Saturday, 30 May 2015

[Today] Protect founding fathers’ names from exploitation

I refer to the report “Government looking to enact laws to protect name, image of Lee Kuan Yew” (May 23, online). It is time to enact laws on the use of our founders’ names for commercial gain or in advertisements.
For example, on May 29, 2010, NTUC Income placed a newspaper advertisement with a picture of Dr Goh Keng Swee in conjunction with its 40th anniversary. This was well intentioned: To honour his contribution towards the setting up of the insurer.
However, the use of a founder’s name and image with a company logo displayed conspicuously should be discouraged. There is a commercial factor in drawing customers through tributes to our founders; it could be deemed as indirect commercial gain.
In the case above, NTUC Income is just like any other insurer competing for business. Moreover, there is no level playing field because other insurers do not have such marketing “tools”.
Fast forward to March, and we had BreadTalk apologising for using Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s name to promote its buns in the name of charity (“BreadTalk apologises for Lee Kuan Yew commemorative bun”; March 25, online).
Besides publicising its brand in that manner, which was unacceptable, there was the question of preserving Mr Lee’s dignity. Using his image and name for a consumable item was a reprehensible, humiliating public relations stunt.
The Government would be right to introduce any legislation to protect the dignity and esteem of Singapore’s founding fathers, respected symbols who must not be treated as tradeable commodities for use in advertisements or other channels to promote sales.
To protect their names and images from commercial exploitation would be a step in the right direction.