Faaez Samadi
Jan 9, 2018

Unilever under fire over Gaytime ice cream in Indonesia

Brand quickly issues statement to quell social-media outrage over ice cream brand that appears to promote LGBT rights, but isn’t actually sold in Indonesia.

The Rainbow Gaytime ice cream bar, created by fan Jesse McElroy.
The Rainbow Gaytime ice cream bar, created by fan Jesse McElroy.

Unilever has sought to put out a social-media fire in Indonesia over its Golden Gaytime ice cream brand, by explaining that the brand is not even sold in the country.

The company issued a statement yesterday in response to fervent local social-media outcry protesting Golden Gaytime, sold by subsidiary Wall’s, for its name and design, which appear to promote LGBT rights—a tinderbox issue in mostly Muslim Indonesia, where homophobia is a significant problem.

Indonesian social-media posts featuring a Rainbow Gaytime ice cream bar—not an official product but rather a tribute concept created almost a year ago by Australian fan Jesse McElroy for Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival—went viral, and several ugly comments followed, together with calls to boycott Wall’s.

In its short statement, Unilever Indonesia clarified that “the Gaytime ice cream mentioned in the social media are not the products of Wall's Indonesia”. It went on to say the company has been in Indonesia for 84 years and that Unilever “respect and uphold the cultural and religious values and norms” of the country.

Unilever went further to point out that its Wall’s brand is halal certified in Indonesia, and won an award for its efforts in this area.

Golden Gaytime was first released in Australia in 1959, and has kept its name despite the change in connotation of the word ‘gay’. In recent years, as with the rainbow edition, it has embraced the modern use of the word. 

Lars Voedisch, founder of PRecious Communications, told Campaign that Unilever "followed the crisis communications handbook" by acting swiftly, clarifying the matter, and "sharing context while not getting emotionally involved at all".

"As Unilever rightfully put, they are first of all a business that has to respect the values and norms of the diverse community it is operating in," Voedisch added. "But as the world gets more connected, it is becoming more challenging to have completely separate agendas for different markets."

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