SINGAPORE — An ad campaign warning of the perils of gambling that began as just another bland public service announcement by Singapore’s government has turned into fodder for international mockery, and left authorities scrambling after Germany’s World Cup victory.
In the TV version of the ad, which debuted last month when the World Cup kicked off, a sullen young boy named Andy tells his friends in the playground that his father had used all of Andy’s savings to bet on Germany to win the tournament.
Sad piano music is cued and a message is displayed: “Often, the people who suffer from problem gambling aren’t the gamblers.”
The PSA wasn’t lampooned until Germany won its first match against Portugal, 4-0. As the World Cup progressed and the Germans looked more and more like favorites to win the title, the mocking of the ad intensified, with many wondering if little Andy and his dad were going to make a killing on the bet.
After Germany’s stunning 7-1 semifinal drubbing of Brazil, the ad prompted ridiculing on “The Tonight Show.”
“Cheer up, kid, your dad bet on Germany,” host Jimmy Fallon said. “He’s so rich you don’t even need to go to college anymore.”
Even Singapore’s usually stoic politicians could not resist taking a few pot shots. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin wrote on Facebook: “Looks like the boy’s father who bet all his savings on Germany will be laughing all the way to the bank!”
But Singapore’s National Council for Problem Gambling refused to back down and withdraw the campaign, which also included radio spots, posters around the country and banners on the council’s website. In a statement, it said selecting Germany “injected a sense of realism in our messaging, since no one will bet on a potentially losing team.”
On Monday, following Germany’s 1-0 win over Argentina in the final, Facebook pages were full of congratulatory messages for Andy and his dad. A few suggested the two were off to Germany for a holiday, while another showed Andy wearing a suit, accompanied by the caption, “Who’s your daddy?”
The council, meanwhile, rushed to post a new ad on its website. It features Andy’s friend asking him: “Your dad’s team won. Did you get your savings back?”
Andy replies: “No, Dad never stops … he wants to bet one more time.”
Singapore has a strong gambling culture, even though it only opened its casinos in recent years. Government-run sports betting and the lottery are hugely popular in the tightly controlled Southeast Asian city-state of 5.4 million people.