A new advert for meat producer Friboi this week has left a very bitter taste in the mouth of many Brazilians. Before looking at the advert, it is probably worth looking at a previous Friboi advert by television superstar Tony Ramos.
Ramos I am told is the most trusted person in Brazil, and if Ramos says something is safe, Brazilians trust that it is safe. Hence this no-nonsense, does-what-it-says-on-the-side-of-the-tin advert for Friboi, talking about the confidence Brazilian consumers can have in the quality of their products.
This advert has been followed-up with what could be the most controversial advert aired on Brazilian television. It stars Roberto Carlos, the man Brazilians call The King, who is probably the second most trusted person in Brazil, and possibly the most-loved. For decades now, Carlos has been vegetarian, but in this advert, he sings the praises of Friboi, saying to the waiter that it is only Friboi meat which caused him to return to eating meat. Newspaper Agora São Paulo reported that for this advert, he was paid R$25 million, around £7.5million, and Carlos is on record as saying he decided to return to eating meat before the contract was agreed.
Social networks exploded in a fit of rage, and the feeling you get is a general sense of betrayal. Emotions ran so high that the official fan page on Facebook had to re-publish a set of etiquette guidelines.
There have been many layers to this controversy, such as people asking if Carlos really has converted to meat eating, as you do not see him eat meat in the advert. World famous film director Fernando Meirelles this afternoon contributed to the story, saying that the team which participated in the filming of the advert guarantee that Carlos “did not even cut beef. He continues to be vegetarian as he always was.”
I for one do not wish to offer any judgements. It should also be noted that Friboi have won various awards for their sustainability programmes.
For me, just from a more factual and cool-headed perspective, it is interesting to look at the implications from a branding point of view, especially as this week on my blog we have discussed authentic branding. (I can recommend having a read of this super comment for example from James Soutter – holonomic-brand-values/#comment-4735)
Friboi appear to have laughed off the controversy, saying that it is good for them in terms of the number of people talking about their brand. A big question remains for Carlos, and his personal brand value. Has he lost a considerable number of fans? This remains to be seen, and I guess we will have a clearer picture when he tours Brazil later this year.