Kent RO Systems Chairman Mahesh Gupta has apologised for the companyâs recent advertisement of the Kent Atta & Bread Maker, which has faced sharp criticism for being classist, biased and discriminatory as it questions the hygiene of a house help.
The ad copy read: âAre you allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand? Choose Kent Atta & Bread Maker for hands-free kneading of dough. Let automation take care of hygiene this time!"
Senior journalist Chitra Narayanan took to Twitter to flag the ad and complained that it is discriminatory to house helps and objectionable.
@ascionline This ad by Kent for its Atta Maker is in rank bad taste. Would like to complain on grounds it is discriminatory to house helps and objectionable . @ambimgp @rameshnarayan @skswamy @beastoftraal @bhatnaturally pic.twitter.com/hvdy2xPAYHâ Chitra Narayanan (@ndcnn) May 26, 2020
Indian advertising ombudsman Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) took cognizance of Narayanan.
We have received complaints against this advertisement by @KentROSystems and we are looking into it. #FollowASCI and flag advertisements that are objectionable. Thank you #StayAlert #StayVigilant #staysafeâ ASCI 77100 12345 (@ascionline) May 27, 2020
Withdrawing the ad, Gupta said in a statement, âOur recent advertisement of Kent Atta & Bread Maker on social media was unintentional, badly communicated and was wrong. And, therefore, it was immediately withdrawn. We are extremely sorry for this incident and want to apologise to everyone, especially to the people whose sentiments were hurt.
âThe advertisement is contrary to the beliefs and professional standards of Kent. We will investigate how our advertisement standards were compromised and we will further take corrective and preventive action so that such incidents are not repeated in future.
âWe once again reiterate that we support and respect all sections of the society and apologise for the mistake.â
In 2019, Kent RO Systems had awarded its social media and digital mandate to an agency named Imarti media.
According to brand experts, Kent RO tried to ride on the current anxiety levels of Covid and hygiene in people and show its bread and dough maker product as a saviour (untouched, hygienic) in these trying times. The product lost the opportunity to win hearts and make business with its wrong communication, although being an efficient product.
Naggesh Pannaswami, Director, Curry Nation Brand Conversations, said, âThis is a clear case stereotyping and bias behaviour by the brand. There must have been multiple checks by the brand and the agency, and it passed muster across all levels and got into the public domain, which is unfortunate.â
Zero contact dough kneading could have been an excellent platform to take. The ad is a recent example of how right communication is crucial for the brands no matter whatever platform they choose.
Jagdish Acharya, Founder, Creative Head, Cut The Crap, said, âThe ad is of sheer greed to capitalise on the current consumer insecurities. It could have done how dozens of others are doing in a straight and subtle messaging without any âcreativeâ twist.â
âThis is the most hygienic way to make doughs,â Acharya emphasised.
The ad reeks of upper-class privilege and a sense of entitlement that unfortunately many better-off Indians have, even though they manage to keep it hidden, said Samit Sinha, Founder and Managing Partner of Alchemist Brand Consulting.
The messaging perpetuates and reinforces the worst kind of discriminatory profiling and is unforgivably classist on the part of the brand, he said.
The ad was utterly unwarranted, says Ramesh Narayan, Area Director APAC, IAA. âHowever Mahesh Gupta, the Chairman has tweeted an apology and has withdrawn the ad. To err is human. To quickly apologise is divine,â he said.