Home / Companies / Zomato to withdraw ‘offensive’ outdoor ad after social media backlash

New Delhi: Online restaurant guide and food ordering app Zomato found itself in a soup when its new outdoor campaign was attacked on social media platforms for being offensive and sexist. The controversial ad, written by Zomato’s art director Akshar Pathak, has bold white letters MC.BC. (mac n’ cheese, butter chicken) written against a bright red background. The ad, with letters that are short for Hindi language expletives, started going viral on Twitter and Facebook with people calling it sexist, cheap and crass.

“While it was not our intention, we can understand how that one particular creative could have been perceived as offensive. We will be withdrawing that creative in particular," said Pramod Rao, marketing head, Zomato, in an email response to queries.

Apart from the controversial ad, the campaign takes inspiration from elements from pop culture using quirky lines like “Acche din are finally here, Bol Baby Bol, Malai Tikka Roll!" These outdoor ads, executed by Madison and Outdoor Advertising Professionals (OAP), an outdoor agency, have been put up across multiple cities, including in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, among others. The billboards, which went live this week, are a part of an above-the-line (ATL) campaign that started in November for television, radio and digital platforms.

Advertising and brand experts unanimously agree that the creative in question was done in bad taste and can tarnish the goodwill and image of brand Zomato.

“There is an extremely thin line between cool and crass. I think the Zomato campaign has crossed that line. It is an unnecessary campaign done by a trigger-happy executive within Zomato and the damage it has done to the brand is far greater than all the good the company has done in the market so far," said Swapan Seth, chief executive at advertising agency Equus.

Advertising expert Colvyn Harris, founder at ad agency Harris-Mint, says the letters MC and BC are not positive attributes which should have not been associated with the brand in the first place. “If this was supposed to be taken as a pun then it’s a terrible one and in a bad taste. It treats the customer and the brand in such a shoddy manner," he added.

Shubho Sengupta, an independent brand consultant (digital), said that while the overall campaign has a signature Zomato humour, the “MC. BC." creative went into a different territory. “It is quite strange for a market leader like Zomato to execute a creative like this which is disrespectful towards women when every other brand is trying to promote women empowerment."

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