Jojo Liamzon, Advertising and Promotions Manager at Suyen Corporation, the company that owns Bench, talked to Style Bible about the controversy surrounding their billboard featuring gay couple, Preview creative director Vince Uy, and boyfriend Niño Gaddi, and the allegations spurred by the act of defacement from various camps. Namely: that the Ads Standards Council (ASC) had ordered the painting over of the couple's interlocked hands; and that Bench had orchestrated the defacement of the couple’s hands as a marketing ploy.
Mr. Liamzon clarified that when the billboard was unveiled last February 11, the hands in the image of Uy and Gaddi were already blackened out by their printer to comply with the material submitted by Bench to the Ad Standards Council. The image submitted by Bench and approved by the Ad Standards Council for the Edsa-Guadalupe billboard showed the couple with their hands blurred.
Mr. Liamzon also explained that the image going around social media, where the hands of the couple are clearly seen, is a rendering of all four billboards in the campaign and was seeded by Bench on social media and given to publications, including Style Bible, as part of its PR campaign.
Bench’s statement, delivered by Mr. Liamzon himself to the Summit Media headquarters, reads:
"When billboard images for Bench's 'Love All Kinds of Love' campaign were submitted to the governing body, the company received concern over the photo of Vince Uy with his arm around partner Niño Gaddi, hands clasped in a show of affection. Prior, the governing body had rejected photos of the couple looking lovingly at one another, citing ‘traditional Filipino family values’ as a reason.
The approved version with hands obscured is the billboard that Bench had printed and that now stands on EDSA. A digital mockup of the EDSA billboard showing the unobscured hands of Uy and Gaddi had been disseminated to press and is what likely led the public to assume the billboard had been defaced.
Despite its deviation from the original idea, Bench decided to move forward with the billboard showing obscured hands because the company believes that its message was still intact: that of well represented diversity, and the message that same-sex relationships are just as substantial and valid as heterosexual romantic love and familial love. We respect ASC’s commitment to ‘adhering to prevailing moral and social standards of the country’ and salute them for upholding their beliefs. However, we were resolute at championing a cause we strongly believe in.
The thrust of the campaign had always been inclusion, acceptance, and respect. We saw no better time for it than the week of Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love. We still stand by a message of unity, not division. And while the message has been compromised to an extent, the most important thing is that at least, for the duration that the billboards are up, the voices, lives, and loves of the LGBT community are unavoidable and undeniable on an avenue Filipinos from all walks of life cross everyday.
After having discovered the governing body’s clarified stance recently, where its director was quoted in Rappler to be accepting of Uy and Gaddi’s billboard, Bench would like to propose a replacement of the couple’s current billboard with that of the original image, hands clasped.”
The Ad Standards Council is expected to air their official statement on TV Patrol later.