Web Surfers Rally Around Vicki Knafo

Supermarket's advertisements featuring the social activist raise online ruckus

If you're a member of an Israeli social network on websites such as Facebook or Twitter, you've probably come across a "status" put up by somebody that touches on Vicki Knafo. The social activist's supposed "exploitation" by the Blue Square supermarket chain in advertisements has touched a very real nerve in the virtual community.

The context is the new advertising campaign by discount retailer Mega Bool, a member of the Blue Square group of supermarkets.

Vicki Knafo

The ads featuring Knafo have become a hot topic on talk shows, and the issue has spilled over onto the social networks. One question people are discussing is her remuneration for the ads. People are also hotly debating the wisdom of using the controversial figure in the ads ahead of Passover, which is the most important time of the year for retailers.

An example from yesterday shows the direction surfers and the media are going. "Mega Bool commented that all [the stars in its ads] are of the people, including Vicki Knafo, and didn't get any pay for their participation other than 'symbolic pay for a day's work,'" wrote commentator Merav Michaeli on her Facebook page. "This morning I scheduled an interview with Vicki Knafo. I wanted to ask why she'd agreed, if the exploitation didn't bother her or cheapen the social protest she had led. When I called for the interview she didn't answer [the phone] because the Mega Bool spokeswomen told her not to talk with anybody."

Michaeli's comment racked up hundreds of responses, mostly negative, but also many "likes". Her comment was also widely shared.

Another surfer, Yaron Haklai, managed to trigger a wave of "status" comments against Blue Square when he wrote on Facebook and Twitter: "We checked: Vicki Knafo is cheaper than [the media personality] Avri Gilad." On Facebook alone he got 450 "likes" and his comment was shared around by dozens.

After taking arrows for paying handsome amounts to celebrity ad stars such as Gilad, and symbolic pay to Knafo, Blue Square backtracked. Its marketing manager, Shai Almog, told TheMarker yesterday, "We paid Vicki Knafo a respectable amount. We didn't pay her just for the day of filming. We paid her exactly the sum she asked for."

The Mega brand also took hits on its Facebook page. For instance, one surfer posted: "Why be evil? You, together with your rival Super-Sol, which is just as bad as you, have reached the bottom of the moral ladder."

One person who also chose to tweet about the issue is Ilan Shiloah, manager of the McCann-Erickson agency responsible for the Knafo campaign, who diverted matters in another direction. "I don't understand why Vicki Knafo is being attacked," he tweeted, adding that she was making a living with dignity - yet the public doesn't set upon every celebrity or actor appearing for pay. "Is it only the rich who are allowed to get rich?" he asked.

But the biggest threat ahead of the Passover shopping blitz may lie elsewhere, not in the choice to use Knafo on the cheap. A hint may be discerned in a comment he uploaded to Mega's website about the to-do du jour. "What's sure is that Vicki Knafo was cheaper for you than [entertainer] Zvika Hadar, who's advertising the comparison with Super-Sol Deal," he wrote. "In any case, I think I'll shop at Rami Levi."