Kraft’s Athenos ad criticized for grandma’s ‘prostitute’ remark
By Lewis Lazare Media & Marketing Columnist March 2, 2011 12:28AM
The Greek grandmother.
Updated: June 29, 2011 12:20AM
Who knew a plain-talking Greek grandma could spark such a furor?
Yiayia (Greek for “grandmother”) is the centerpiece of the first-ever TV ad campaign for the Athenos line of Greek foods. And she doesn’t mince words in any of three new TV spots from Droga5/New York that debuted Monday.
But in the commercial that has prompted the most heated discussion, Yiayia tells a young woman who is serving Athenos hummus to a group of friends that she dresses “like a prostitute.” The startled young woman doesn’t think she’s heard correctly, so Yiayia repeats the word “prostitute,” this time even more emphatically.
Maria Anagnostopoulos, a program director at the Greek Institute, slammed the campaign in a USA Today report for being inappropriate “from a Greek perspective.” And a writer at the website Walletpop.com suggested the Athenos ads mixed shock value with Greek stereotyping.
But even as the debate raged online and in print, Northfield-based Kraft Foods, parent of the Athenos brand, was standing solidly behind the ads on Tuesday. Observed Athenos brand manager Marshall Hyzdu: “We think Yiayia is very relatable; she offers old-school views on modern society.” Hyzdu said consumers would tell Kraft how they want Yiayia to be used as the Athenos campaign unfolds.
Before the advertising’s debut, Athenos and Droga5 said they went to considerable lengths to make sure the TV commercials properly reflected Greek culture. The spots were cast and shot in Greece, and real Greek grandmothers auditioned for the role of Yiayia.
Athenos even retained Katherine Boulukos, a founder of the Greek Museum in New York, to assess the campaign from a Greek point of view and offer feedback on the portrayal of the Yiayia character.
The controversy sparked by the Athenos campaign is something relatively unknown to parent Kraft Foods, which for decades ran formulaic ads for all its brands that were designed solely to push product benefits and avoid anything provocative.