How could a lingering kiss in a Pepsi Max ad be misleading? Are post Pepsi consumption French kisses allowed on Turkish TV? Answers to these burning questions and more in a mouth watering dispatch from Istanbul by Emre Berk of Bener Law Offices.
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: Pepsi-Cola, Aysun Kayaci and Mr Veysel Dag
When: Summer 2007
Law stated as at: 31 October 2007
Even though Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) is a vast market, a huge struggle is taking place in the Carbonated Soft Drinks sector worldwide and so is in Turkey. In order to influence the targeted audience, sometimes agencies force the limits of creativity and sense of humour when creating advertisement campaigns and often they can be in danger at the slippery trails of creativity and challenge.
In June 2007 a new campaign was launched by an important global agency for Pepsi Cola-Turkey specifically targeting young Turkish males. The advert featured the well-known Turkish actress-model, Aysun Kayaci, who plants a juicy kiss on a young guy after he takes a sip of the new sugar-free Pepsi MAX, but disappears when he pulls the can from his lips.
All seemed set fair for a powerful campaign, but everything changed when a consumer, Mr. Veysel Dag, brought an action against Pepsi Cola-Turkey before the Consumer Claims Arbitration Committee, under Turkey's consumer protection law, for a refund of 1,300 Turkish Lire (approximately €1), the amount of money for a can of Pepsi MAX! Mr.Dag and his lawyer based the claim on the fact that the product he purchased was defective in that the top model did not kiss him after he drank the Pepsi MAX. Article 4 of the Consumer Protection Law states that goods are deemed to be defective if they do not contain the qualities mentioned in their advertisements or announcements.
Another claim was filed before the Advertising Board in Ankara by the vice president of the Consumers Union. He echoed Mr Dag's "misleading kiss" complaint, but on a completely different ground, he also claimed that the advertisement contravened Article 6 of the Regulation on the Principles and Fundamentals of Practices Regarding the Commercial Advertisements and Announcements, which states that an advertisement must not be against public morality or contain pornographic statements or images that may promote sexual abuse. He also added that this advertisement could have an influential or misleading effect, especially on children.
In its first examination, the Advertising Board found this TV advert to be 'over-promising' and announced that eight more complaints regarding the advertisement had been made. Given this situation, the Advertising Board took the decision to carefully examine the appeal and to deliver a final decision in their next meeting.
Why this matters:
The female body used in advertising campaigns has been the subject of serious criticism in the past promoted by the European Council's Commission for the Equality of Opportunity, recalling the report of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly against "the display of the female body as a sexual object in advertisements". At this stage, however, we have no report on any view or decision by the Advertising Board on this aspect of the case.
Initially, Pepsi Turkey defended its advertisement saying that it was not promising that all men drinking Pepsi will be kissed by a beautiful girl and therefore the product was not over-promising and defective. However, confronted with the negative public opinion Pepsi decided to withdraw the campaign, even though there has been no final determination in either Mr Dag's proceedings or the complaints to the Advertising Board.
Many people may find the motive in this case to be absurd but there's an important message and general warning that the Board wants to deliver: 'The sky is not the limit for advertisers anymore.'
The case shows how the Turkish consumer has a raised level of awareness and both clients and marketers should be extremely attentive. A suitable summing up might be a famous quote from ad man David Ogilvy:'The consumer isn't a moron, she's your wife…'.
Attorney at Law
Bener Law Office, Istanbul, Turkey