By Linus Garg
First publised on 2020-05-28 22:03:46
The water purifier brand Kent (it makes other products also) has landed itself in a soup. It makes dough makers too. Now, to give a Covid-19 twist to its product advertising, the brand has stepped on the class divide toes and angered a whole lot of people.
It dough maker ad, the first slide shows a pair of hands kneading the atta. The tag line says "are you still allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand?" The next slide delivers the obnoxious punch line "her hands may be infected". This clearly shows that the person who wrote the copy was insensitive and then a whole lot of superiors were similarly inclined. None of them could see the obvious bias in singling out the maid for having infected hands. The final slide used the brand ambassadors' (the mother and daughter duo of Hema Malini and Esha Deol) picture to ask people not to compromise on health and purity.
Social media was up in arms against the "classist" advertisement. While it was "disgustingly abhorrent" to some, it was "discriminatory to house helps and offensive" to others. IPS officer Arun Bothra summed it up nicely when he tweeted that "Kent is infected by some impure hearts and unhealthy minds."
The damage control was swift. BJP MP and Kent's long-time brand ambassador Hema Malini tweeted that "views expressed by the recent advertisement of Kent Atta by @KentROSystems do not resonate with my values and are inappropriate, The Chairman has already tendered a public apology for the mistake. I hereby wish to put on record that I respect and stand by all sections of society." Mahesh Gupta, the chairman of Kent tweeted "please accept our sincere apologies for having published the Ad of Kent Atta & Bread Maker. It was unintentional but wrongly communicated and it has been withdrawn. We support and respect all sections of the society." The ad was later withdrawn.
But the damage was done. Many people were of the opinion that they would never buy a Kent product again. With the law having been changed, brand ambassadors are now also responsible for any deviation or offensive messages in advertisements. Hence, celebrities should vet all publicity material before giving their go-ahead. The plea of ignorance will not work. As for Kent, it should first change its ad agency. Next, it should get the new agency to release some social service ads to rectify the damage. It should also donate a substantial sum to some charity that looks after the needs of the house helps. It has a difficult task to win back the customers who have been offended.