UPDATE: Maliban has sent us the following apology (not to us, but to everyone who was offended):
Companies (including ours) all make mistakes and what really matters is how you own up to them and move on. In this case they’ve pulled the ad and apologized and we hope we can all get back to enjoying biscuits now (see our review of the white chocolate puff here).
On the other hand, the ad agency TBWA/TAL has issued a non-apology apology. They seem to think this ad is fine:
While we unreservedly tender our apologies to anyone we may have offended, we would also like to express our point of view on the current Maliban White Chocolate TVC issue.
Brand Communication is developed based on insights that are mined from the society we live in. That is why advertising is a mirror reflection of our everyday lives, a reflection of a nation’s culture and ethos, a reflection of what we laugh at, we cry about, what is special to us, what is important to us and what we believe in. It is most effective when it speaks a truth.
Sometimes this truth might hurt, sometimes this truth might seem embarrassing, sometimes we won’t want to associate with the truth, but it is the truth and we need to face up to it.
Few among us have ever not used phrases like “”aney the child is so fair””, “”how men, both of the parents are dark also”” after visiting a new born baby’s parents. That is a truth. Even phrases like ‘magey sudu putha’ or ‘kalu maamey’ are used as terms of endearment and not to discriminate colour.
So why not a film that is based on a truth about our real lives?
There was no intention whatsoever to propagate a colour bias in our society. It was not to support a moral code of conduct that we could be proud of. On the contrary, it was a tongue in cheek attempt to laugh at ourselves, find humour in the dark (pun intended) world of societal taboos that we desperately need to get out of.
Advertising also works when it helps highlight practices and prejudices that strike a chord deep down somewhere, whether right or wrong and helps to bring to the surface so that we can all deal with it in public.
People are entitled to their opinions and there would always be the pros and the cons as we can so easily see from the comments generated on this issue. At the end, all that can be said is that the intentions were pure and the objective was to draw attention to a flavour variant in an unmistakable manner, while accepting the fact that the Brand also has a chocolate puff in its portfolio and we were not demeaning our own product in anyway …let alone a dark bride! (TBWA’s Facebook Page)
// END UPDATE
We like biscuits and the white chocolate biscuit from Maliban is not bad (see our review here), but this ad is horrific. In it a prospective suitor looks at a girl and rejects her because she’s ‘too dark’. Then he casts eyes at the lighter younger sister. Then the random uncle attributes their different colors to the biscuits they eat. The fact is that Sri Lankans do favor fair people, but it’s a gross and backwards internal racism we have. Fair And Lovely is awful enough (encouraging people to bleach their skin), but using casual racism to sell biscuits is just awful.
Here’s a parody of the ad, with subtitles for what the women might be thinking (they have no speaking parts in the ad):
We are a tropical island and both dark and light are beautiful. Seeing these two men comparing women among themselves like biscuits and then discounting the dark one is offensive to women and biscuits alike. Chocolate biscuits are also good, plus Maliban sells chocolate biscuits, so I don’t get what they’re doing here.
These is really rather racist/colorist and sexist advertising coming from a major company.
UPDATE: The Nation reports that Maliban has pulled the ad from wherever. The Director (of the video) gave a bit of a weird response.
The advert in question is for Maliban’s ‘White Chocolate Puff’. When The Nation contacted the director of the commercial Udaya Dharmawardena, he cited that he had no say over the script since the project was merely handed to him by a PR agency. “We’ve come across worse adverts in the recent past, many viewers do not even know the extent to which children are abused for the sake of an advert, so this isn’t particularly glaring.” – Nation
So… this is better than the child abuse that usually goes into an ad? What?