Hong Kong sanitiser brand Mr.Expan recently rolled out a series of ads with an LGBTQ- theme set to run from mid August 2021 to end of September 2021. Unfortunately, the campaign was recently criticised by a lawmaker due to its LGBTQ-related theme on 27 August 2021, which Mr.Expan addressed through a post issued on Facebook within a few hours, to publicly defend the brand's stance on LGBTQ-related issues.

The ad first made its appearance through Facebook on 10 August 2021 where Mr.Expan published an image along with a  post stating its support of the LGBTQ community. The brand expressed that many members from LGBTQ community have been facing pressures exerted by people with misconception and bias. In the ad, Mr. Expan calls the misconceptions and biases around the LGBTQ community as "viruses" of society. It then says that given it is a santiser brand, it doesn't condone the existence of any form of viruses - including the "bias virus". 

"We believe that our friends from the LGBT community will not be threatened by the 'bias virus' one day, and will see the rainbow in the sky," the post wrote. 

Mr.Expan brand then carried forth will the roll out of several other image based Facebook posts featuring real-life couples from the LGBTQ+ communities to introduce the products.  Taking the campaign offline, Mr.Expan also rolled out OOH campaigns through ad placements on bus exteriors.

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However, these ads caught the attention of lawmaker Junius Ho, who on 27 August criticised the ad on his Facebook page. He said, "Rolling out ads to promote homosexuality is a type of virus." He added that many people in Hong Kong are "unknowingly or intentionally" supporting brands (such as Mr. Expan) who "want to make money and sacrifice the overall interest." (登廣告推動同性戀運動的才是病毒。可惜香港仍有很多人是不知不覺,或明知有害,但是利字當頭,與病毒主義同道,把整體利益犧牲!)

Retaliating to Ho's comment, Mr.Expan wrote on its Facebook , “We are convinced that prejudice and discrimination are social viruses. Everyone should do their part to eliminate social fear and discrimination. There are many business brands around the world that work together to combat social prejudice through advertising and speak out for people of different sex orientations. By contrast, advertisements on the theme of gay affirmation are not often seen in Hong Kong.”

It added that a large number of opposing people have been attacked but the brand is not afraid of taking a stance. Meanwhile, in a statement to  MARKETING-INTERACTIVE , a spokesperson from Mr. Expan said that the brand hoped to build up its brand positioning and its support for the LGBTQ community through the campaign, rather than just share its products' functionalities. Through the campaign, the brand wants to build emotional connections with audiences. 

"It's not just multinational corporations to promote LGBTQ. As an SMB, we hope to take the lead and share the responsibility to help the community. As a sanitiser brand, we hope to eliminate viruses, as well as labeling and misconception," the spokesman said. 

In 2019, Cathay Pacific was also caught in a similar position as it launched a rebranding campaign with a new tagline “Move Beyond”, featuring a series of advertisement visuals. One poster showed two males strolling hand in hand along a beach with a line stating “Move Beyond Labels”. It was aimed to highlight the airline’s attitude on diversity and inclusion. However, both the Airport Authority and the MTR Corporation rejected the ad visuals featuring the two men. Meanwhile, other visuals of the airline’s rebrand campaign were kept on display at prime locations across the city. 

The uproar by netizens led to MTR responding to the controversy in a Facebook post, “We note recent public concern over the advertising campaign of an airline. MTR Corporation is unequivocally committed to equal opportunities in all aspects of its business and supports diversity. It does not tolerate any form of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, family status or any other factor.”

The advertising bookings for the MTR network were then handled by French company JCDecaux who originally stated that it was a business decision made in accordance with its procedures, and that it would further consider MTR Corporation’s commitment to equal opportunities and diversity when it considers advertisements in the future.

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