New Delhi | Schbang, the media company that was involved in actor-model Poonam Pandey's fake death stunt last week, has extended an apology after its campaign to raise awareness around cervical cancer backfired.
In a statement shared on Instagram, the Mumbai-based company owned up to being part of the hoax, which drew severe criticism on social media from celebs and users alike. They tendered an apology to people affected by cancer but also claimed that their campaign has yielded great result in spreading awareness about the disease.
"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 a loved one face the hardships of any kind of Cancer," Schbang said.
The company, which also has offices in New Delhi, Bengaluru and London, defended its actions claiming Pandey's death hoax was driven by the singular mission "to elevate awareness about cervical cancer".
"Many of you may be unaware but Poonam's mother has bravely battled cancer. Having been through the challenges of battling a disease like this at such close personal quarters, she understands the importance of prevention and the criticality of awareness, especially when a vaccine is available," it further said.
The fake news of Pandey's death started doing social media rounds on Friday, a day after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government's plans to focus on vaccination against cervical cancer for girls aged 9 to 14 as part of her interim Budget 2024.
In the statement, the media company alleged that there was "no change in people's curiosity regarding cervical cancer" when Sitharaman mentioned it during the Budget Session.
Schbang also claimed that Pandey's stunt resulted in making "cervical cancer and its related terms the most searched topic(s)" on search engines.
"Nevertheless we are deeply apologetic to those who may have been hurt due to this initiative. We understand that our methods may have sparked debate about the approach.
"While we regret any distress caused, if the move results in spreading much needed awareness and preventing deaths, that would be its real impact," said the company, clarifying that it was "a pro-bono activity and not commercially linked to any client".
On Friday, Pandey's team made the shock announcement that she had passed away after a battle with cervical cancer but there was no confirmation of the death of the model, influencer and sometime actor known for her bold statements and appearances.
The next day, Pandey released a video on social media and said she was alive and it was all part of a campaign to spread "critical awareness" about cervical cancer.
The stunt has not gone down well with people on social media and elsewhere with many slamming the influencer for resorting to a "cheap publicity stunt" to seek relevance.