New Zealand Dairy chiefs in Bangladesh have been forced to pull a risque ad campaign in the conservative Muslim country after receiving complaints.
The ad for the Diploma brand of milk powder, which has appeared in newspapers, on TV and on billboards, features a young woman suggestively licking milk from around her mouth. The New Zealand Dairy logo features prominently.
Trade Minister Tim Groser yesterday said the image was "totally inappropriate".
New Zealand Council of Women president Elizabeth Bang thought the billboard was offensive and was disappointed people would associate it with New Zealand. "We should not be having our name on things like that overseas," she said.
New Zealand Dairy Products Bangladesh managing director Samsul Alam Mallick said that in the television version of the ad the woman was overjoyed that she had the strength to study until midnight after drinking the Diploma milk.
But, he said, the photo used on the billboard and in newspaper advertisements had been taken out of context and a dozen people, including Islamist politicians and hardliners, had telephoned to complain.
"We've had some negative comments about the girl's picture so we have decided to change it to avoid controversy," he said, adding that the picture had never meant to convey a sexual message.
"In the photo, the girl has her eyes closed and our conservative people said this was bad, that it's not a good thing."
He said newspaper advertisements were stopped, and a giant billboard - a stone's throw from Parliament in the capital Dhaka - was pulled down this week, only days after it went up.
New Zealand Dairy Products Ltd has been operating in Bangladesh since 1992 and Diploma is one of half a dozen milk powder brands sold under its umbrella.
Originally a Fonterra subsidiary, New Zealand Dairy Products is now locally owned but acts as Fonterra's licensee to sell New Zealand brands, such as Anlene. Diploma is actually an Australian brand, but is marketed in Bangladesh under the New Zealand Dairy brand.
New Zealand Dairy Products uses the Fonterra logo on the front page of its website, but Fonterra spokesman Graeme McMillan said the two companies were separate. Fonterra-owned companies overseas developed ad campaigns in consultation with Fonterra in New Zealand, he said.
New Zealand Dairy Products received bad press in Bangladesh in October last year during the melamine scandal in China, though none of the Fonterra products in the country were found to contain the toxic chemical.
New Zealand exports to Bangladesh last year totalled $40.5 million. The majority are dairy products.
Jack Stephens, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise international group general manager, said it was "important for New Zealand companies operating in international markets to be aware of local cultural sensitivities. NZTE offices are able to provide advice." "
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