Thursday, June 12, 2014

Using sex to sell ice cream at Nestlé

By now, anyone that reads the CSR Reporting Blog knows how much I love ice cream. So perhaps it's not by chance that a Facebook post about ice cream caught my eye. Yesterday, I noticed a such a post by Eyal Carmi who criticized an advertisement for Joya ice cream in Israel by Osem, which is 63.7% owned by Nestlé. His Facebook comment drew attention to the soft-porno nature of the ad, apparently aired on prime time TV.

I don't wish to promote Nestlé ice cream or lend any sort of support to this marketing campaign, but, before I offer my thoughts, I have to let you judge for yourself. A screen shot and the ad itself on Youtube - proclaiming Joya ice cream the hottest ice cream around.

I have to wonder how this kind of marketing passes the ethics test at Nestlé.

Beyond the fact that I personally find this ad rather nauseating, serving only to make me resolved NOT to try Joya ice cream,  I wonder why it is even necessary to create such a campaign that borders on pornography. Why does Nestlé need sex to sell ice cream? Does fabricated sensuality really make people buy ice cream? What does this ad say about the way Osem-Nestlé thinks about women, when corporate marketeers are prepared to air a voluptuous woman lustfully sucking on a phallus-shaped ice cream bar, vigorously licking her fingers, in what appears to be the way advertisers think women scheme to attract a man's attention? Is this the kind of ad that should be seen by kids on prime time TV?  Or on YouTube alongside fun ads for kids' snacks on the company's YouTube channel?

I sought another opinion from a respected colleague who is an expert in corporate and business communications. This is what he said:

I recall putting the issue of responsible marketing to the director of sustainability who was speaking at a conference one day while his company was running an ad featuring almost voyeuristic images of a woman’s body that bore no relation to the product being sold. His reply - the the effect of “it wouldn’t happen if I was in charge of marketing” - spoke volumes about the lack of integration of sustainability into day-to-day practices, which is so often claimed by corporations. How companies approach marketing is emblematic of the way they understand consumers but so often merely seeks to plug into stereotypical, out-dated attitudes in order to grab (men’s) attention for the brand name."
James Osborne, Senior Partner, Lundquist  

Nestlé's Consumer Communication Principles is a four page document that prescribes the way Nestlé companies should develop and air marketing content. It states: "The Nestlé Communication Principles have been defined as the highest standard on which all marketing and communication to consumers must be based." Here are some of the principles:

  • The content of consumer communications must reflect good taste and social responsibility in accordance with each country’s laws and regulations and voluntary codes and standards. Although standards will vary from country to country, it must not display vulgarity, bad manners and offensive behavior and there must never be an intention to shock or offend. 
  • Advertising content must not depict attitudes that are discriminatory or offensive to religious, ethnic, political, cultural or social groups. 
  • Advertising should avoid exploiting media events that could be in bad taste.
Nestlé is no stranger to ethical problems. In fact, it's one of the corporations that exemplifies the most extreme levels of emotion, as, one the one hand, the most boycotted company in the UK, and on the other hand, the most admired for its' work in "creating shared value" and advancing global food science and technology for the benefit of everyone. A quick internet search brings up a host of ethical issues over the years related to different parts of the Nestlé business, including a recent $680,000 fine for anti-competitive marketing tactics in the coffee business. In fairness, Nestlé claims to be addressing many of the concerns of stakeholders around the world with several supply chain assessments, and a host of other initiatives under the CSV banner, as you can read in the 2013 Nestle Shared Value Report. The company even made a bold commitment to no deforestation traceable palm oil, after the Greenpeace campaign disaster that had everyone associating Kit-Kats with bloody orang-utan fingers.

It seems that as soon as one ethical problem dies down, another one crops up. This ice cream advertisement is, in my view, poor judgment and poor ethics. If the marketing is in bad taste, I wonder if the ice cream comes with a bad taste too.

Perhaps it's time to refresh that set of consumer communication principles and get the folks that market ice cream at Osem-Nestlé up to date with today's values.  

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm

1 comment:

Julie, Coffee & Conservation said...

Nestlé seems to have a knack for publishing often-lengthy documents regarding their corporate responsibility...without making a lot of effort to adhere to them. I have learned a lot about interpreting these documents from you, and try my hand at the sustainability reports of coffee companies. My latest analysis was, in fact, of Nestlé. At 400+ pages, it was "much ado about nothing".

Related Posts with Thumbnails