Two weeks ago, January 8, I received a video on WhatsApp. It was exactly 5.56pm. I didn’t need to click to know what it was about. The video transparently displayed two supposedly different cans of Amstel Malta drink. I was convinced I had seen the video back in December 2016.
However, I clicked and it appeared to be the same video I watched two years ago. It voiced same tag line, “Be careful! Those who buy Amstel Malta, watch out for the fake product in circulation.” The look-alike-fake video the same contentious claims that there was “Low Sugar” on one can, while the other had “Malt Drink, No Alcohol” on it. It also observed that the NIS sign of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on both cans of Amstel Malta were different. It was indeed recycled fake news.
For over two years, Nigerian Breweries (NB) has been a victim of a swelling disinformation. Its consumers have not been spared either; they too have had their experiences of shock and surprise at the altar of unremitting misinformation that portrays seeming verifiable facts through a masculine voiced comparative analysis. Till date, a defamatory video has continued to play on their intelligence as well as their emotions in outright falsehood. The more attempts NB makes to dissuade Nigerians from swallowing this inaccurate information whole, the more the video goes viral.
My independent checks in 2016 when this video first featured revealed that makers of the product, NB, only repackaged the Amstel Malta drink when it introduced its “Why Add More” Amstel Malta drinks, a few months prior to when the rumour started making the rounds. Also, the difference in the NIS logo, MARKETINGMatters learnt, as far back as 2016, was due to the fact that SON changed its NIS logo, which made NB to reflect it in the repacked can drink.
In 2016, this fabricated video came accompanied with a photo version of the Amstel Malta cans that also went viral. There were apprehensions over the development. The rumour travelled far and wide as it threw some consumers of the malt drink into confusion. The company had no alternative but to clear the air, via its official Facebook page refuting the false story of counterfeits of the product in circulation.
According to NB, in August 2016, the company launched a new Amstel Malta campaign, tagged “Why Add More.” Shortly after the unveiling of the campaign, a picture went viral that a fake version of the Amstel Malta was in circulation, because the new packaging wore the new NIS logo while the old packaging had the old NIS logo of the SON.
The SON also debunked the claims of a fake Amstel Malta in circulation in January 2017. The deputy director of SON, Mr. Fred Akingbesote, said NB had met all SON’s safety and quality requirements and those of the new National Industrial Standards logo. He offered the same explanation earlier stated by Nigerian Breweries.
“The packaging wore the new NIS logo while the old packaging had the old NIS logo of the SON,” he said. Akingbesote challenged the black propagandists to go to SON’s website to verify his statement.
“We have a website, which contains all information on our standards and quality regulations. Every Nigerian who has doubts about any product certified by SON should cross-check the facts,” he said.
The then NB corporate affairs adviser, Kufre Ekanem, explained why both cans were still found in the market, “In the normal course of product and packaging renovation, old packaging and the new introduction co-exist in the market until the old one dries out. In view of the 12-month shelf life, we currently have Amstel Malta with both the old and new packaging in some parts of the market.”
Akingbesote confirmed that the NIS logo on Amstel Malta was the highest mark of quality from SON and commended the management of NB for its commitment to the highest quality standard. He stated that NB was one of the first companies to adopt the new NIS logo, which was launched in September 2015.
But the explanations did not clear the controversy as the perpetuators of this disinformation perfected their act to spread the ‘fake Amstel Malta’ rumour the more. This defamation has lingered till date, while NB has continued to insist that there is no fake Amstel Malta. The company denied the claims in 2016, 2017, 2018 and is stilling denying them, sticking to its position that there is no fake Amstel Malta brand in circulation.
A week ago, I received a press statement from the company, dated January 14, 2019, titled “Repeat Broadcast: New Packaging, Same Amstel Malta.” The first paragraph stated thus, “The attention of Nigerian Breweries Plc. (NB) has been drawn to a video circulating on some social media platforms alleging the existence of a ‘fake’ Amstel Malta in the market. This claim is based on the fact that there are differences in the NIS Logo on the Amstel Malta packaging.”
The press statement continued, “We wish to clarify and assure all our valued consumers and lovers of Amstel Malta that there is no fake Amstel Malta in the market.
“NB recently revised the packaging of Amstel Malta and incorporated the new NIS quality logo from the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON). This change was approved by the relevant regulatory agencies, including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
“The claim, in the video under reference that the Amstel Malta with the new NIS Logo is ‘fake’ is incorrect and misleading. SON, the owners of the NIS quality logo, have variously confirmed the change in its certifying logo and had in fact commended Amstel Malta for being the first producer to incorporate the new NIS logo in its packaging.
“The false claim and video have been previously addressed by NB in 2017 when the video was first circulated. A joint press conference was addressed by SON and NB Plc affirming the packaging change with new NIS logo and correcting the false claims in the video.
“We are concerned that the same misleading video has resurfaced and is again being circulated on some social media platforms. We, therefore, appeal to the public to ignore this video and refrain from re-circulating this untrue information, ” the company noted.
Why is this matter still lingering? Are the two different cans of Amstel Malta still in the market after the product was repackaged in 2016? Who is recycling this fake news? This is a case of serial attempts to defame Amstel Malta through concocted video productions. When this incident occurred in 2016, the security agencies announced publicly that they had begun a massive cyber hunt for the brains behind the act. What has become of this two-year “massive cyber hunt”?
Despite the fact that SON, the statutory body that is vested with the responsibility of standardising and regulating the quality of all products in Nigeria, has debunked the claims, the faceless video producer of a purported ‘fake’ or ‘original’ Amstel Malta is still spreading this fabricated story in the social media.
Is this brand war designed to exploit the gullibility of many social media users? Industry watchers are of the view that the video is a calculated attempt to drag the widely consumed product into the mud. It is worrisome that anyone would want to attack the reputation of one of the premium brands in Nigeria under false premises, yet we have our security agencies still ‘cyber hunting’ since 2016.
Ikpe named 2019 Pitcher Awards Channel jury president
Dr. Ken Onyeali Ikpe, group chief executive officer, Insight Redefini, has been announced as 2019 Pitcher Awards Channel jury president by CHINI Africa, organisers of the awards show and Cannes Lions official festival representative in Nigeria.
This follows an earlier announcement of Mihnea Gheorghiu, global creative director, Publicis Italy, as the 2019 Heritage and Innovation jury president. The Pitcher Awards Channel jury will judge entries for Use of Media, Use of Data, Use of Insights and Strategy, PR and Reputation Management as well as Integrated Campaigns.
Speaking on his expectations as jury president, Ikpe said, “I hope to see incredible creatives to give hope to a generation of industry greats.”
The group CEO of Insight Redefini holds a Ph.D in Development Economics from the Academy of Sciences, School of African Studies, Moscow, Russia. He is an alumni of the Advanced Management Programme, Lagos Business School, and also trained at the IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.
Also a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Marketing and the current president of Nigeria’s regulating body for Media Independent Practitioners (MIPAN), Ikpe is better described as a thought leader on leadership, branding, marketing communications, public relations, perception engineering and sports business.
Nnamdi Ndu, CEO of Creativity Week, said, “The main goal is that every piece of work recognised with a Pitcher award should be able to hold its own not only in Africa but anywhere in the world. We have absolute trust that Dr. Onyeali Ikpe’s wealth of experience will play a big role in helping to give direction and leadership to help the jury achieve this goal.”
The Pitcher Awards is a part of the Creativity Week, one of WECA’s creativity events and awards shows organised annually by CHINI Africa Cannes Lions in Nigeria. The programme is scheduled to hold in Lagos from March 25 to 30, 2019.