We live in an extremely media-saturated world. On average we consume nearly a hundred to a thousand advertisements, and this is not restricted to Instagram sponsored content nor a television commercial. Everything you see around you has an agenda, and it understands YOU quite well.
It is very important for an advertiser to create a simple message for a product. The message incorporates an idea that creates incentives for the customer to choose a particular product.
About a few months ago, several well-known brands had launched individual campaigns that created quite a buzz amongst people. The campaigns I have discussed in my article were viewed as deeply problematic for various reasons.
As a part of my research, I was viewing different websites for the worst ads to have ever been made. I was not surprised as to why they were on that list. They normalized problematic behaviors. For instance, the sexualization of women, emphasizes how having fair skin is important to be accepted in society, and highlights several other issues in a tone-deaf manner.
Advertising is one of the media tools that is used to change a popular narrative. The content of the piece should be able to create enough buzz about the brand and the new products it has launched. It is up to the advertising professionals to come to a creative and engaging campaign for the brand. It's a field where creativity meets madness.
In India, the Advertising standard council founded in 1986 lays down general ethical guidelines that must be followed by advertisers. These guidelines are written by trained and experienced professionals in the field. However, as seen in the recent past these guidelines are often ignored. More importantly, this agency regulates itself. The council board in 2017 has called out brands like Uber India and Dabur for their misleading advertisements.
Religion is very important to the people of India at large. It is the core and is the guiding path to lead a virtuous life. Hence, it becomes an integral and inalienable part of one’s emotions.
However, it is interesting to see, despite other ways to reach out to your audience certain brands use religious festivals or their practices to advertise.
This is a risky move. It can work wonders in some cases. For instance, Surf Excel had a campaign ‘Raang Lagaye Sang’ wherein they showed a girl shielding her Muslim friend from the colors so that he can go to the Mosque and pray. The advertisement was well received by the public and encourages harmony.
In some cases, such as the Manyavaar’s Kanya ‘maan’ ad starring Alia Bhatt. She is poised as being progressive and pointing out the faults in the hands, indicating how they are each other’s responsibility and would treat each other equally. In the advertisement, she calls for Kanya’Maan’ which is ‘respect for women’.
In an article posted by ‘Bridge Chronicle’ the author interviews a priest who rightly points out that the degradation of the rituals is due to the evolution of society. According to the article, in the Vedas, it is said that the ritual is a vow taken by the groom, where he promises to treat his wife equally and respectfully.
I believe, the advertisers did not think enough about this campaign slogan. The function of Kanyadaan is primarily to respect the woman/wife. They ended up thinking that the word itself is the objectification of women. The word ‘Daan’ has a very different connotation in Hinduism.
Fab India's campaign Jashan-E-Riwaz echoed for inclusivity and celebration of Indian traditions. However, the campaign slogan received backlash from its audience. The campaign was launched a few weeks before the festival of Diwali. Fab India took over Twitter and said, “As we welcome the festival of love and light, Jashn-e-Riwaaz by Fabindia is a collection that beautifully pays homage to Indian culture,”
I don’t have any issues with their official campaign video and I honestly don’t even care about the Urdu slogan. The festival of Diwali is celebrated by everyone irrespective of their caste or creed. But Jashan-E-Riwaaz cannot be a substitute name for Diwali. Moreover, the advertisers need to answer a few questions - would they change any other festival's name? Will it sit well with the diverse communities of India?
According to a Pew report on Religion In India, dated June 2021, interreligious marriages are a rare sight in the country. Moreover, a significant number of individuals coming from the communities such as Hindu, Muslim, Jain, and Sikh support stopping interreligious marriages. This gives us a fair idea of how negatively the general population deal with the ordeal.
Tanishq launched a campaign showing a Muslim mother-in-law giving her Hindu daughter-in-law a baby shower. The daughter-in-law asks her mother-in-law if the ritual is not practiced in their home then why the fuss? To which the mother-in-law promptly replies ‘isn’t it the custom everywhere to keep daughters happy?’
The ad was trolled on Twitter and later removed, with several users asking if the brand would reverse the roles and daring to keep a Muslim woman in a Hindu family and called for boycotting Tanishq products. The company faced backlash from Bollywood personalities such as Kangana Ranaut.
Personally, in the advertisement, if they would have just shown them celebrating the occasion and not saying unnecessary dialogues at the end probably then I wouldn’t have had any issues with the advertisement in the first place and there would be an impact. These statements looked too forced for a Jewellery promotion.
As I have mentioned earlier, advertisement is a field where creativity meets madness. There are infinite ways of reaching an audience with an effective campaign. Moreover, the campaigns that we have discussed earlier might not seem misjudged to you now, but it is critical for us to understand their deep-rooted meaning.
The approach of these brands towards their advertisements focuses entirely on changing narratives. As a result of which they find themselves at a clash with the beliefs of the public (including their potential target audience). They don’t really focus on the very use of the product in other words they don’t emphasize their USP (Unique Selling Proportion).
I think it’s appropriate for the audiences to voice out their concerns over media content especially when it comes to the issues such as religion and its portrayal. It is a sign of a smart audience moreover they understand and know how to measure and analyze media messages carefully.
1. Decoding Kanyadaan, an insight into the most argued custom in Indian Weddings, Najoka Javier, Bridge Chronicle, September 23rd, 2021 https://www.thebridgechronicle.com/lifestyle/art-culture/decoding-kanyadaan-an-insight-into-the-most-argued-custom-in-indian-weddings 2. What's the controversial Tanishq ad and why is #BoycottTanishq is trending on social media, Mirror Online, Mumbai Mirror, October 15th, 2020 https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/whats-the-controversial-tanishq-ad-and-why-is-boycotttanishq-trending-on-social-media/articleshow/78636691.cms 3. PEW Report: The Religious Composition Of India, Stephanie Kramer, PEW research center, June 2021 https://www.pewforum.org/2021/09/21/religious-composition-of-india/ 4. Kanya'Maan' Money Manyavaar Starring Alia Bhatt, Youtube
5. Fab India's Jashan-E-Riwaaz advertisment
6. Tanishq Babyshower advertisment
All images have been taken from Pinterest (excluding the design layout). The remaining designs have been taken from Canva.
About the author
The author of the above article, Mehak Mathur, is pursuing The Bachelor Of Strategic Communication and Journalism degree at Mumbai University.
“My main motive is to provide people with factual and relevant information and hope to ignite their passions, help them connect with one another conducting insightful discussions and see the bigger picture.”