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Haagen-Dazs: Nothing sweet about it

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Haagen-Dazs: Nothing sweet about it

The embarrassing situation rising out of international ice-cream brand Haagen-Dazs’ promotional campaign for the launch of its first ice-cream store in Delhi must be giving its agency TBWA\India nightmares. Dubbed as misinterpretation of words, the campaign created unwanted controversy for the brand, but what can’t be overlooked is that the furore has helped the brand in garnering unprecedented publicity.

exchange4media spoke to some of the industry people on their thoughts on such acts of oversight that leads to unnecessary controversy.

Prathap Suthan, NCD, Cheil Worldwide, SW Asia

“This definitely is not an unnoticed error or something that went through the system without anyone seeing it. I am sure the creative team did not scheme with the production department and together bribe the security guard outside the Haagen-Dazs parlour to put up the piece at midnight!

I am sure everyone in the system, both sides included, were party to this terribly offensive piece of work and I think both the client and the agency are equally responsible for carrying out this assault on us. Of course, both the heads of these organisations, if they are Indian, would have easily seen through the latent disregard and show of immature thinking that was contained in this communication. To think that inspite of a natural revulsion to this arrogant slant of thinking, if they were able to see a clear purpose and direction, I am afraid both the organisations are in the hands of either ignorance or in the grip of a strange understanding of India.

If there is one thing that we as Indians will not truck with, is an affront on our pride. As it is, we have been at the wrong end of the discrimination stick and it rankles me no end as to how one could have not seen the nerves this route would jangle. No one, not even the most liberal of Indians, have a sense of humour to let go of this blatant insensitivity that the ice-cream company has endorsed. I mean they should have been all the more sensitive to the very nature of this market. I am sure even their security guard would have lost pride on working for an outfit that openly needles his precious Indianness.

I wonder what our hassled Indian students in Australia would feel about the ‘international passports’ route.

This possibly was an attempt to make the brand come through as of ‘global quality’, but what a poor show it’s been! And even if negative publicity was the intent, that should not be at the cost of compromising national pride.

Ideally, the agency’s creative director – one responsible for upholding an unwritten code of conduct – should have used his judgement to anticipate the acidity of the thought. Even if he gave it a go ahead, the planners and servicing ought to have raised flags and then the agency head, who should have seen the repercussions or even sensed the possibility of a backlash, should have thrown it out of the window. Finally, the client and the several filters that would have been employed should have got the alarm bells going instantly.

This was a deliberate attempt to make us smaller than the brand and the brand ought to be publicly penalised as an example for doing what they did. No one is bigger than our pride. That’s our most precious value.

Overall, this has been a catastrophic entry for Haagen-Dazs and I only wish that their minds were as civilised as the ice-cream they were hawking.”

KV Sridhar, NCD, Leo Burnett

“Firstly, according to me this is not a ‘spelling error’. But it is also definitely not done intentionally. The whole campaign is issued with a clear idea of having fun. However, when as advertising professional we need to keep in mind about one’s country culture and sentiments, especially being India. We need to remember that India is very strong when it comes to social activist and NGOs, who like to make a small issue into a fire and obviously that is supported by our very own media. Thus, MNCs and other companies should be very careful doing any campaigns taking into consideration these hic-cups.

As for Haagen-Dazs and TBWA\India, I don’t think that they have created this buzz for any negative publicity. The brand is a well-known international brand and it need not need such silly stunts. As for the negative publicity, in India it is only associated with the Bollywood industry and not advertising industry.”

Satbir Singh, Chief Creative Officer, Euro RSCG

I think neither the client nor the agency started with the intention of hurting sentiments. It’s highly possible that people on both sides were Indians. It seems that in their zealousness to establish the global credentials of the brand, they came up with a stupid piece of creative and rounded it off with a pat on their collective backs.

I am sure it has hurt the brand more than it will hurt the agency that created it. Even I didn’t know which agency handles the business. The public certainly doesn’t. The only way to make sure that such things don’t happen is to make sure more experienced people have a look at what goes out in media.”

Rahul Jauhari, National Creative Director, Pickle Lintas

“Social media has changed everything. But brands are slow to catch on. What I am sure happened as a result of a silly oversight by the agency and the client got magnified in an instant. Yes, it was a silly thing to do. I don’t think the people behind it actually thought it from the angle of the Delhi residents’ mindset. The point? In today’s times, it is even more critical to be conscious of what your brand is saying, because today every consumer is a voice that will be heard, in favour or against what the brand does.

I think Haagen-Dazs was slow to react to the bad press they got. A clarification was in order a lot sooner. But brands are only beginning to wake up to the new media. Things escalate instantly and need to be handled instantly. The responsibility is both the agency’s and the client’s. Today, one wrong tweet can lead to a PR nightmare. Agencies and clients both need to be very wary and very conscious of that. Both need to wake up, fast.”


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