Courting Controversy or Clearly Clueless?

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    Meat lobbying group Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has created controversy thanks to an ad depicting the Hindu god Ganesha enjoying a lamb dinner. Hindu communities in Australia and abroad have begun petitions and official protests of the ad because Ganesha is never depicted eating meat, something which the MLA should have discovered before it ever produced the commercial. The MLA did provide a statement from spokesman Andrew Howie that said in part, “The campaign features gods, prophets and deities from across a wide range of religions alongside atheism, in a clearly fantastic nature, with the intent of being as inclusive as possible.” However, in learning more aboutthis story I began to wonder if perhaps MLA was deliberately courting controversy rather than haplessly falling into it. After all, the ad shows many representations of religious figures, a risky move in the first place especially for a commercial about food. And, it turns out this isn’t the first ad conflict MLA’s found itself in – last year it was criticized for putting out an ad that some said aggressively attacked vegans and was discriminatory against Indigenous Australians.

    The old adage, “Any publicity is good publicity” only holds true to a certain point, and under a very specific set of conditions. Those who toy with it may grab attention, as MLA has here, but from my viewpoint they’re playing with fire. Either the folks behind the ads know they’re courting controversy and are willing to take that risk for exposure, or they’re clueless and walking into the same mistake over and over again. There’s not much room in between.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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