Zomato pulls down 'offensive, sexist' ads after outcry on Facebook, Twitter

Published On: 01, Dec 2017 | Source: business-standard.com

discovery and food ordering platform is withdrawing its latest outdoor advertising campaign after stirring up a storm on social networks and for being offensive and sexist.

The advertisement plays with the short forms of misogynistic Hindi expletives MC-BC, translating it to “mac n’ cheese” and “butter chicken”. Ever since the campaign went live earlier this week, the company has been drawing flak as people didn’t seem to find the puns humorous.

The billboard in question has been rolled out as part of a larger campaign that is executed by Madison and Outdoor Advertising Professionals (OAP). The rest of the ads use catchy slogans, which play on current affairs, or Bollywood cinema such as “acche din, are finally here” and “oonchi hai building? Lift teri band hai? We’ll still deliver in time”.

Experts agree with critics of Zomato’s latest ad campaign, saying it was done in bad taste and possibly with the intent of stirring up a storm on public forums. Some of them said they actually enjoyed the rest of the campaign except for the offensive MC-BC creative.

“There is increased sensitivity in society that has finally come in, but these guys are saying let’s throw that away and go back to square one. They’re legitimising that this is how Delhi speaks and it’s perfectly fine, let’s continue speaking like that,” said Karthik Srinivasan, national lead for social at Ogilvy.

Photo courtesy: @madovermarketing handle
He adds that Zomato’s intention seems to aim at provocating, which they have been successful at. However, he points out that it’s wrong for a brand like Zomato, which is a market leader, to think any publicity is good publicity because polarising an audience could backfire and lead to loss of customers.

“A market leader needs to be a little more sensitive. There are so many ways to provoke and this brings to the fore a lack of imagination. Especially, when your audience is young and more sensitive to issues, an ad like this reflects very badly on the brand,” added Srinivasan.

said there was no malice and did not have any agenda to stir a controversy. Instead, it was intended to highlight wordplay in such outdoor campaigns.

“The response to our OOH campaign has been largely positive with most people saying that we brought back the lost art of wordplay for OOH ads as opposed to going with the current trends of brand ambassadors and visuals,” a spokesperson said in a statement. 

“Having said that, some people were offended by one of the creatives used as a part of the campaign and felt it was in poor taste and wasn’t something they expected from a home-grown brand like ours. It's certainly not something we would intentionally want to do. There was neither any malice or disrespect intended, nor any agenda to stir up a controversy," the spokesperson added.

This is the second time has found itself in hot soup over its advertising campaigns. In December 2015, social networks were on fire over Zomato’s decision to begin advertising on some of the world’s largest adult websites.

The company even followed up the campaign, which largely went under the radar, with a blog post boasting about how it had witnessed a spike in late-night orders after it began advertising on porn websites. The backlash had forced the company to pull the plug on the campaign and issue a public apology.