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SINGAPORE – Preetipls questions ShopBack’s Indian-inspired ad: “Why is the guy not Indian?”

She has raised this question befor

Obbana Rajah THE INDEPENDENT SG Thu, April 8, 2021

Photo: YouTube screengrab

SINGAPORE – Local YouTuber Preetipls has slammed a Shopback ad on TikTok showing Bollywood-style dancing.

In a YouTube video titled “An Indian Person (Me) Reacts to Shopback’s TikTok ‘Indian’ Ad,” Preetipls asks, “Why is one person (of the majority race) making money off caricatures of the minority races?”

The short ShopBack advertisement on TikTok shows a group of dancers clad in Indian ethnic costumes dancing to a tune supposed to resemble Bollywood music.

But Preetipls asks, “If you were going to put someone to sing and dance in an Indian style or Indian-inspired way, why is the guy not Indian?”

ShopBack also had a longer advertisement that ran and featured brand ambassador and local comedian Kumar and TikTok influencer Kevin Tristan dancing to the same beat.

Preetipls said ShopBack could have at least included one Indian person, Kumar, in the TikTok advertisement as well if it was Indian-inspired.

But Preetipls did not think the dance moves were “Indian inspired” as they “definitely don’t look like any traditional Indian dance moves”.

“I’m just very confused”, she added in her 10-minute clip on Tuesday (Apr 6).

Netizens took issue with the TikTok advertisement as ShopBack’s marketing collaterals showed no themes related to Indian culture and heritage —  no Indian connection at all except the brand ambassador Kumar.

Preetipls also took issue with the words, “Shopback pays me to shop”, heard on the Tiktok video. Shopback did not pay customers, she said, but only offered a discount.

In her video, she said:

“When we talk about race in Singapore, people constantly miss the point. So, the issue with the brownface ad, there were several issues to it. But a very huge personal issue I had with it as an Indian person was that why is a non-Indian person making money off the caricatures of the main four races in Singapore when he only belongs to one of them?”

There has been controversy over racial depictions also in the past.

A controversy erupted in 2019 over a NETS E-Pay ad featuring

Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew found himself in the middle of a controversy when he played an Indian man, a Malay woman and a Chinese woman in a NETS E-Pay ad, which was deemed racially offensive.

Chew himself apologised, saying,”I feel terrible,” on August 7, 2019. There were also apologies from NETS, Havas Worldwide, which made the ad, and The Creative Agency, which engaged Chew.

The ad was in poor taste but did not breach the Internet Code of Practice, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

However, the controversy intensified when YouTuber Preeti Nair, known as Preetipls, along with her brother, up-and-coming rap singer Subhas Nair, released a profanity-laced video in response to the NETS advertisement.

The Nairs’ video, “K Muthusamy”, added fuel to the fire, was widely condemned, forcibly taken down from all social media platforms, and was investigated by the police for its “offensive content.”

As for Shopback, it is a Cashback site in APAC that “powers smarter purchase decisions for consumers”, says its website.

When consumers make online purchases through the Shopback website, it returns a portion of the money spent. It adds that it acts as a gateway for online merchants, where it would earn a commission for each purchase made via ShopBack, and that commission amount is given back to our customers in a form of cashback.

TISG has reached out to ShopBack for comment and clarification.


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