Blog: Marmite ad leaves bad taste with UK viewers

Michelle Russell | 7 August 2013

Unilever has received a backlash from viewers and animal rights campaigners in just 24 hours of viewing its new Marmite advert in the UK.

The premise of the ad, which aired for the first time on Monday, is that owners have neglected their jars of Marmite, which are then rescued by the pseudo inspectors for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals before being re-homed.

Choosing the sensitive subject of neglect is certain to be a risky one and Unilever now faces the possibility the ad could be banned for trivialising such a subject.

The 258 complaints the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received in the 24 hours after its first showing certainly suggest this could be the case - the manufacturer, which trades on the marketing slogan 'Like It, Hate It, Just Don't Forget It' - may have misjudged the response of viewers.

The complainants say it is in poor taste while others maintain it is deeply offensive. Viewers turned to the brand's Facebook page to offer their opinions.

One suggested: "You might think its funny but animal neglect is not at all funny. This ad shows no regard for all those involved with animal welfare and I personally will no longer eat Marmite till this ad is pulled. Show some RESPECT and support for the many animals."

The 'Love it, Hate it' brand, however, garnered an equally positive response to the ad with the critics matched by a deluge of positive comments from viewers who enjoyed the humour and defended what they insisted was a funny message.

"I thought your new advert was the funniest advert for a long time, I have no idea why it received so many complaints, it was brilliant!" one viewer wrote.

A spokesperson for the ASA said the complaints have just been received so no decision on whether it will investigate had yet been taken. "We're currently logging and assessing the complaints," he said.

As the brand suggests, you either 'Love it or Hate it'. Unilever appears to have successfully carried this message through to its television advertising, which certainly appears to have split opinion - as the company may have hoped.

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