In a rare show of solidarity, the advertising community in India has come together in defence of an advertisement for Tanishq, Tata’s flagship jewellery brand, which ran a campaign on the sentiment of cultural and national integration.
In the series, there was an ad film that was aired highlighting the theme of cultural unity in an interfaith marriage. A pregnant Hindu daughter-in-law in a Muslim household is lovingly told by her mother-in-law that traditional cultural baby shower ceremonies would be observed as the family cared for the sentiments of the young girl. The underlying message was dedicated to the numerous craftsmen of different faiths who intertwined their cultural heritage to create the beautiful jewellery designs.
The ad was trolled viciously by a section who accused the jewellery brand of promoting ‘love jihad’. The cascade effect of the trolling was such that the location coordinates of some Tanishq employees were shared, prompting the company to unconditionally withdraw the ad.
'We have to stand together as a nation'
Speaking to Gulf News from Mumbai, Amit Akali, the founder and CCO of the advertising agency ‘What’s your Problem’ that created the Tanishq ads said that this was not about one ad in isolation, but an issue where the entire nation had to stand together against this wave of intolerance.
If you have to stereotype, I am a Hindu Sikh married to a Parsi. But I equally identify as Malayali, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Marwari, and Punjabi. Whatever I am, I am not anti-Indian.
He said, “A few days ago, we had released Ekatvam — a campaign for Tanishq — bringing alive the thought that the only way out of this crisis for us as a nation is if we are united. If you wear a mask and I don’t, if you maintain social distancing and I don’t, as a nation or a world we won’t survive this. At the heart of this campaign is a collection that over a thousand Karigars (craftsmen) have come together to create, from across the country, uniting over 15 different Indian art forms. We’ve made over a 100 pieces of communication to promote this. One of them depicted this Muslim family celebrating godh bharai (baby shower) for their Hindu daughter in-law, sticking to every detail from HER culture. We have been criticised for the last one by people who don’t believe that this is the ethos of our identity as Indians. If you have to stereotype, I am a Hindu Sikh married to a Parsi. But I equally identify as Malayali, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Marwari, and Punjabi. Whatever I am, I am not anti-Indian. For those who’ve questioned why the ad was pulled out, all I can say is — you would have taken the same decision if it were up to you. Nothing, nothing is more important than human lives. In fact the brand did stand up — it stood up for their employees.
Uniting for a cause
The advertising community is upset and shocked as to why such an ad which celebrated integration and sentiments was the target of such brutality. From time immemorial, the theme of national integration has held great creative and emotional appeal to the Indian audience. There have been several ads depicting interfaith integration.
National integration a recurring theme
A few years ago, a popular tea brand ran an ad where a new Hindu tenant in the building is drawn to a Muslim neighbour’s home as he follows the invigorating aroma of a freshly brewed tea. The ad concluded with the close-up of the two neighbours coming together over a cup of tea. In the 1980s, the sweet and salty biscuit brand Krackjack ran a popular campaign depicting people from the Sikh, Christian, Hindu and Muslim faith striking friendships to savour the sweet and salty flavour of the biscuit.
This was a beautiful ad capturing the spirit of India where we have had a tradition of inter-faith marriages.
Nisha Singhania, founder and director of Infectious Advertising, India, expressed shock that in a country which thrived on the theme sociocultural and religious integration, a sensitive should have to be pulled out of circulation. She told Gulf News: “This ad was not just about jewellery, but conveyed a beautiful message capturing the spirit of India where we have had a tradition of interfaith marriages. In a country where films like Amar Akbar Anthony were runaway hits and people celebrate unity in diversity, we have had to take down this ad because there was a threat to life for some employees. Earlier, we have seen this kind of opposition for movies such as Padmavat, but the makers could go to court for redressal of their grievances. This is the first time that an ad has received such a backlash and our community is getting together. If this continues we will have to appeal to higher authorities.”
Indian advertisement bodies stand up in support
The voice of protest has been unanimous. The Advertising Club, Mumbai in its statement said: “Such baseless and irrelevant attack on creative expression is extremely concerning.”
Such baseless and irrelevant attack on creative expression is extremely concerning.
Reacting to a complaint lodged with them, the Advertising Standards Council of India (AASCI) had the ad reviewed by an independent multi stakeholder panel comprising the Consumer Complaints Council, members of the civil society, lawyers, consumer activists as well as domain experts. It unanimously ruled that nothing in the advertisement was indecent or vulgar or repulsive, which is likely in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave and widespread offence. The ASCI further said the advertisement did not violate the ASCI codes of honesty, truthfulness and decency in advertising. Therefore ASCI had no objection to the airing of this advertisement, should the advertiser choose to do so.
Tanishq stands for the long espoused human values of the house of Tatas
Kaushik Roy, former President Branding and Marcom for Reliance Industries, had a bone to pick with those sections of people who said that the job an ad is to sell and not social activism. “I totally disagree with this thought. In the West, there have been so many ads based on the theme of ‘Black Lives Matter’. Are these brands faulted? This ad from Tanishq carries the legacy of the Tatas. It is not just a brand of jewellery but stands for the thousands of multi-faith karigars [craftsmen] who create the jewellery. The brand just does not sell a product. I know that many of the jewellery karigars in West Bengal are Muslims, so are the weavers of Banaras saris and cooks of some delectable biryani and kebabs. If these trolls are trying to reject the reality of India then shouldn’t they given up buying jewellery, saris from Varanasi and eating biryani and kebabs?
This add disseminates the message of love. It echoes the voice of JRD Tata, Rusi Mody and all other stalwarts of the Tata Group who had the highest regard for human values.
“This add disseminates the message of love. It echoes the voice of JRD Tata, Rusi Mody and all other stalwarts of the Tata Group who had the highest regard for human values. It is not a fake brand but holds the gravitas of the values espoused by the organisation behind it.”
This is a developing situation where several members of the advertising fraternity as well as concerned citizens have taken to social media to register their outrage and protest.