By now most of Singapore would have read about the attention-grabbing marketing stunt cooked up by NTUC Income in collaboration with Mediacorp actress Rebecca Lim. From the moment Rebecca posted that Instagram picture announcing her “retirement”, we’ve seen public opinion swing dizzyingly from shock to sadness, then disgust and outrage (in that specific order).

The initial announcement fooled everyone from Channel NewsAsia to forum members on HardwareZone. In the three days since, Rebecca has deleted the polarising caption, though the photo remains on her grid (she looks good in it, why waste a good post with 12,000 likes?). The Chief Marketing Officer at NTUC Income has also stepped out, holding a press conference to clear the air. Yet the public’s interest/disappointment in both parties remain.

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The photo has garnered over 700+ comments as of Monday, showing an emotionally-charged clash of opinions. Some defended the Star Awards 2015 Best Actress winner, while others called her out on “lying for the sake of money”. While last year’s hot topic during the Chinese New Year was about the upcoming General Elections then, it seems that this year’s dinner conversations are centred on Rebecca and NTUC Income’s faux pas.

Us? We think it’s the best damn marketing strategy we’ve seen so far in 2016.

Yes, this beats even that adorable Valentine’s Facebook album from IKEA. We’ll try to convince you. Think about the grand scheme from the perspective of an emotionless marketing machine that feeds on trending topics and Singapore-based hashtags to predict the next hot topic that will set everyone thinking. From a purely results-driven standpoint, #RebeccaGate has achieved its primary aim. No publicity is bad publicity. The Kardashians and Steven Lim have proven that point.

But no jackpot comes without a gamble, and the risk here lies in the outcry that we’re witnessing right now. Singaporeans and fans feel “cheated” and “betrayed” that Rebecca would do such a thing! Clearly, having a public figure talk about retirement is a personal affront to many; possibly an unconscious grudge borne in response to the CPF system. This brings us to our next point:

She’s talking about planning for retirement, not slimming pills. She’s selling insurance, not questionable drugs. 

Granted, she was paid to do so. Take away the capitalist motives and the underlying product is still of a neutral-to-positive nature. Compare it to the deeply emotive ad for the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) for MediShield Life. Both marketing efforts are similar: relatable medium (Rebecca Lim/elderly grandparents), appeal to the audience’s emotions (shock/nostalgia), and cause or product (insurance/insurance). Why the flood of negativity then? Was Rebecca Lim hawking an illicit good? Are you her manager for being so concerned about her “image”?

Besides, part of the whole ruse depended on the assumption that many of her fans recognise her good sense and cleverness. Rebecca Lim’s down-to-earth, sensible character, the one that endeared her to fans (the “Beckers”), is the same one that is at odds with the perceived absurdity of this whole saga. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, one that’s too wise to accept deals without a winning endgame. Her fans would have known that.

So talk all you want, but talent still wins and always will. She’ll recover from this, and NTUC Income will find more creative ways to get artistes to announce their retirement.

Because at the end of the day, a sparkly Star Award just can’t pay the bills.

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