Shares in the sister company of Godiva Chocolatier Inc. plunged in Istanbul after an April Fools’ Day-themed commercial went wrong.
The confectioner, Ulker Biskuvi AS, faced an immediate and intense backlash to its 50-second animated clip, with protesters including a government lawmaker gathering outside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Istanbul residence over the weekend. The politician, Metin Kulunk, said the animated commercial -- in which the narrator signs off with the words “now is the day of reckoning” -- was an attempt to manipulate the psychology of 80 million people.
"This nation has not and will not forget the night of the coup," Kulunk said in comments reported by CNN-Turk television.
In a public statement on April 1, Ulker called the heated response a “defamation campaign,” and said that it would be taking legal action. The animation featured April Fools’ pranks between siblings, the company said, and was intended in a spirit of fun.
The company’s shares tumbled as much as 4.7 percent as of 12:13 p.m. local time on Monday.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addressed the controversy in a televised interview on Saturday, calling the advertisement “inept.”
There is already “uneasiness in society and this is a commercial that triggers that unease,” said Yildirim, who added that he hadn’t personally watched it. "Apparently there were some remarks reminiscent of the days of the coup attempt, and some allusion to revenge.”
Some elements of the military attempted a coup last July, and Turkey remains in a State of Emergency ahead of a referendum next weekend. Citizens will vote on a proposal to expand Erdogan’s powers.
Other publicly traded companies owned by Ulker parent Yildiz Holding also droppped, with private equity firm Gozde Girisim Sermayesi slumping by as much as 7.5 percent, and grocery wholesaler Bizim Toptan as much as 4.6 percent.
Yildiz, the owner of Ulker, is also the owner of Jaffa Cakes-maker United Biscuits Holdings Ltd and Godiva Chocolatier Inc.