Apologise, learn, move on - Appletiser

Johannesburg - After the shock of the reaction to its controversial blonde/brunette ad, Appletiser said on Tuesday it was better to apologise, learn from its mistake, and move on.

“We’re still in a bit of shock,” marketing executive Andrea Shuttleworth said.

“We just felt it was important for us to put a stake in the ground, take the higher ground and apologise and not defend it.”

She was responding to the negative reaction caused by the advert the company tweeted on May 27.

It features a photo of a black and a white woman, both smiling, cosying up to another another, accompanied by the caption “Every brunette needs a blonde best friend. Tag your bestie in a comment below for #WomanCrushWednesday”.

‘Offence not intended’

Some people were offended by a black woman being referred to as a brunette. Others took offence at what they interpreted was the message that blacks needed whites for approval.

Pri tweeted: "Gonna walk up to any random blonde lady and ask for a pic so I can reach Appletiser worthiness.”

The company tweeted an apology on Sunday: “Sincere apologies for offending anyone with our reference to brunettes & blue eyes, it certainly was not the intention #proudlysouthafrican.”

Shuttleworth said the intention had been to highlight the fun of friendship.

“There was no stance on calling out blondes and brunettes. We made a mistake. We shouldn’t have called a black woman a brunette.”

She said it was not clear why the picture, having been posted on May 27, only started trending on Sunday and analysis would be done to try and understand this.

People had also raised issue with the slogan “Hey there blue eyes” printed on the necks of some of its bottles. Somehow this had become woven into the blonde/brunette debate.

Shuttleworth said this was a separate issue. It was part of a limited edition range of bottle neck labels that included other phrases like “Hey baby, xo xo, I got it from my momma”, along with lines from songs.

Learning experience

They thought long and hard about whether to apologise.

“We realised we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We didn’t want to defend it or explain it or rationalise about it because you just open yourself up for more debate. We’re going to move on and take the learnings.”

Appletiser drinkers were a multi-cultural bunch and future campaigns would still feature people from all walks of life. What they would no longer do was talk specifically about matters like race or religion.

“We’re still quite a sensitive country in general around race, and we obviously overlooked that.

“Rather don’t raise sensitive things that will affect people. You have to take this and move forward,” Shuttleworth said.  

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