If you drive past Jalan Maarof in Bangsar and Jalan Dutamas in Mont Kiara last week, you probably have seen digital billboard ads for Sugarbook, an online dating site that promotes Sugar Daddy dating. After the ads went live last week, many had taken notice and have reported the ad to Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).
As a result, the City Hall had ordered a takedown of the ads which were deemed obscene and it does not conform with social norms. The digital billboards belong to Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP) and are operated by “Out of Home”.
According to DBKL’s press statement, they have received a number of complaints when the ads went viral on social media. They added that the ad copy was not approved by DBKL and YWP, and they have ordered an immediate removal from the LED billboard.
Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan which own the billboard placements has confirmed that the ads were removed as of 9.45pm last night. They have also contacted the billboard operator and have issued them a warning with a show-cause letter.
Sugarbook Founder and CEO, Darren Chan has defended its outdoor ad campaign. He clarified that his platform offers freedom for people to find want they want in an ideal relationship and he insists that Sugar babies are not illegal sex workers. The CEO also says that the ban is unjust and it undermines the freedoms and liberty of Malaysian people.
Below is his statement that was published on Facebook:
In light of the public’s concern over our billboard, we hope you understand that we built Sugarbook to empower women by giving them a dating platform to choose freely what they want in an ideal relationship, without being scrutinized. Women empowerment is about elevating women by increasing the capacity for them to be able to choose freely. The keyword here is “choice” and Sugarbook is about providing our people that precise choice.
Sugar Babies are not illegal sex workers. They do not trade their bodies for monetary value. They are real people from all walks of life, e.g. struggling single mothers, housewives, widows, and divorcees.
While we believe the public’s intentions are good, it would be unjust to have us banned. Ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the freedoms and liberty of the Malaysian people.
When the ads went live last week, Darren had shared on Facebook that they have tried to keep their message as subtle as possible. He added that his team were going back and forth negotiating with their media publishers and constantly making design changes to make the Sugarbook ads possible.
Despite the removal, it appears that Sugarbook has gained the publicity it wanted in the first place. Not only it has generated conversation on social media but the removal order by DBKL was also covered by most mainstream news outlets.