Lousy Ad: Häagen-Dazs’ French Riviera

Lousy Ad: Häagen-Dazs’ French Riviera

This banner looks like most other Häagen-Dazs’ banners, simple, straight-forward and discreet.  Yet this banner has stirred up a tide of nationalism among India nationals in Delhi, India, demanding Haagen Dazs be fined or thrown out of the country, or both.

The offensiveness of the banner lies in the copy at the bottom, ““Exclusive Preview for International Travellers. Access restricted only to holders of international passports.”

It all began with a friend of Rajesh Kaira, the editor of “The Times of India, who was denied entry to the Häagen-Dazs store. Well, access is only granted to holders of international passport. Incensed by such slavery mentality, Mr Kaira put up a few pictures on Facebook, added a caption and also sent out a tweet with a request it be retweeted. In a few hours, it had turned viral and he started getting messages from angry Indians all over the world. Interestingly, he got comments not just from his fellow countrymen  but also non-Indians worldwide. Subsequently, Mr Kaira put up a blog post, Sorry, Indians Not Allowed,” and to-date, there are more than 1000 lively comments on the issue.

Judging by the angry response, the Indian nationals obviously do not resonate with TBWA India’s original intention of striking a vibrant and cosmopolitan ambiance with a reference to the French Riviera. In fact, they were totally upset. It was evident by the first comment from Samir, “This is an insult to Indian nationals and how dare they do it right here in India on our own land. They should be barred from doing business in India”. This sentiment was generally echoed by throngs of other Indians.

Naturally, Mr. Anindo Mukherji, the Managing Director of  General Mills India, who manages the brand in India scrambled to do some damage control. He issued a statement,” The poster in question was part of initial local store communication at a few locations within the same mall announcing the opening of the new Häagen-Dazs shop in the mall. The message was intended to suggest that you can enjoy, for instance, a taste of the French Riviera without traveling to France – by enjoying Häagen-Dazs. Unfortunately the reference to the international passport holder on the poster may have led to a significant miscommunication. This was completely unintended and we apologize for creating the mis-impression that may have hurt our sentiments as Indians.”

However, the apology came  a little too late as the Indians felt humiliated.

“If there is one thing that we as Indians will not truck with, is an affront on our pride,” Prathap Suthan, national creative director at Cheil Worldwide for Southwest Asia, told Exchange4media. “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.”

Indeed.

During British rule, it was a common sight at a few ‘privileged’ locations to have signboards such as ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’. That was a deep humiliation then, and even now. It took a small bespectacled man to lead the country to resist colonial tyranny through mass civil disobedience (which is found on the concept of total non-violence) — which eventually led India’s to independence. The total non-violence concept also inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.   That was why this gutsy man is forever revered – Mahatma Ghandi.

The banner has evoked nationalism and anti-colonialism sentiment in a flash.

It serves as a great reminder to the advertising industry folks that we have to be careful with our words. The word is a force; it is a tool of magic. We can create the most beautiful dreams with words or we can poison and destroy everything around us by misuse it.

5 Replies to “Lousy Ad: Häagen-Dazs’ French Riviera”

  1. Well said Vivienne, that words are a ‘force’, which can either build bridges or break them.
    If the statement by the brand custodian Mr. Anindo Mukherji’s statement was to be taken into consideration – that the message to be conveyed is to taste the french experience without actually travelling to France. The copy written there borders on pure insanity and gross indifference to human dignity itself. Hence, the indignation is not only justified and but called for.
    I perceive that advertising has a purpose and vision. It doesn’t only sell things, but sell them without losing sense of ethics and moral standards. In the very understandable anxiety to carve a great copy and ad which shocks, surprises people, and which can attract many eyeballs, many young people cross the forbidden line and get into huge problems. It’s purely an instinct which needs to be tested with a lot of introspection and thinking to foolproof it with any untoward interpretation.
    We all need to understand that each word has a literal and perceived meaning. We need to see if a word has any other connotations which may hurt people’s feelings and sentiments. I think in our frenzied pursuit to do great advertising, there is a great tendency to do the exactly opposite of it.
    But who knows it might be a childish ploy to attract more and immediate attention :).
    But, in assuaging the frayed tempers the company needs to come out with an open apology that it meant ” Welcome all who wish to visit FRANCE without actually moving from your town!!!
    A visit your heart and wallet will agree, including your wife and children!
    This is my humble opinion without any offense intended. Let’s forgive and forget this sort mis-communication when a proper apology is tendered!
    Solomon

  2. Mistake my left foot toe! They actually tried to discriminate and got stuck with their faces in the mud. Please don\’t tell me the people working in ad. agencies with such high profile clients don\’t know exactly what words mean! It is a BIGGER insult to think we don\’t understand English!

  3. That is pretty aweful that HD would write something like that. Its so childish and insulting. Did they not think? I would be firing my marketing department.

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