KARACHI: Pakistan’s food aficionados were up in arms on Thursday over a restaurant’s advertisement which they deemed as insensitive and akin to promoting “sexual harassment at the workplace”.
Apologizing for the incident, the Karachi-based eatery said it had only intended to distribute free sandwiches as part of its promotional campaign which had asked people if they were “craving to grab something big and juicy at work”, adding that it was “coming soon to your work place”.
“We in our wildest dream never thought about such connotations and reactions,” Faraz, an official of Slamvich, told Arab News, adding that the company had decided to apologize nevertheless “for not considering this kind of sensitivities”.
The advert sparked outrage on social media with some terming the promotions as a cheap publicity stunt. “It was an attempt to attract attention and they have succeeded in their effort. It's a cheap way of advertising your products and it also shows how shallow we have become that we have to create sex appeal even in food advertisements,” Zeeshan Jafery, a marketing and PR professional, told Arab News.
“What a sick, horrible and pathetic post by Slamvich. Please make sure your humor is on point and not hideous,” Shahjahan Khurram, a journalist, tweeted.
Drawing comparisons with the ongoing #MeToo movement – whereby sexual assault victims are going public with their stories – others said that the advert was in poor taste, as it encouraged sexual harassment at the workplace.
“This hits home. I have a #MeToo story that triggered based on this ad. I mean my heart sank and my hand became cold just looking at this idiocy about women being objectified…that hurt knowing what happened,” Noor Jehan Arif, a Digital Transformation and BPR consultant, tweeted.
A few others deemed it insensitive, accusing the company of mocking an issue that victims were already struggling to promote awareness about. “Thus to make light of an issue which people are already struggling to raise awareness about is not just insensitive but also counterproductive,” Naila Ilyas, a homemaker, said on the company’s Facebook page in response to the advert.
However, Slamvich employee Faraz reasoned that the advertisement was taken out of context, adding that the restaurant has women employees, too, and that it was a “matter of shame for us that it has been perceived that way”.
“We wanted to send around 25 sandwiches to offices as part of our campaign to improve our delivery system… but [the message] was construed as [promoting] workplace harassment,” Faraz said, adding that any further “debate on this issue should stop now”.
Replacing the advert with a “We apologize” artwork, a statement issued by the restaurant on its Facebook page read: “The Slamvich team would like to apologize for the earlier post. We, by no means, intended to offend anyone. We believe in an equal, unified and liberal Pakistan. Apologies once again, we have taken actions that such mishaps are not repeated.”
Begging to differ with the sentiments of the majority, a few customers said there was nothing wrong with the campaign. “No need to apologize. Nothing is wrong with the post. How did equality and liberalism come in food?” Mohammad Meer, a student from Karachi, posted on Slamvich’s Facebook page.
Pakistan has enforced strict laws in this regard with sexual harassment against women in public spaces considered a criminal offence. Violators may face a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Rs500,000.
Urging for better quality checks to be in place, Rasheed Channa, Spokesman of Sindh Chief Minister, told Arab News that the provincial government would take notice of such advertisements. “Government does not check the advertisement because it is the job of the private sector and the releasing agencies should ensure implementation of ethical standards,” he said.