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Durex Condom Ad Sparks Outrage In Thailand





BANGKOK – In the age of the internet, Durex and other condom sellers have upped the ante with websites and social media that promote their products by promoting the main activity required for their products: sex.

With campaigns against date rape and social media campaigns such as YesAllWomen pushing back against sexist cultures globally, how Durex Thailand let this post on their Facebook page be created, let alone posted, is a question many Thais posed until the ad was pulled.

Twenty-eight percent of women that fought ended up consenting,” is the translation offered by multiple local observers of a now pulled Durex ad on the company’s Facebook page in Thailand earlier this week.

The Facebook page of Durex Thailand subsequently posted an apology.

The ad was up for approximately ten hours according to estimates of local observers before being pulled by the company. It is possible the ad was intended to say, “twenty-eight percent of women that resist end up consenting,” and was poorly translated into Thai. This translation is unlikely better to those who find the ad in poor taste or to women who have been victims of sexual assault.

A news agency yesterday reported the translation from Thai of the Facebook ad as “28% of women who say no give in at the end.” The Thai translator for this article notes, “This is much softer than the actual meaning. Durex uses the word kud kuen. When someone kud kuen, it implies fighting against some form of force, not just saying no.”

Durex Global and its PR team at Virgo Health acknowledge that this post was offensive and unacceptable. The company has stated it should never have been posted to Durex Thailand’s Facebook page. Durex Global prefers to refer to the issue in question as a “Facebook post” and not as an “ad” or “advertisement.” But in the age of the Internet, corporate publicity posted on social media is inevitably perceived by the public as advertising. This article interchangeably refers to it as an ad and Facebook post.

Durex Thailand has posted three apologies on the company Facebook page as this issue has escalated and early apologies elicited further outrage. The deleted first apology can still be found in Thairath, an influential Thai newspaper. The second apology can be still found on the company Facebook page and Durex Thailand’s local PR agency provided a translation of the current third apology on Durex Thailand’s Facebook page:

Durex sincerely regrets and apologizes for the inappropriate and offensive post made on our Durex Thailand Facebook page. Non-consensual sex is not a behaviour or attitude that Durex condones. It absolutely goes against everything we stand for. As a strong advocate for healthy and respectful relationships, we have the utmost respect for women and are committed to helping people love sex safely.

Yesterday, ISRA news agency, a collaboration of the Thai Journalist Association and Thai National Press Council, reported that Dr. Komart Juengsatiensup, Director of Society and Health Institute at the Ministry of Public Health has contacted Durex regarding the ad. Dr. Komart reportedly raised three issues with Durex:

Did the ad’s content on Durex Thailand’s Facebook page fit Durex guidelines and policies?
A request for the source of the statistic used in the advertisement.
A query on Durex’s attitude toward the other 72% of women who fought and felt sexually abused per the statistic in the advertisement.

Dr. Komart also reportedly indicated that this statistic has been provided in a different context by Durex before, though details of these prior advertisements was not clearly provided and has not been found using Internet searches. A translation from the article published by the ISRA news agency on this matter states:

What I want to know the most is the source of stat they use, that 28%. Which study did that stat come from or did the company do the study themselves? Which academics did they hire? What were the research methods and tools employed? If the company cannot explain the study, it may be charged* within the scope of deceiving consumers by using false information for business gain.

When Virgo Health, Durex Global’s PR arm was contacted for this article two days ago, the firm was as yet unaware of the Facebook post as the local team in Thailand were trying to manage the situation without contact with the home office. Ms. Phyllida Price, an account manager at Virgo Consumer Health & Wellbeing, elaborated on Durex Global’s stance:

Typically there is a team of local community managers and brand managers that are trained in Durex’s social media policy who monitor content. Durex Global is investigating why this system was not adhered to in this situation and is putting new systems in place to ensure that it does not happen again.

We do not wish to discuss the source of the data in the Facebook post as it was misused in an offensive way and we do not want to give further publicity to the data or its source. The Facebook post was completely offensive and inappropriate, and we sincerely regret and apologize for it. We do not seek to push the boundaries of appropriate or be controversial. It is not within our marketing plan.

The Facebook post was not in line with what we stand for. Durex Global takes responsibility for the Facebook post appearing on Durex Thailand’s Facebook page at the same time Durex Global promises it should have not been posted and will work to ensure nothing of the sort is posted again.

We want to ensure Durex’s stand on respect for women and safe consensual sex is expressed in all markets.

Ms. Price’s words on behalf of Durex Global are commendable and a far stronger response than that offered by Durex Thailand’s Facebook apology to-date. If Durex can back up Ms. Price’s comments with action and thoughtful corporate social responsibility campaigns that mitigate attitudes like those expressed in the ad, it would be something far more worthy of reporting than the story of an ill-advised reprehensible advertisement or Facebook post. It is up to Durex Global to follow up on its promises and prove the meaning behind the public relations statements.

The author thanks DT for assistance with this article.

* My local translator notes, “Dr. Komart used the word klao ha which could mean anything from allege; accuse; charge; blame; or condemn. As Mr. Komart is a government official, I think he has the power to have them charged so that is the word I chose in English for klao ha.”

Corrected text: An earlier version of this text suggest that the translations of the third apology on Durex Thailand’s Facebook page and the first apology on Durex Thailand’s Facebook page were actually different translations of the same text. This was an error by the author that is now corrected.

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