Tine, Norway’s dominant dairy cooperative that plunged the country into its embarrassing “butter crisis” two years ago, embarrassed itself again this week. A jubilee ad that it ran in connection with the 150th anniversary of Norwegian brown cheese was so full of historical errors that many customers were questioning Tine’s credibility anew.
The dairy conglomerate, which also is allowed to regulate production and prices in Norway, nurtures an image of paying attention to history and culture, with its very name taken from the old covered wooden pails once used to transport dairy products. Tine’s attempt to highlight historical events during the 150 years that brown cheese has been made in Norway ended up souring relations with many readers who spotted all the mistakes in Tine’s ad.
Among them were factual errors so grave that red-faced officials at Tine and its advertising agency, Try Reklamebyrå, were issuing full apologies in newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Wednesday. There’s no excuse, they admit, for printing in nationally distributed weekend magazines that Norway was invaded by Germany in 1939 (the correct year is 1940) or that famed author Sigrid “Undseth” won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928. Her name is spelled “Undset,” without an “h.”
Tine also incorrectly printed in the historical references accompanying its ad that Norway’s first radio broadcast was made in 1923 (it was in 1925) and that prohibition ended in 1926 (the correct year is 1927). The ad also misspelled several other names, even that of the legendary Norwegian raft Kon-Tiki. All told, at least 13 errors were found in the ad that ran in the weekend magazines of Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten and VG.
Quality control collapsed
“I have never in my 15 years in the business been involved in anything like this,” Kjetil Try, head of the ad agency that Tine used to create the ad, told DN. “This ad has managed to slip through all our quality-control checks.”
Try tried to take the full blame for the ad, to spare his agency’s client further embarrassment, but Tine seemed to insist on assuming responsibility as well. “Nothing is printed without Tine approving it,” Tine’s communications director Lars Galtung told DN. “We’re the ones who commissioned the ad and are in the end responsible for it.”
Galtung confirmed that “many have reacted (to all the errors in the ad) and we understand that. We fell flat on our face on this one. Things like this should never happen.”
Try was equally repentant, while both Tine and Try scrambled to correct the errors before the ad runs again. Thursday is the day Tine planned to promotionally celebrate the 150th anniversary of the brown cheese it produces, because it’s “been an important part of Norway’s history and is part of what makes Norwegians Norwegian.” It now wishes it had gotten that history correct.
Try added that being guilty of “such grave and so many troubling errors is a new experience for us, and we don’t even have a Swedish text author we can blame.”