Marketing agency apologises over sex toy ad in ‘brand battle’

Wolfgang Digital chief Alan Coleman described it as ‘a digital marketing dance-off’

One of Ireland’s leading digital marketing agencies has been forced to apologise after it advertised a fictitious sex toy with a brand name that closely mirrored that of one of its leading rivals.

Wolfgang Digital, whose client list includes Brown Thomas, Tesco and Unicef, bought a number of Google ads for the imaginary product as part of an ongoing tit-for-tat battle between it and Cork-based DPFOC.

While the agency did not expect the ads to be widely viewed, a change in Google’s policy to allow sponsored links with misspellings to appear in search results meant the ads could potentially be seen by anyone who searched for DPFOC.

The situation was further exacerbated by the fact the fictitious product was being “sold” via, a spin-off business established by Wolfgang in 2012.


DPFOC contacted the Advertising Standards Authority Ireland over the issue, and the complaint was upheld.

Wolfgang has since removed the ads and issued an apology for what chief executive Alan Coleman described as “a digital marketing dance-off that ended up going further than it should have”.

‘Inventive if immature’

He said the product ads were the result of an “inventive, if immature on my part , brand-bidding battle, adding that the links were removed in a matter of hours, with the only people likely to have seen them being employees of the two firms.

“We marketers obsess over our brands. Sometimes our passion spills over.

“Now that the fire of the ‘brand battle’ has dissipated, it’s obvious to me I overstepped the mark here,” he said, adding that DPFOC had accepted his apology.

Mr Coleman said as a gesture of remorse he had also made a charity donation.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist