The company released an apology statement which received a severe backlash on social media on both Instagram and LinkedIn.
On February 3, 2024, digital agency Schbang released a statement on Instagram stating that it was the company’s idea behind the cervical cancer awareness where it tied up with media company Hauterrfly, and model and actor Poonam Pandey.
Their statement read, “Yes, we were involved in the initiative for Poonam Pandey to spread awareness about Cervical Cancer in collaboration with Hauterfly. To start off, we would like to extend a heartfelt apology - especially towards those who have been triggered as a result of having faced/having loved one face the hardships of any kind of Cancer.”
Schbang also noted that the “act by Pandey” resulted in making cervical cancer and similar terms the most searched topics on Google and according to the company, “this is the first time in the history of this country that the word ‘cervical cancer’ has been on over 1000 headlines”. It also clarified that this was a “pro-bono activity and not commercially linked to any client”.
The post was backed by certain Google statistics displaying the effect of this campaign and positive feedback from several people who did not know about the disease. They thanked Pandey for taking the “bold” step.
Following the statement, Schbang is receiving criticism from people online calling it "insensitive" and "disrespectful". A user wrote, "Since when have screenshots of Google trends been credible enough to quantify campaigns? Even if they were, the 'distress' you caused was by spreading misinformation about someone’s DEATH; no good intentions can come out of pandering. Schbang continues to disappoint."
Another user wrote, "If we normalise this, it’s the end of social marketing campaigns :) We have become this insensitive now."
"Never ever thought my fav marketing agency would go to such lengths , I'm pretty sure there are other ways too. This should've been your last resort," a person commented.
On February 2, Poonam Pandey’s team took to Instagram to announce that the model had succumbed to cervical cancer at the age of 32.
A day later, Pandey released a video clarifying that the initial news about her succumbing to cervical cancer was a staged act aimed at raising awareness about the disease. The revelation left the internet divided and Pandey received criticism from netizens and celebrities.