Singapore Girl in Blue

on Saturday, February 17, 2007

Here's a little insight into my thought processes; What shall I post? --> My last post was "Feeling blue" --> Okay, I'm still not quite out of the blues. --> Need to project a more positive attitude. --> Blue doesn't have to be bad or sad. --> What is blue and positive? --> Blue accentuated photography (like in previous post) can be beautiful. --> What photo series is both blue and beautiful? Something I like. --> Singapore Girl.

"Singapore Girl --- You're a great way to fly". This advertisement campaign started in 1972 at the very inception of Singapore International Airlines or SIA. It has been one of the most successful branding exercises in Asia and after 35 years, one of the longest running advertising campaigns. Wonderfully taken and quality photographs of beautiful girls in kebaya with warm, welcoming smiles against fantastic and sometimes fantastical backgrounds were a regular theme and blue was a prominent colour. It won many fans, who like me, collected their postcards and calenders just to admire the photography. "Singapore Girl" would come to mean more than that though and become an icon of both an airline and a country.

"The Singapore Girl
The personalization of the Singapore Airlines brand is the mixed male and female cabin crew, where especially the flight stewardesses commonly referred to as Singapore Girls have become very well-known. SIA engaged French haute-couture designer Pierre Balmain at the inauguration of the airline in 1972. He designed a special version of the Malay sarong kebaya as the uniform which later became one of the most recognized signatures of the airline. A very designated and visual part of the entire brand experience.

The Singapore Girl strategy turned out to be a very powerful idea and has become a successful brand icon with an almost mythical status and aura around her. The Singapore Girl encapsulates Asian values and hospitality, and could be described as caring, warm, gentle, elegant and serene. It is a brilliant personification of SIA's commitment to service and quality excellence. The icon has become so strong that Madame Tussaud's Museum in London started to display the Singapore Girl in 1994 as the first commercial figure ever.

Singapore Airlines also runs one of the most comprehensive and rigorous training programs for cabin and flight crew in the industry to make sure the SIA brand experience is fully and consistently delivered.

The social status of the Singapore Girl has also reached near-celebrity in Asia. This has allowed Singapore Airlines to be highly selective in the recruiting process for talent which has added further to the strength of the brand icon and the myth around it. "
(Extracted from

Last month, SIA announced that it was possibly bringing to an end their 35 year relationship with Batey Ads and invited other ad agencies to submit proposals and make bids for the future. This sparked speculation that the "Singapore Girl" may fade into history.

Critics say that "Singapore Girl" has gone on too long, that it is sexist and dated. The image projected of the "sub-servient Asian woman stereotype" is offensive according to several women's groups.

Supporters, of which there are many, counter by saying that it is actually a celebration of womanhood and represents qualities of warmth and hospitality. They also note the success of the campaign and urge SIA "not to fix what ain't broke". When news of the possible change of ad agency was announced, more than 3000 emails from around the world was sent within two days in support of continuing the "Singapore Girl".

What would be your advice to Singapore Airlines?


Dave said...

Hey, I would fly Singapore Airlines anywhere in the world if she were on the plane! :-)

Hope you start feeling "real good" real soon!

daysgoby said...

I've never understood why celebrating beautiful women (as in this case, where none of them are scantily dressed and/or brandishing horsewhips) is so often considered demeaning to women... does being a liberated woman mean being ugly and projecting no warmth and sparkle?

Dave said...

In regards to daysgoby's comment which I do respect, I don't think that the airline is celebrating women in their ads. I think that they are usung them to sell seats. To me, this makes them an object... which they are really not.

If all it was a celebration of women then why not choose an unattractive women? Why do they always choose an attractive one?

As the saying goes... sex sells. Is this what women want? I don't think so. I believe times are changing. :-)

Janice Thomson said...

I agree with Dave on this one...though I do remember as a young girl admiring all the beautiful women on the back page of magazines that had the "Breck" shampoo ads...interestingly enough you never hear much about Breck shampoo anymore since they quit doing that...sad that it's that way isn't it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

their service more than matches their image. Although Malaysia has its own airlines, I always fly SIA if I have the chance.

Judging from your initial comments, the ad campaign has its desired impact on you.

I'm glad you think this way. I think most women would not be offended because the subjects were treated with a certain respect. In fact they were almost placed on pedestals. I take it as a "yes" to continuing with Singapore Girl which allows me to keep collecting the photos,cards and calenders.

dave II,
Of course, you do have a point. I embarassingly confess that the pictures would not appeal as much if the girls weren't pretty. Does that make me a supporter of the sexist agenda?

