Blog: Unilever, Ferrero under fire for advertising campaigns

Michelle Russell | 3 September 2013

Unilever and Ferrero have become the latest firms to come under fire for launching controversial advertising campaigns.

Unilever's South African ad shows a bullet with the words "Uhh dad I'm gay" shooting towards a heart made of china. A strapline next to the Flora logo reads: "You need a strong heart today".

Ferrero's German TV advert, for its Ferrero Küsschen, or 'Little Kisses' product, was timed to coincide with the German political elections and featured the slogan "Germany votes White".

Both ads have provoked angry reactions in the respective countries with furious Germans comparing Ferrero's ad to "propaganda for Germany's far right, anti-immigrant NPD party".

On the brand's Facebook page, one contributor writes: "I hope the advertisers behind this dumb campaign get a chocolate kiss stuck in their throats, and there aren't any Nazis around to dislodge it."

Unilever, on the other hand, received criticism from UK-based gay rights group Stonewall, which described the advert as "offensive and inappropriate".

Unilever has since withdrawn the advert, which it said was prepared by an external agency in South Africa and not approved by the company. It concurred that the ad was "offensive and unacceptable".

Ferrero has also since pulled its ad, emphasising it is "strictly against any form of xenophobia, right-extremism or racism".

It's not surprising the ads have been met with controversy, particularly given Unilever is known for its LGBT-friendly brands and campaigns including Ben & Jerry's, which produced its own brand of marriage equality ice cream, 'I DOugh, I Dough'. South Africa also has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, recognising gay rights.

However, one commentator sums it up well: "Oh the old 'agency produces offensive ad; client disowns ad; agency apologises; everyone gets buckets of free PR' trick".



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