After O&M Apology, Pandey Does a U-turn
Says no action is needed & the Bounce Back theme ads depicting Malala, Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi for mattress co are genuine
PRITHA MITRA DASGUPTA
There’s a new twist in the tale of the newest scam-ad scandal in India. Last week, a series of ads for Kurl-On mattresses created by Ogilvy & Mather were the subject of a controversy. One of the ads, which featured Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and depicted her “bouncing back” after being shot in the head, was roundly criticised as being in bad taste by media across the globe.
O&M apologised to Yousafzai and her family, and issued a statement that said: “We are investigating how our standards were compromised in this case and will take whatever corrective action is necessary. In addition, we have launched a thorough review of our approval and oversight processes across our global network to help ensure that our standards are never compromised again.” The ads – which had not
Pakistan' activist, tumbles in the air after being shot on the head. She lands on a Kurl-On mattress and bounces back to accept the Nobel peace prize Steve Jobs becomes the great American entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor after being booted out of the house Gandhi is thrown out of the train and bounces back to become Father of the Nation been released by the client in any media — were also withdrawn from the Kyoorius Advertising & Design awards show. This week, O&M India is taking a different stance. According to Piyush Pandey, executive chairman O&M, the Bounce Back campaign is a legitimate one, created as part of a pitch. “This is a client which has been in conversation with us for a long time. This work was presented to them and they said release it and we will see how it goes. We are not wrong in this. This is not a scam,” Pandey said. While he claims he has not seen the ads, he adds, “Everyone else starting from my national creative directors to the regional creative directors saw it in the making and everyone loved it.” O&M made a proactive pitch and presented the three Bounce Back ads illustrated with visuals of Malala Yousafzai, Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi to KurlOn, and the company agreed to release the ads overseas. The company exports to several international markets including the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, the UK, Europe, and some African countries. After the controversy caused by the Malala ad, however, Kurl-On has decided against releasing them, says Pandey. A highly placed source in O&M said, “We felt that the ads are brilliant and so we released it on Ads of the World to enter the Kyoorius awards. However, soon after we realised that it may get disqualified as it was not released anywhere else and whole thing may catapult into a bigger controversy. And so we withdrew it even before it could be judged.” Pandey, however, says, “There is no corrective measure to be taken because nothing wrong has been has done. I know Ogilvy’s standards, I follow the standards, I will never let the standards down, I will never let my clients down.” Kurl-On, which is a part of the .` 2,000 crore Manipal Group of Companies, is not part of O&M’s client roster — its ad agency is McCann WorldGroup, which won the account after a multiagency pitch. In 2013, Kurl-On also appointed Dentsu Media as its agency of record.
When contacted, Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann WorldGroup declined to comment. Despite several calls and messages to Sudhakar Pai, managing director, Kurl-On, did not respond to ET.
Just over a year ago, JWT India was involved in a similar controversy — a series of controversial, sexist unreleased ads for its client Ford Figo saw the agency receive unprecedented flak across the world. JWT fired three staffers, including then creative head Bobby Pawar. And in 2007, a series of ads for Hanes that used offensive and racist slurs led the apparel firm to sack the agency that created them, McCann Erickson.