April Fool’s advert no joke for Turkish sweet giant

April 3, 2017 5:03 pm
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Turkish pro-regime activists celebrate after seizing a tank in Istanbul, during the failed July 15 coup in which 300 people were killed © AFP / Bulent KILIC

, Ankara, Turkey, Apr 3 – An April-fool’s day advert from the Turkish confectionery giant whose stable includes top brands Godiva and McVitie’s has proved to be no laughing matter, inciting controversy and a dive in its share price.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim lashed out at the advertisement for the Ulker confectionery company, while the company’s share price dropped by over three percent on the Istanbul bourse Monday.

Ahead of April 1, Ulker released an advert in which siblings play pranks on each other during which one brother serves a chilli-covered cake.

It ends with the narrator saying: “Now is the day of reckoning”.

Yildirim late Sunday said in an interview that the slogan was an unwelcome throwback to the failed July 15 coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Already there is an uneasiness among the people, and this unfortunate advert triggers this unease,” he said.

“These days, people must act more responsibly, must respect the people’s sensitivity.”

Ruling party lawmaker Metin Kulunk added there was “a dirty business” going on with an attempt to “manipulate the psychology” of the Turkish nation.

But Ulker said in a statement that the advertisement had been misconstrued and also distorted through digital manipulations on social media.

“The campaign was hacked through manipulating scenes and messages on (the) digital campaign and subsequently taken out of context through the addition of texts and visuals on social media.”

“Legal action has been immediately taken to protect our company and brand, against every party involved in this misconduct and/or misintent,” it said.

Political tensions are running high in Turkey in a tightly-fought campaign ahead of the April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.

Shares in Ulker Biscuvi Sanayi were down 3.30 percent at 1000 GMT, having earlier fallen by nearly five percent.

Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding owns Ulker, Godiva Chocolatier and United Biscuits, whose portfolio of brands includes iconic British names like McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes.

Yildiz chairman Murat Ulker is the son of Ulker’s founder Sabri Ulker and Turkey’s richest man with an estimated fortune of $3.7 billion (3.4 billion euros), according to the Turkish edition of Forbes magazine.

Like most of the bosses of the family-run conglomerates that dominate the Turkish private sector, Murat Ulker usually steers well clear of commenting on politics.

Yildiz bought United Biscuits in 2014, in one of the most significant acquisitions in the company’s history.

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