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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Following online outcry, ‘Burn’ adverts removed from Villaggio

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burn on

Advertisements for the energy drink Burn, which had been posted on billboards around Villaggio mall, have been removed following an online furor over their placement, advertising company Q.Media has told Doha News.

Photos of the posters – which occupy prominent positions in the mall’s car park – had been widely shared on Facebook and Twitter, leading to an outcry from concerned residents, and public appeals from relatives of the victims of last year’s tragic fire at Villaggio.

Reacting to the comments, both Coca-Cola and the advertising agency in question, Q.media Decaux, told Doha News that the adverts would be removed.

Regional group director for Coco-Cola, Dana Bolden, sent this statement:

“We can confirm that we are removing the campaign branding around the Villaggio Mall and apologize for any concern that was created by its placement.

This panel in the neighboring area of the mall was part of a network of outdoor and was not meant to be in this location specifically where the tragedy happened.

We will ensure we have a more thorough review process in place going forward.  We like to thank those who contacted us to make us aware of this issue and will always work with our consumers to ensure we live up to their expectations.”

Coca-Cola also confirmed that the mall has no control over the content of the billboards, which are owned by Q.media Decaux and contracted directly by Coca-Cola’s media buying agency.

Villaggio did not respond to a request for comment.

Public appeals

Last night, Martin Weekes, father of three of the fire victims – two-year-old triplets -posted this message on Coca-Cola’s Facebook page:

“On the 28th May 2012 a fire caused by gross corporate negligence in Villaggio Mall killed 13 children, 4 teachers and 2 firemen. Three of those children were mine – Lillie, Jackson & Willsher triplets aged 2, and another, Zeina, was from Atlanta, your Coca Cola’s home town.

We no longer live in Doha as the memories are too painful, however I was contacted overnight by a friend with a photo of an ad campaign for your energy drink Burn being promoted outside the mall where the fire occurred. Please remove this as it is totally insensitive.”

By this afternoon, his post garnered nearly 200 comments, many in support of his call for the removal of the adverts.

The issue has also been publicized by Qatar resident Kirsty Rice, author of popular expat blog “4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle.” In a post titled “Why I Won’t Be Going to Villaggio,” she explained why she hasn’t visited the mall since the fire, and called for a boycott until the posters are removed:

“Make a stand. Tell them no. Let them know that yes we will move forward, but we will never forget.”

Not the first

Coca-Cola is not the first company to be accused of insensitivity in its mall advertising following the fire.

reebok

When the damaged section of the mall re-opened in June this year, a hoarding outside the new Reebok store – close to the site of the daycare facility Gympanzee, where 19 people died – provoked many complaints before also being removed.

In June, a Doha court found five people guilty of involuntary manslaughter leading to the deaths of 19 people at the mall. Those convicted are appealing the verdict, which carries five to six years of jail time.

In the interim, their insurance companies were ordered to pay some QR200,000 in blood money compensation per victim, but despite the judge’s ruling, and an enforcement order filed by the victims’ families in August, the payment has not been awarded.

Although defendants were summoned to court last month to explain the delay, none of them turned up, so the judge postponed the hearing until Nov. 14.

The five people who were convicted are also due in court for their first appeals hearing this month.

Thoughts?

26 COMMENTS

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Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

thats an epic fail but i clearly unintentional

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago

I agree, no doubt unintentional. But the first person in Villagio’s management who saw these should have removed them immediately. It should’s have taken members of the public to complain.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

your expecting competence in there lies your mistake, in all seriousness though yeah someone should loose there job over this

sadam
sadam
7 years ago

i agree. the incompetence by the management of Villagio led to the tragedy on the first place.

Global Citizen
Global Citizen
7 years ago
Reply to  sadam

Hardly surprising as the same incompetent management responsible for the fire are still running Villaggio

Still not satisfied
Still not satisfied
7 years ago

I don’t see how it could be completely unintentional and was certainly not uninformed. Martin Weekes, who lost three children in the fire at Villaggio, worked for Qmedia. Surely they have not forgotten the pain and anguish felt by the Weekes families and others who lost children and loved ones due to criminal negligence and incompetence. They were well placed to advise on alternative placement for this particular brand.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

i say unintentional because no one is sick enough or stupid enough to intentionally put such an insensitive add, its immoral and its just bad business i regularly drink energy drinks and because of this add im never buying a “burn” ever

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
7 years ago

This makes it even more disgusting. I didn’t know Martin Weekes worked for them. It was incredibly bad taste and completely unjustifiable. Coca Cola cannot use the excuse that they are removed from local decision making on how their product is advertised. Absolute rubbish. I’m sure a corporation of this magnitude and might will have its finger on the pulse of everything to do with their image. And even if they genuinely didn’t they still can not be excused as it is their duty to ensure their products are advertised with cultural and demographic awareness.
I rarely buy fizzy drinks and I certainly won’t be buying this one.

Power to the people .

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago

Are people really so insensitive? I’m sure Coca Cola hire a lot of expensive people to work for their company, did no-one have the brains to realise this is highly offensive?

Michael Stephens
Michael Stephens
7 years ago
Reply to  Kingpin

clearly not…absolute stupidity, how can no one have realised that this was so insensitive? very sad actually.

Rodger Dodger
Rodger Dodger
7 years ago

What is more worrying about this story is that the Guilty are free pending an appeal, should have paid the blood money by now, summoned to court and fail to turn up. Then all that happens is the hearing is postponed. Hardly justice.

