room physically.

Regarding the advertisement banner, Chen claimed that it was approved by the Jurong-Clementi Town Council.

When asked if she would like to respond to what commenters online have said about the banner, Chen only replied, "不用了" (there's no need).

Is the advertisement indecent?

The Singapore Code of Advertising Practice published by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) states several broad principles that local advertisements should abide by.

According to the code, advertisements that feature children should not exploit their vulnerability.

People should be portrayed in a manner "respectful of their dignity", and ads should not contain anything that is "offensive to the standards of decency prevailing among those who are likely to be exposed to them".

Apart from these, the code offers no guidance on the amount of nudity that is acceptable in advertisements, let alone in those that feature children.

However, it should be noted that the ASAS advises that the spirit, as well as the letter of the law, should be applied in any interpretation of the code.

Legislation-wise, the Massage Establishments Act states that licensed establishments that provide massages are prohibited from putting up "indecent advertisements" as part of the licensing conditions.

ASAS checking with relevant authorities

Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of the ASAS, told Mothership that national legislation and professional codes take precedence over the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.

"As this is the first time the advertisement has been brought to our attention, ASAS is checking with the relevant authorities whether the feedback is within their scope before determining if a review is appropriate," said Ang.

Regarding what is considered "decent" in ads, Ang said that the context of the advertisement is "very important".

"This includes where it is placed and the product or service that is being marketed," he said.

Why not impose hard limits on what is considered "decent" in an ad? For instance, the code could specify that advertisements should not feature more than 50 per cent of the body.

"Hard limits would not work for every situation," said Ang, "and may even be creatively skirted, so they are used only in specific contexts."

"Having a general principle on decency allows marketers the flexibility to market their product appropriately while adhering to the spirit of the code."

Edit: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the landline number listed on the banner was not working. The article has been updated.

Top image credit:  MercuryRyan/Reddit