Ads sell products, Internet does not buy religious unity

Ads are known to peddle Hindu-Muslim unity and continue to be roasted for them. The question of religious sentiments being hurt is probably a valid one. But so is the question on whether brands design these campaigns deliberately.

 |  -minute read |   19-10-2021
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Fabindia found itself in the eye of a social-media storm with the release of its new collection, ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’, is an Urdu phrase that loosely translates to ‘utsav’ or festival. People have begun to protest against the campaign, calling it ‘abrahamisation of Hindu festivals’. It was first pointed out by BJP Yuva Morcha National President Tejasvi Surya. The protest escalated quickly on Twitter. Within hours of Surya’s tweet, #BoycottFabIndia was trending on Twitter.

A Fabindia spokesperson told Times of India, “Our Diwali collection, called ‘Jhilmil si Diwali’ is yet to be launched. We at Fabindia have always stood for celebration of India with its myriad traditions in all hues. In fact ‘Fabindia – Celebrate India’ is our tagline and also a wordmark. Our current capsule of products under the name Jashn-e-Riwaaz is a celebration of Indian traditions. The phrase means that, literally.”

The Jashn-e-Riwaaz collection at Fabindia. Photo: Fabindia websiteThe Jashn-e-Riwaaz collection at Fabindia. Photo: Fabindia website

Fabindia is hardly the first Indian brand to come under fire for its marketing campaigns on social media, specifically when they featured aspects from different religions.

Here are four other instances from the recent past:

  1. Tanishq’s Ekatvam, 2020: Tata’s jewellery brand, Tanishq, received social media backlash when it released a campaign featuring a Muslim family celebrating their Hindu daughter-in-law’s baby shower (godh bharai). Allegations of ‘love jihad’ forced the company to pull the plug on the campaign.
  1. Tanishq’s Diwali ad, 2020: This ad featured Neena Gupta, Nimrat Kaur, Sayani Gupta and Alaya F, promoting a cracker-free Diwali. Sayani Gupta asking people to celebrate a crackerless Diwali did not go down well with people. Tanishq was forced, again, to pull the campaign.

  1. Manyavar-Mohey’s Kanya Maan ad, 2021: Manyavar-Mohey, and Alia Bhatt, were shredded on Twitter for a campaign questioning the practice of Kanyadaan. She was featured sitting in a wedding lehenga in a Hindu wedding mandap. Bhatt ended her question by saying that it should be ‘Kanya Maan,’ respecting the daughter, instead of ‘donating’ her (Kanya-daan). What was intended as a comment on the sexism in the ritual, ended up being perceived as an attack on Hindu traditions. The hashtag #BoycottManyavar went viral as a result.

  1. Surf Excel’s Holi ad, 2019: Detergent brand Surf Excel came under fire for its 2019 Holi-special ad. The ad, apparently to show communal harmony and friendship between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, was criticised for being Hindu-phobic. Netizens went on to say that the advertisement promoted ‘love jihad’, and to an extent showcased that Muslim prayers were more important than the Hindu festival.

THE O: Ads peddling Hindu-Muslim unity have mostly received backlash online. Yet, brands continue to make them, and continue to be roasted for them. The question of religious sentiments being hurt is probably a valid one. But so is the question on whether brands design these campaigns deliberately, to a point. After all, brands sell on publicity. Any kind.

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