Hong Kong’s Airport and Transit System Initially Banned an Ad Featuring a Gay Couple

They reversed the decision after backlash

Cathay Pacific
Headshot of Minda Smiley

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority and its mass transit system, MTR recently banned an ad featuring a gay couple holding hands while walking on the beach. While an ad of this nature wouldn’t turn heads in New York, it caused quite a stir in Hong Kong, where LGBT rights trail behind many Western countries (the city has still yet to legalize same-sex marriage).

The ad in question is part of Cathay Pacific airline’s new “Move Beyond” campaign, a tagline that the brand is describing as a “call to action” that reflects its determination to challenge what is considered standard or expected.

Yet the messaging apparently didn’t go over well with Hong Kong’s airport and subway operators, both of which rejected the ad, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. Both organizations were mum on details as to why the ad was banned, with the MTR placing blame on JCDecaux, its outdoor advertising partner.

In the days since, controversy over their decision to not display the ad has erupted, causing both the Airport Authority and MTR to reverse course. An Airport Authority spokesperson said that it “has informed its agency for handling advertisement applications that the AA deems the visual not in infringement of the AA’s established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal.”

A spokesperson for Cathay Pacific said that although the airline’s current advertisement placements at Hong Kong International Airport and MTR stations will soon come to an end, the company is still “working closely with our production agencies to expedite the display” of the print ad.

Created by Publicis Groupe Hong Kong, the campaign’s full hero ad, below, does not seem to have created any controversy—perhaps due the absence of any same-sex couples during its 80-second run time.

@Minda_Smiley minda.smiley@adweek.com Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.