Biscuit company advert ‘inciting unrest’ in Turkey causes storm on social media

An advert by one of Turkey’s largest food companies has caused a storm on social media after users accused it of communicating subliminal messages and inciting unrest in the country.

The 2 minute 46 second video [50 seconds subtitled below] by Ulker, well known for producing biscuits and chocolates, went viral on Friday night amid claims that it contained content calling for a coup.

The video was shared on Ulker’s official Twitter account according to Turkish media, but removed soon after as reactions began mounting. Several social media users posted photos posing with guns and threatening the company. Others allegedly have come out onto the streets in protest.

Ulker, owned by parent organisation Yildiz Holding, had been under the spotlight recently for alleged ties to the Fethullah Gulen Movement, a former ally Erdogan’s government accuses of orchestrating last July’s coup attempt. A charge the group denies.

Well known pro-government journalist Fatih Tezcan was one of the first to react and tweeted, “When I said “a FETO [Gulen Movement] operation against Ulker is a necessity” people called me crazy. I think the real craziness is thinking that this threatening video is only a ‘cracker advert’.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Senior Advisor Yigit Bulut also went online to retweet the video and another user’s message saying, “It seems Ulker and FETO supporters are preparing an April Fools joke! We are here! But are you ready for 16 April! [referendum day].”

The CEO of Ulker, Murat Ulker, rejected the accusations and called the video “a conspiracy” on his personal social media account: “I’m abroad now. I just heard. I thank those who gave me the news. Those who conspired against us will get what they deserve. We are with our people,” he tweeted.

In a later statement Ulker also dismissed claims saying the original video [below] had been manipulated and taken out of context. “Our April 1st ad campaign has been intentionally misrepresented and manipulated by certain people as carrying meanings it does not have. It is about the fraternal competition between siblings and does not and cannot have anything to do with what is being posted on social media.” The company said it would take legal action against everyone who had intentionally misrepresented the advert.

A report last year in the pro-government Sabah daily claiming that a police operation targeting Yildiz Holding was expected, sent the company’s stocks tumbling in November.

Commentators speculated that former and current influential figures of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party had prevented the operation, most notably former president Abdullah Gul. Others claimed that the report was a warning by the AKP to distance the company from Gulenists and take it under government control.

More than 24,000 tweets, almost all calling for action against the company, have been posted under the hashtag #Ulker on Twitter. The topic was trending at 2nd place worldwide when this report was written.

Some other users have ridiculed the interpretation that the advert is a call for military intervention saying that the government and its supporters are creating enemies where there are none.

The Istanbul Public Prosecutor has launched an investigation into the video.

A wide ranging crackdown on opposition forces following the failed coup attempt has led to the arrest and imprisonment of tens of thousands of people and the purging of more than 100,000 public workers, academics, lawyers and journalists. International rights organisations have condemned the crackdown and lack of due process.