Egypt’s Consumer Protection Authority (CPA) suspended an advertising campaign by cooking oil company Sunny that has been criticized for being offensive to women, agency head Atef Yaacoub told Mada Masr on Sunday.
There has been a backlash against the “Enty al-Mathal” (You are the Example) campaign since its launch.
The campaign includes a number of billboard advertisements on Cairo’s highways playing on Egyptian proverbs considered by many people to be demeaning of women and normalizing of gender-based violence, such as, “Are you a spinster?” and “Break a girl’s rib and she will grow 24 more.”
A meeting by the agency’s board on Saturday resulted in the suspension of the campaign, Yaacoub explained, and they are in the process of removing the ads, he added.
“The ad campaign violates the law, as it incites hatred against women and is completely demeaning and offensive to them,” Yaacoub said.
The agency’s decision follows a complaint that was filed by the National Council for Women, a representative from the council’s media office told Mada Masr.
“Ad agencies should seek expert opinions before launching campaigns offensive to women that bring us back to point zero,” the council’s head of media, Suzanne Qelleny, said in a statement.
But Sunny suggested on Facebook that the point of the campaign was to counter widespread local proverbs that are demeaning to women.
“There is a certain path that women are drawn to take — even your destiny is written in proverbs passed from one generation to another. But your beauty, determination and spirit have broken all stereotypes and proverbs, and you have truly proven that you are the example,” the official campaign video says.
من زمان مرسوم لك طريق لازم تفضلي فيه، حتي مصيرك كتبوه في امثال اتورثت جيل بعد جيل….لكن جمالك و اصرارك و روحك كسّروا كل القوالب و الامثال، و فعلا أثبتّي إنِّك……..#انتي_المثل
Posted by Sunny on Friday, 3 February 2017
The company invited women to create new proverbs to replace the old ones, like, “Choose your own path and complete it with determination.”
دي أمثلة الفناها علي قصصكم الرائعة اللي حكيتوها لينا…..و لسة مكملين مع بعض ..تابعونا، مستنين قصصكم 🙂
The agency behind the campaign, HUB Advertising, also came under attack on its Facebook page. On March 3, the agency published a post with a billboard teaser reading, “Are you a spinster?” with the comment “stay tuned,” only to receive a wave of angry comments.
The only response to the comments by the agency was, “You will thank us later.”
“You’re trying to be controversial to attract more views? Well, you nailed it. But you attracted more hate, and an overall disgust towards you. How many women have you hurt in the process? The end does not justify the means. Using a phrase that’s used for social stigma only reinforces that social stigma. Get an education,” one user commented.
A spokesperson for HUB Advertising, Nader Khalil, told Mada Masr that it is up to Sunny to respond to the suspension of the campaign. He explained that the agency was already removing its teasers, in preparation for the launch of the second part of the campaign, in which the message was to be revealed.
“We were basing it on a psychological strategy called ‘short sharp shock,’ getting the attention of consumers through shocking them. Without this strategy, the campaign would never have achieved its target … and you would not have talked to me right now. We wanted to eradicate these offensive proverbs against women, and this was the only way to do it,” Khalil said.
Marketing consultant Jasmine Aladdin attacked the ad campaign on social media, saying it was counterproductive regardless of its eventual aims, as it negatively reinforces stereotypical perceptions about women instead of eliminating them.
“There are thousands of other ways, thousands of other sentences that could be used to attract the attention of the people. Attracting attention should not be through a statement that is shocking or provocative to a wide segment of an already morally-corrupt society,” she explained.
This is not the first time the CPA has suspended controversial advertising campaigns. A number of Ramadan ads last year were also deemed by many to be insulting to women and disrespectful of social customs an norms, including ads by Juhayna, Ahram Beverages, Cottonil and Dice.
Juhayna released a number of controversial ads this Ramadan featuring babies talking to each other with voiceovers. One particular commercial features three babies having a conversation about breastfeeding.