Social Media Furore Over #dinerenblanc
What started as a simple case of miscommunication late last week developed into a full-blown PR disaster as netizens in Singapore rallied behind social media influencers who found themselves disinvited from Dîner en Blanc, an exclusive invitation-only picnic party.
Dîner en Blanc (French: Dinner in White) was conceived in 1988 by Francois Pasquier, a Frenchman who wanted to catch up with long lost friends over a picnic in Bois du Boulogne, Paris. His solution for spotting each other in the crowd? White attire. They enjoyed the experience so much that the picnic was repeated every year, growing in size and reach as the years went by.
Essentially a flashmob-esque “chic picnic” dinner party, rules are strict at this event and guests are informed of the secret location only at the last moment. Clad entirely in resplendent white, guests set up white tables, white chairs, white tablecloth and lay out white chinaware, stemware and cutlery. Their 3-course dinner is unpacked from picnic baskets and paired with wine or Champagne. Beer and hard liquor are forbidden at the event. Guests are encouraged to be creative about their menu choices as long as their selections remain tasteful.
Singapore is (was?) slated to hold its first Dîner en Blanc this Thursday. Daniel Ang, a blogger who had been invited to the event, wrote a blog post brainstorming ideas for local dishes that are white to keep to the colour theme, yet incorporate a local flavour to the picnic.
He was asked to remove the post as he was told that the local dishes he suggested were incongruent with the event’s chic image. He declined, and soon found himself, along with other bloggers and social media influencers, dropped from the invitation list a week before the picnic due to “lack of space”.
To add insult to injury, word went around that they had been removed from the invitation list as the organisers did not consider them to be of significant influence. Unfortunately for the organisers, the subsequent blogger activity led to the event becoming the talk of the town, and sadly for all the wrong reasons:
This is bizarre, the uninviting of bloggers by organizers of Diner En Blanc: bit.ly/PBsCLR by
— Daniel Goh (@danielgoh) August 24, 2012
So why did this whole debacle become such a big deal?
The answer lies in culture – a critical driver of social media activity.
If anyone had to use just one word to describe Singaporeans, “foodie” would be the most apt description for a vast majority of the population. Eating is a Singaporean passion, and local hawker fare holds a very special place in almost every Singaporean’s heart.
Second to food, within a wired nation like Singapore, social media is a significant force to reckon with. The social media activity that ensued the withdrawal of the invitations – comprising of 1,392 mentions, 1,200 tweets and 2.3 million impressions – soon escalated into a public relations snafu of epic proportions, resulting in the event’s Facebook page being taken down and an official apology issued on the event page.
The removal of Dîner en Blanc’s Facebook page then became a bone of contention, contributing to the peak in social media activity as conversations around the Dîner en Blanc controversy and the #makanday rival event swirled at about the same time.
If your face is seen at this
#dinerenblanc event, you will probably be labeled a food traitor to Singapore now.
— Kinmun Lee (@mrbrown) August 24, 2012
Despite efforts by Dîner en Blanc to appease netizens, the damage had been done. Over the weekend, lines were drawn on where one’s gastronomic and cultural loyalties lay within this tiny island nation.
The tweet above is by the most influential blogger in Singapore, known by his moniker “mrbrown”, who has over 68,000 followers.
Hey everyone! I propose 30th of Aug, Thursday to be
#MakanDay !!! Our viral picnic no need invite one! Details will follow! #dinerenblanc
— Kinmun Lee (@mrbrown) August 24, 2012
Garnering the most number of retweets at 92 retweets, Singaporeans are now presented with the option of joining a competing event organized to rival Dîner en Blanc on the very same evening. To celebrate the diversity of Singapore’s multi-cultural dining culture, the event is open to all and there are no restrictions over menu choices.
We’ll be keeping our social media monitoring tools on alert to see where the majority of conversation arises on Thursday evening.