Industry Leaders Slam Singo’s Ben Roberts-Smith Apology Ad As ‘Racist’ & ‘An Awful Stain On Our Industry’

Industry Leaders Slam Singo’s Ben Roberts-Smith Apology Ad As ‘Racist’ & ‘An Awful Stain On Our Industry’

Industry leaders said the language used in the ad’s copy, including terms like ‘yellow peril’, has racist undertones and could fall foul of the AANA’s code of ethics.

Media tycoon John Singleton’s full-page ad in The Australian has come under attack from industry leaders. It follows recent news that he recently separated from his seventh wife.

The ad, titled “An apology to Ben Roberts-Smith. From a coward” defends the former SAS soldier’s actions in the heat of battle and thanks Seven West Media chair Kerry Stokes, who stumped up the money for his failed defamation suit against Nine’s newspapers, which published a scathing investigation into Roberts-Smith alleged war crimes.

Written in the form of an ode, the copy said: “We, the great majority envy your courage, strength, commitment and the torture you must now endure. We are in your debt. Thank you Ben Roberts-Smith. Thank Christ for Kerry Stokes.”

The ad also takes a swipe at Nine’s reporters Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie, who broke the story about Roberts-Smith’s war crimes in Afghanistan. 

The ad (pictured below) stated: “The media just turn to gossip. They grab hold of an illegal leak from a public servant. They target big, tough, impressive VC winner…not given to showing any public exterior.”

‘an awful stain on our industry’

Thinkerbell’s national chief thinker Adam Ferrier told B&T: I applaud people speaking up for what they believe in, including Singo. I’ve always admired his ability to simultaneously not give a shit about what others think, and at the same time succeed on his terms. 

“However, in this instance, I find his public stance in support of Ben Roberts-Smith in the face of all evidence and court findings deplorable. Just because someone joins the Army doesn’t make them a good bloke or free from the morals and behaviours of a civil society.” 

Innocean CEO Jasmin Bedir told B&T that she was “furious” about the ad.

“This is a case of ‘angry man yells at cloud’. It’s a love letter from one privileged man to another one in a public forum which tries to undermine what the courts have decided. It’s not only in bad taste, I don’t think it would pass ad standards. It’s really sad because it shows on full display what people feel is wrong with our industry,” Bedir said.

“There should be a much bigger outcry about this than there is but nobody is going to say anything about it because you don’t upset the old boys club. I’m sick of this…it’s an awful stain on our industry.”

It’s not just the defence of Roberts-Smith’s alleged war crimes that has been questioned by industry leaders; the use of “racist language” has also raised eyebrows.

In particular, the ad stated: “Now it’s yellow peril time again. Bring in China. We follow blindly against China. We buy anything from them and they don’t buy anything from us. Did it hurt them? No. 

“But us? Cosy us plenty. It killed our biggest export earners: iron ore, gas, wine, agriculture. Madness.”

TrinityP3 founder and global CEO Darren Woolley told B&T that raising the China issue and using the term ‘yellow peril’ harked back to the era of White Australia policy, and at a time when so many Australians are either born overseas or descend from Asia.

“It reminds me of what the Labor politician Arthur Calwell said in the late-40s that ‘two Wongs don’t make a white’,” Woolley said.

The Australian has the right to run whatever ad they like, and The Press Council is basically a toothless tiger, but I wonder if the Ad Standards Board has a say in this?

“The AANA’s code of ethics clearly states that no advertising should vilify a group of people based on race. Raising the ‘yellow peril’ is vilifying a large percentage of the Australian population.”

Woolley reckons that Singleton was probably motivated to run the ad as a favour to his friend Kerry Stokes, and that the media baron is “beyond caring” of any consequences and how the controversy might impact “brand Singo”.

“They’re all mates, these old white guys. They used to have lunch all the time at Otto’s restaurant and they’re and he probably feels like he is making a grand gesture of support,” he added.

Another senior adland executive, who commented anonymously, was blunt in her assessment of the ad: “If ever you’re worried about that time you publicly embarrassed yourself, just remember, at least you didn’t take out a full page, racist, bootlicking print ad defending a war criminal.”

News Corp Australia has been approached to comment on reactions to the ad.

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