I guess you and dave are right that the core motive in any ad is sales. Nevertheless, I think the Singapore Girl series projects a wholesome image as compared to the anorexic, scantily-clad and sleazy images in many ads today. In the end, art is also about beauty, isn't it?

Josie said...

Gosh, what a dilemma. I agree with Dave, and I also agree with Daysgoby. I guess Singapore Airlines should follow the example of the Dove soap people and use "real" women. Beauty does come in many sizes and shapes, and definitely in both genders. Times are changing.


Anonymous said...

Well I finally got around to coming over and checking you out. Glad I did. I'll have to come back when I'm not so hungry and pilfer through you older posts.

I like Signopore Airlines and flew with them to India to Study Social and Enviromental justice in India for a month. I thought it was a great airline for such a long flight.

I really don't mind that they use attractive flight attendants to sell seats. We're all commodities to some extent and I don't think they are projecting these women in a degrading way.

We do not have enough Asian models in the U.S. and I think it is a real shame because we have a large Asian population here, why aren't they better represented in media and advertising, or the Hispanic people for that matter>

Is are only view of them in the U.S. to be that of housekeepers and day laborers workers?

On the other side,
You ahouls come into my shade of blue, it's warm and fuzzy here.

Jocelyn said...

The ads you've shown don't bother me. But the larger question is whether the company's sales are dropping; then I could see why they'd want to freshen things up.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I haven't seen the Dove commercials but since I am desperate, I am assuming your vote is "yes, let the squirrel continue his hobby of collecting pretty pictures in blue." Thank you. I so love the process of electronic democracy!

Welcome and thanks for visiting. I appreciate your "yes vote". As to the lack of Asian models, I suspect there is a certain perception of beauty or even of the perfect spokesperson features within the advertising industry. In Malaysia, if unregulated, the ad agencies prefer the Pan-Asian -European look (i.e. models of mixed Asian-Caucasian parentage). Ad agencies tend to chose based on the preference of the largest population segment even when they are far from being the majority. Those of us who are wiser (like josie) realise that beauty lies in the spread of diversity that is life.

Thanks for the invite to visit your sites, they are great. I recommend them to everyone.

Thanks for another "yes vote". SIA continues to be a market leader in the airlines sector but conventional wisdom is that when a brand goes on too long, it begins to make less of an impact and that it is wise to keep things fresh with a new idea.

HeiressChild said...

hi LGS,

you're over here feeling "blue," and i'm on my blog feeling "blah."
i wonder if you mix "blue" and "blah" together, what you would have--blueblah? hmmmm, would make a nice song or something.

anyhoo, i belong to this website called "clubmom," for moms, yes, that's right. so this one lady writes children's books, and just finished one called "scaredy squirrel." real cute book about bravery. anyhoo, when i saw it, i thought about you; here's the link in case you want to check it out:

i do hope you're feeling more in the yellow today, for sunshine.


CSL said...

These aren't "celebrations of womanhood," but they aren't horrifyingly objectifying women either. What they are doing is using attractive people in an irrelevant way to get your money. I've seen far, far worse and I wouldn't have pegged these as too sexist. But, on principal, I don't like that womena are so often used to sell things.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

The "Blah-Bues" has definite possibilities. It's like the Blues but even worse!!! Let's both embrace our Blah-Blues and drag them into the sunshine.

I guess the reason they use women to sell things is that men are incredibly easily misled.

Molly said...

It seems to me that these Singapore Girls are fantastic representatives of their country. What's wrong with that? It also seems that the airline could update the ads without altogether changing them...

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

thanks for the yes vote. I declare the yes vote the winners.

Samantha Tan said...

I think that the "Singapore Girl" is a very successful branding/PR campaign and if it's working, why change it?
I grew up admiring these women, they work hard for it too!! they go through tough training.. and i when i come across a photo of my cousin (who was a singapore girl) i smile to myself
and why do people assume "real women" have to be ugly? or fat? or scarred? like those dove campaigns.. now that's stereotyping and being prejudice.. so if you aren't stunning you have to be ugly? so you can't just be average?
if fashion companies start using average looking people with average bodies, they won't SELL their product!!

GERALD said...

Just some info. All the girls in the SIA ads, are bona fide SIA girls; no models were used.

To those who find such ads sexist and demeaning; why do health magazines use models with wash-board abs, or why do female mags use only good looking models?

I think it's just to attract (I believe that's why the term "attractive" is used on some ppl)

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