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Creativity Vs. Offence: Ogilvy & Mather’s Sleepless Nights Over Kurl-on

Case study: Creativity Vs. Offence

In the world of advertising, creativity is highly valued. It helps brands stand out and capture the attention of their target audience. However, there is a fine line between creative advertising and crossing ethical boundaries. This blog post delves into the implications of using content in ads that may be perceived as offensive, focusing on the controversial Kurl-on mattress ad and Ogilvy & Mather’s role in it.

Ogilvy & Mather:

Ogilvy & Mather is a renowned advertising agency known for its innovative and award-winning campaigns. With a strong emphasis on creativity, they have successfully promoted numerous brands over the years. However, even the most respected agencies can face challenges when it comes to balancing creativity and ethics.


Kurl-on is a well-established mattress brand that sought to create a buzz with its advertising campaign. They collaborated with Ogilvy & Mather to develop a concept that would grab attention and generate brand awareness. The aim was to showcase the comfort of their mattresses in a unique and memorable way.

Malala Yousafzai:

One of the central figures in the controversial ad was Malala Yousafzai, a young Nobel laureate known for her advocacy for girls’ education. The ad featured an animated depiction of Malala being shot and falling onto a Kurl-on mattress, followed by a tagline promoting the comfort and resilience of the product.

The Controversial Ad:

The Kurl-on ad sparked immediate controversy due to its sensitive portrayal of a real-life incident involving Malala Yousafzai. Many viewers found it disrespectful and in poor taste, considering the traumatic nature of the event. The ethical implications of using such content in advertising were called into question, putting Ogilvy & Mather in a difficult position.

The Backlash:

The backlash against the ad was swift and widespread. Social media platforms were flooded with criticism, and the public expressed their outrage over the insensitivity displayed in the campaign. Kurl-on and Ogilvy & Mather faced severe backlash from various stakeholders, including advocacy groups, consumers, and even industry peers.

The Apology:

Realizing the gravity of the situation, both Kurl-on and Ogilvy & Mather issued public apologies. They acknowledged their mistake in misjudging the impact of the ad and the offense it caused. The apologies expressed regret and a commitment to reevaluating their creative processes to ensure ethical considerations are prioritized.

Looking Ahead:

The Kurl-on ad controversy serves as a reminder to the advertising industry of the need to balance creativity with ethical boundaries. Brands and agencies must be cautious when using sensitive content in their campaigns and consider the potential consequences. It highlights the importance of understanding and respecting cultural sensitivities, as well as the power of public perception in shaping brand reputation.


Creativity in advertising is undoubtedly important, but it should never come at the expense of ethical considerations. The Kurl-on ad controversy serves as a wake-up call for the industry, urging brands and agencies to tread carefully and responsibly when developing their campaigns. By finding the right balance between creativity and ethics, advertisers can create impactful and memorable campaigns that resonate positively with their target audience. Also get to know about Mercedes-Benz India: Approach to Capturing a Younger Segment case study