Social media crowd finds ‘coup’ references in April Fools Day ad of food giant Ülker
ISTANBULAn April’s Fools Day advertisement by Turkey’s largest food company, Ülker, triggered panic on social media amid accusations that the video heralded a military coup.
The commercial was broadcast online on March 31, 2017, and describes the bad sides of being a younger sibling and says “time for revenge” is near.
Crowds gathered outside President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s house in Istanbul’s Üsküdar district early on April 1 to protest against the advertisement, which demonstrators claimed contained “pro-coup” themes.
The group organized the protest via social media, terming their gathering as part of the “democracy watch” movement that began in Turkey following the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt.
AKP Istanbul deputy Metin Külünk also attended the protest, praising the “sensitivity of the people” over the issue.
“The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the advertisement,” Külünk said, adding that the Istanbul police chief informed him over the phone that “nothing out of the ordinary” had taken place in the city.
He also claimed that the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, said to be behind last year’s failed coup attempt, is “still up to dirty business.”
“They want to control the psychology of 80 million [Turkish people]. Let’s not allow this,” Külünk added.
Yıldız Holding chair Murat Ülker has said the misunderstanding over the commercial was the result of a “conspiracy.”
“I’m abroad. I have heard about the news. Thank you to those who told us. Those who have conspired will face the consequences. We are on the side of our nation,” Ülker stated via his official Twitter account.
Another statement was issued on the Ülker Company’s official Twitter account, criticizing “distortion” of the advertisement.
“The meaning of the advertisement that was broadcast for April Fool’s Day has been dragged to different points with ill intentions. The advertisement is about friendly competition among family members, especially brothers and sisters. It is not related to the subjects discussed on social media. We will use all judicial rights against people who have dragged the meaning of the commercial to different points,” it stated.
The company also apologized to all those offended and said it had started an internal investigation into the incident, adding that the individuals responsible had been suspended from their duties.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also waded into the debate, describing the advert as “unfortunate.”
“I have not watched it but I have heard about it. It contained some expressions that remind people of the coup periods. There is already uneasiness among the community, so we can call it ‘unfortunate’ that this advertisement triggered these feelings. Ülker has already made a statement about this issue, saying it was wrong,” Yıldırım said.
Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan has written about the controversy over the advertisement, saying he doubted that Turkey’s largest food company would be involved in a coup plot.
“Do coup plotters give signals of a coup they have planned via a biscuit company’s advertisement? Why would they do that? Why would a huge company take such a risk?” Hakan wrote in his column.
The Turkish government says the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen orchestrated the failed coup attempt of July 2016, which killed 249 people and left nearly 2,200 injured.