Kuwaiti blogger forces brand rethink across Arab world

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Big brands aiming to reach millions of consumers across the Arab world are rethinking their influencer budgets after a video by a disgraced Kuwaiti blogger went viral.

Beauty brands rushed to disassociate themselves from Sondoss Al-Qattan following the widespread sharing of her video criticizing new provisions to protect Filipino domestic workers.

Al-Qattan, a make-up artist who has 2.3 million followers on Instagram, sparked an international outcry on social media as users demanded brands withdraw their support.

The calls came in response to her widely circulated comments criticizing a new Kuwaiti law granting Filipino domestic workers one day off per week. The provisions also removed the employer’s right to withhold their passport and required 22 days annual leave for workers.

The incident comes as a wake-up call for global and regional brands eager to enlist the region’s most prominent blogger to tap into the lucrative Middle East market.

“Brands definitely have a bigger responsibility to look behind the number of engagements and actually look into the influencers’ ideas, ethics and attitude,” said Amer Massimi, CEO of Starfish Influencers Agency, which operates a mobile app with more than 5000 people from countries across the GCC.

Cosmetics companies, including Max Factor Arabia, MAC Cosmetics, Chelsea Beautique, Anatasia Beverly Hills and French perfume brand M. Micallef — who have all since cut ties with Al-Qattan — watched social media sentiment shift against them as users suggested they prioritized the value of a large following over their ambassadors’ ethics.

A spokesperson for Anastasia Beverly Hills told Arab News: “We are deeply disappointed by Sondos Al-Qattan’s remarks surrounding Kuwait’s updated labor laws. These comments completely contradict the core values of Anastasia Beverly Hills and we have not and never will condone any hateful, discriminatory views. Sondos is not affiliated, employed or collaborating with ABH. As a result of her statements, ABH has unfollowed Sondos and removed her from our PR list.”

“Anybody who thinks keeping their employee’s passport is their right and anybody who believes a working person does not deserve at least one day off, is out of touch with humanity,” a former follower of Al-Qattan’s wrote on Twitter.

“Seeing as Sondos Al-Qattan represents @MaxFactorArabia, does the brand support her appalling statements about domestic workers?” another wrote, tagging the brand.

Most of the beauty brands formerly linked to Al-Qattan have since severed ties and issued statements strongly denying their association with the views expressed in her post, which has received millions of views across multiple platforms.

“If Sondos had come out with some humility and remorse, apologizing for her comments and explaining maybe why they were out of context or showed some lack of judgement, then we could be in a different situation today than we are.

“I have rarely today seen any influencer so vilified and not just on a regional level, but globally too and this is a very tricky place to come back from,”  said Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, founder of TishTash Marketing & Public Relations.

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