UPDATE (6:53 PM): The founder and CEO of SugarBook, Darren Chan has reached out and provided the company’s side of the story. We’ve also included a remark from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Read further for more details.
ORIGINAL STORY (4:04 PM):
Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) has recently ordered the removal of advertisements by an app called SugarBook from LED billboards at Bangsar and Bukit Kiara. The directive was issued by DBKL after the advertisements went viral earlier this week.
According to the statement released by DBKL, the adverts which were deemed by many as lewd and suggestive didn’t receive authorization from the authority. In fact, even the owner of the billboard, Yayasan Wilayah Perseketuan (YWP), was not informed of the adverts by the billboard operator, Out of Home.
DBKL in principal agreed with the majority of public consensus that the SugarBook advertisements were not suitable for Malaysia. Hence, the removal order was issued to both YWP and Out of Home which shouldn’t be much problem as they were shown on electronic billboard.
In case you wondering what is the SugarBook is all about, it is a dating platform that focused on mutually beneficial relationship which has also been referred to as “Sugar Daddy arrangement” by the company. The platform was created right here in Malaysia by local techprenuer, Darren Chan.
UPDATE (6:53 PM):
The founder and CEO of SugarBook, Darren Chan have e-mailed us this statement in regards to its controversial advertorials:
We’re a small startup focused on tech and applications.
In regards to the approval of billboard – The advise given to us by our ad publishing company was that our ads were approved, so we went with it. We were led to believe that this approval, is the only approval needed to proceed.
As such, it is clear that we were wrongly advised.
Darren has also provided us with scanned copies of the said approvals which came from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP):
Meanwhile, the Director-General of DBP, Abang Sallehuddin Abg. Shokeran has also commented on this issue, according to a report by Malaysiakini:
It’s correct that we inspected (the ad copy), we approved ‘di sinilah bertemunya yang cantik dan yang berjaya’ (Here is where the beautiful and successful meet).
We approved it based on the (Bahasa Malaysia) language. We did not approve the English text. We also do not know the context, we do not know if it is an ad, or a book.
Based on the statements above, there seemed to be some miscommunications going on. While we are not familiar with DBKL’s billboard policy, it seems like SugarBook’s adverts have bypassed DBKL which is rather odd to us as logically, shouldn’t the local authority have a look first before approving any billboard adverts?
On a side note though, regardless of your opinion regarding SugarBook’s modus operandi, this incident has certainly provided a lot of attention to the dating platform. Their adverts might have been taken down but surely, SugarBook still managed to gain something our of this incident.