Earlier yesterday Rebecca Lim, supposedly one of MediaCorp’s brighter and more popular stars, posted messages on Facebook and Instagram that gave the impression that she was retiring. The “news” was carried on TODAY and Channel News Asia, both of which belong to MediaCorp.
Given that Ms Lim seemed to be in the prime of her career, having just won some major awards in the recent years, her “announcement” that she was “retiring” came as quite a shock. But it turned out that it was a hoax. Or rather, a marketing campaign for some retirement planning thing from NTUC Income.
There was such a hue and cry when people realised that Ms Lim’s “retirement” was fake. CNA and TODAY have since pulled their “reports”. But… you know… Internet. Even after you try to pull the articles… there’s still an online echo (also known as Google Cache…) so… too bad… their mistake for being trigger happy (or desperate for “news”) will kind of live on to haunt them.
I think there are three things that are incredibly stupid about this whole incident: (1) the stupidity of some people’s response, (2) the stupidity of pulling such a stunt to sell something, and (3) the stupidity of the mainstream “news” channels.
Stupidity of some people’s response
Let me first state that I am not saying that the people who responded in the following ways are stupid. It’s just that their response is stupid. Even the smartest people can do stupid things once in a while.
There are people who, after finding out that the whole thing is just a marketing stunt, took to saying that this is a career ending move for Ms Lim. Some called her a bimbo who preys on her fans’ sympathy to fatten her wallet. These responses are stupid. People. It’s show business. She’s an actress.
As a good friend of mine eloquently pointed out: “It does bring to the fore a dearth of a collective sense of humour, total naïveté and lack of a sense of proportion. If someone chooses to stop doing something, then so be it. Thank them for having served well before. Why the big hoo-ha especially since it doesn’t really affect anyone else? If one actress stopping work really affects one’s life so much then one needs to get a life.”
“But this showed that there’s a problem with her character!” So it turned out that one of our local celebrities isn’t really a great role model. So it appeared that she wasn’t a paragon of virtue and wisdom. And we are surprised? Oh come on…
Stupidity of pulling such a stunt to sell something
So after all this hoo-ha, how many people actually know what this whole marketing campaign was marketing? It has something to do with retirement, I guess… But I think most people, after hearing Ms Lim say that her earlier “announcement” that she was “retiring” was false, would have only heard “blah blah blah”. And judging by the many comments on her Facebook page, many people would have heard their inner Anger (you know… like the one from Inside Out) screaming: “YOU LIAR! YOU B***H! YOU TOYED WITH MY FEELINGS!!!”
How many people actually heard the message that Ms Lim was trying to convey about retirement planning? And if people don’t even hear that message, how many would have been moved to action by the whole campaign? If not many people are moved by the campaign, then where’s the wisdom of pulling such a stunt?
In fact, some people feel that a company that uses lies to catch attention isn’t trustworthy. They say that they definitely won’t trust such a company with their money nor with helping them plan for their retirement. So it would seem that while this marketing campaign did catch people’s attention, it did so for all the wrong reasons, and instead of helping to convert more people into customers, it turned people against the company. Worse, it made some people advocate against that company!
Stupidity of mainstream “news” channels
It’s one thing for ordinary people, and even bloggers and social “influencers” to have been taken in by Ms Lim’s “announcement”. After all, most of us aren’t professional journalists. We don’t have the training, time, resources, and channels to investigate and verify a piece of news.
But TODAY and CNA… supposedly credible and timely sources of news… run and staffed by supposedly trained and competent journalists and reporters… I’m sure that they should do a basic fact check before running the story. And for goodness sake, Rebecca Lim is a MediaCorp artiste. Same parent company. Also can’t bother to fact check? Just simply copy and paste what she posted on her Facebook and pass it off as “news”? Wow.
This is almost as bad as the States Times Review claiming that SBS Transit made $1.02 billion in profit (they didn’t, the made $1.02 billion in revenue, but only $16.7million in profit). Such lazy and sloppy journalism. No sensibility checks at all. As my good friend (same as the one who made the above comment) said: “With such an unthinking media, what hope have we got for the audience?”
Let’s stop doing stupid things so that we get a better media diet
I think we, as an audience, need to let media and people in charge of marketing know that we won’t stand for such stupidity. We need to remove such stupid content from our media diet. That said, we should do it in a proportional way. Rationally. Cooly and calmly. We deserve a better quality media diet. But to do that, we need to be a smarter audience too.
[Featured image: screen shot of Rebecca Lim’s video announcing that her earlier “announcement” that she was “retiring” is fake]