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Dove row sparks rift in ad body

FMCG giant Unilever has been accused of abusing its position at the head of the GCC Association of Advertisers by a fellow member.

FMCG giant Unilever has been accused of abusing its position at the head of the GCC Association of Advertisers by a fellow member.

The claim comes from Beiersdorf following a legal battle between the two companies over their rival Nivea and Dove brands. In Europe Beiersdorf has successfully gone to court over claims that Unilever’s Dove advertising unfairly denigrates competitors. But Beiersdorf’s regional boss is enraged by what he sees as similar tactics locally.

Robert Taylor-Hughes, CEO at Beiersdorf Middle East, told Campaign he wanted a new independent body to resolve such issues.

He said: “The only brand advertising body currently in the UAE is ironically chaired by Unilever, powered by its budget muscle.

“We find it very disheartening that such a generally well regarded company can pretend to act on behalf of the best interests of the members of the GCC Advertising Association, including ourselves, when they conversely choose to blatantly abuse this peer-appointed position with comparative advertising techniques. Solidarity was part of the original GCCAA mandate that all the brand owners bought into.”

The GCCAA was created after concerns that advertisers were getting a raw deal from media owners and agencies.

Taylor-Hughes added: “The GCCAA has been set up to protect the interests of brand owners. We were promised that everyone would speak with one voice, which is what we signed up for. But it’s like sitting in a United Nations meeting while someone is firing bombs into your country.”

He called for a “proper industry body you could take your case to”.

There is no suggestion that Unilever’s advertising activities are illegal. Jan Zijderveld, chairman of both Unilever Middle East and the GCCAA, declined to comment, but said: “If Mr Taylor-Hughes would like to talk to me on this, or any other matter I would be very happy to do so.”

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