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago

This squarely on Q Media Decaux. Really stupid. Probably somebody’s idea of a clever way to get talked about.

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

I would hope that an advertiser or a marketer could not be so insensitive, and in any event my brand recognition and association now firmly places Burn drink with the tragedy. Clearly the media release from Coca Cola was not quite up to the mark, they have distanced themselves and no mention of regret or apology to the families. Q Media Decaux need to apologise and have a real hard look at them self. Villagio management, well how can they be free of blame. Surely they noticed the signs and should have immediately contacted Q Media Decaux and Coca Cola and strongly requested them removed immediately, whilst informing them they were covering them over with plastic until done so. Shown some you know what. All three culpable …Coca Cola, Q Media Decaux and Villagio management.

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

The problem here is only the people in charge of Villagio, Q-media, hell any entity here, are the only ones allowed to think “out of the box” (which they can’t) and everyone else is afraid to speak up in fear of showing up their boss who made the decision. I know that from my own job. God forbid anyone in our department has a brilliant idea. It will be shot down not because it’s not a good idea but because that person in charge is the only one allowed to be self appointed “brilliant”. The rest of us are expected to act like lemmings. That’s why the tragedy happened, why injustices still happen and why this stupid ad was allowed to be installed.

Net-guy
Net-guy
7 years ago

It is not “Coke” the corporation’s failure, but a failure of the local distributor and marketing agent located in Doha…..As well as the management staff of the mall….Corporate Coke, does not dictate to its distributors how to market products…..Yes, Corporate Coke may push/demand that distributors highly advertise new products, but how it is done is totally up to the marketing division of the local distributor…..I too had seen these advertisements and thought it in bad taste to post them near this mall specifically…

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

The more people complain about this, the more publicity this “Burn” drink will get. I didn’t even know it existed until this “story” broke.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Agreed. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore so you don’t inadvertently counteract the campaign to boycott.

In Bahrain we have a mall where 2 policemen were brutally murdered in March 2011 by a violent gang hiding behind the label of “peaceful protestors”. The entire thing was videotaped and in my line of work I have had to deal with that incident, including showing and reviewing the video. Every time I go past that mall I flash on that awful day & to tis date won’t go in the mall. However, I didn’t make this a public campaign because it could lead to rehashing it and perhaps open a door for vigilante-ism or give the murderers a chance to appeal for public sympathy.

Silentium est aurum [Silence is Gold].

Still not satisfied
Still not satisfied
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Clayton

Ignore? No way. And I see the campaign to boycott Villaggio as separate from the highly effective social media-fueled effort to get these insensitive ads removed. While the management at Villaggio should have asked that they be removed once they noticed them around the mall parking area, I don’t think they were involved in the placement. We’ve got plenty of other reasons to avoid Villaggio.

And the situation you describe above is completely different: The murders in Bahrain were not (I’m assuming a little) caused by negligence on the part of the mall nor were they absolutely preventable. Based on your description, the murders in Bahrain were caused by a group of people bent on violence. There is no ad campaign to protest against. What public campaign did you refrain from launching that is parallel to the campaign launched to get these ads pulled down?

I hadn’t heard of the drink before, either, so the public protest against these ads has undoubtedly increased brand awareness. But, like the poster above, my association with the brand is now negative and linked to the wrong kind of fire. Wouldn’t have been the case if I’d just seen the ads in other parts of town or come across a can on a shelf.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
7 years ago

Let me clarify: I have no problem with a directive to remove the ads & they never should have been made in the 1st place. But now the media coverage of this – in a way – is inadvertently publicizing the launch of the product. Whether Oscar Wilde said it first or the king of PR PT Barnum, in advertising there is still a theory that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

In Bahrain, there have been many campaigns to continue to seek justice by a group of people who feel it has been denied by both the National Safety Court’s legal system and later the civilian criminal courts. I haven’t joined those because of my belief that it will open up another cause for the groups (many operating from abroad) that are benefiting from the unrest in Bahrain to twist things around & come out looking like the perpetrators are the real victims. It’s a very complex situation & maybe I should not have used that example because I am not equating the deaths in both situations. Just relating why I feel the way I do.

Canadian Observer
Canadian Observer
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Clayton

While that might make me aware of it I will not purchase it. There are 2 sides to publicity. All publicity is not good publicity. And we aren’t talking about a reality show or an album release. You want the consumers who want to buy Burn where people burned? Have at it. I don’t think this is the customer they are looking for.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
7 years ago

I find that a lot of advertisement here, whether for events, local information, or product advertisement just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever in English. It may be the English/Arabic translation or just a bad concept. Although this may seem in bad taste for an advertisement at Villaggio I think it was unintended.

Canadian Observer
Canadian Observer
7 years ago

Marketing and advertising is a well thought out process. Where, when, how and who all come into play. Missing an obvious fail like this is a huge error. Huge.

Amber
Amber
7 years ago

I didn’t notice it until I read this article. And I go to Villagio often to do my grocery shopping.

sadam
sadam
7 years ago

This is just an honest mistake for crying out loud. The real mistake lies in the incompetence and mismanagement of Villagio that this tragedy shouldn’t have happened on the first place.

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago
Reply to  sadam

Perhaps an honest mistake, but undoubtedly of grossly insensitive mistake.

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