Is Tanishq’s Ekatvam Diwali ad being pulled down setting a wrong precedent?
On November 09, #BoycottTanishq was trending on Twitter for another advertisementYouTube
Tanishq’s latest ad wasn’t just about promoting a noise-free Diwali, contrary to what trolls think

Is Tanishq’s Ekatvam Diwali ad being pulled down setting a wrong precedent?

Tanishq’s latest ad wasn’t just about promoting a noise-free Diwali, contrary to what trolls think
  • Tanishq’s latest Ekatvam Diwali ad stirred up a new row of controversy on social media for promoting a crackerless Diwali.
  • The brand was quick to delete its ad this time.
  • This made us wonder if brands are setting a wrong precedent by pulling down their advertisements and giving in to these bullies too quickly? Will consumers lose faith in the brand for backtracking and its lack of confidence?
  • Experts tell us their thoughts and ideal ways of dealing with online trolling.
Tanishq has found itself in troubled waters yet again. On November 09, #BoycottTanishq was trending on Twitter for another advertisement under its on-going ‘Ekatvam’ (unity) campaign and this time, we are scratching our heads to find a reason why it offended the internet users.

The ad featured four independent actors Sayani Gupta, Neena Gupta, Alaya F and Nimrat Kaur talking about what they love about Diwali and how they are going to celebrate the festival this year. The ad is about female companionship and oneness. It celebrates successful women and positions itself as a brand that caters to women of all ages.

Tanishq’s latest ad wasn’t just about promoting a noise-free Diwali, contrary to what trolls think. It was about celebrating Diwali with family and not bursting crackers was just one of the messages they gave. The message which offended many internet users wasn’t the central thread of the ad. It was woven around the message of equality and togetherness. Its caption read, “This Diwali, let’s unite and celebrate with those closest to our hearts.”

While many experts say that religion is a tough subject to handle and brands should be careful in the way they project themselves, this time, Tanishq played it safe. It only featured Hindu, upper-caste and class women celebrating Diwali. So, what was the problem?

It seems like the memories of the previous storm were still fresh and the mere sight of Tanishq is offending Twitterati. They were quick to jump in to ask for another boycott for ‘trying to advise Hindus on how to celebrate their festivals’ and ‘defame their culture.’

“Why should anyone advise Hindus how to celebrate Our Festivals? Companies must focus on selling their products, not lecture us to refrain from bursting Crackers. We will light lamps, distribute sweets and burst green crackers. Please join us. You will understand Ekatvam,” said a user.

“Saw a recent ad campaign by Tanishq Jewelry where some bimbos prattle vacuously about how Deepavali is about buying clothes and jewellery. Looks like this is the new woke line. Strip Deepavali of all religious significance and make it a kind of a glorified kitty party with lights,” said another Twitter user.

They even had a problem with women not wearing symbols of patriarchy and their badges of being married such as bindis, bangles and sindoor.

It was around a month ago that Tanishq’s ad film about a Hindu bahu and her Muslim saas living together peacefully made the trolls uncomfortable. In both these controversies, Tanishq was quick to withdraw its ad and apologise for hurting religious sentiments. This made us wonder if brands are setting a wrong precedent by pulling down their advertisements and giving in to these rabble-rousers too quickly? The last time, Tanishq withdrew its ad because the safety of its employees was in danger and so far, for its recent ad, it has just been social media outrage. Powerful brands like Tanishq have the resources to stand up to these bullies. Brands are also aware of the volatile climes they live in and how advertisements can irk some internet users.

So, are brands not hiring good media planners? Will consumers lose faith in the brand for backtracking and its lack of confidence? A larger question every CMO ponders upon, what is the ideal way to deal with these online bullies? We reached out to experts to find out. Here is what they had to say:

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel Investor:

I am surprised that Tanishq chose to take down the ad in the face of social media backlash. I am sure the brand foresaw the likely controversy when they chose to go down this path – so backtracking now is a little surprising and doesn’t speak well for their planning.

It is important for companies and brands to respect public sentiment. After all, a brand and a company exists within a larger community and all it does is have to reflect the values of its users and the larger society it operates in. Thanks to their reach and heft, brands have become important elements in shaping culture, influencing behaviour and moulding opinion. It is therefore important for them to proactively do the right thing, even though it may have short-term implications for their business.

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc:

I very simply believe that brands must avoid touching topics that either directly or indirectly touch politics or religion. Anything that touches these two or adjacent issues such as custom and tradition, must be avoided. These are sensitive times. Avoid issues that sensitize audiences further.

Akshara Vasavda, Creative Lead, Schbang:

Another Tanishq ad taken down because of angry trolls upset over someone saying we shouldn't burst firecrackers, because you know, we're kind of in the middle of a pandemic and an on-going climate crisis in general. How dare they? First, let's focus on the real issue - the extremists dominating much of the Indian media and social media right now, spreading their intolerance in almost every sphere of our lives. There is no platform where one can express their (very reasonable and justified) views freely without getting attacked by angry extremist trolls. Whether or not Tanishq should have taken the ad down is a separate conversation. They are still yet another victim of growing extremism in our country, albeit a very privileged victim with power and resources to fight this issue and bring some much needed change. Should Tanishq have taken this ad down? Absolutely not. I work on a brand 100x smaller than Tanishq that was attacked for a week straight for a simple social media post on Navratri, but we stuck to our cause and fought the trolls off with a team of 3 girls handling ORM. I simply do not see why a brand like Tanishq feels forced to take the ad down except for maybe, just maybe, they want to have their cake and eat it too - please the progressives but be in the good books of conservatives/right wing audience as well. Afterall, their sales come from the old and the rich. Or maybe, they want the controversy. Whatever the reason is, I'm out of sympathy for this TATA giant, when small, independent brands are not afraid to stand up in the face of right-wing suppression of speech.

Kuber Chopra, Founder, Creative and Strategy Director, Rasta:

What Tanishq is dealing with is not a "might offend someone" mindset, it's got to a point where the trolls have simply marked some brands as too liberal for their liking. Just like they would mark some popular liberal voices as those to quash dare they speak. While I did feel when they released the last ad, they would have been conscious of potential backlash, on this occasion they're just dealing with depressing brainwashed mindsets that are going to continue to get offended by the sight of Tanishq. They are probably offended by this because there are 4 independent women and no men in a Diwali ad (albeit it's a jewelry ad) speaking English. I'm honestly a little saddened to suggest a hack for this, but if Tanishq doesn’t think putting a brave front is worth it, they should change the script and redo the voice over perhaps in Hindi. If they want to be brave they can release little snippets of each of these women lighting dias and a little story about who they are, where they're celebrating Diwali. And of course, doing nothing is also a strategy. Hope Tanishq has the best Diwali and open minded Diwali shoppers make their wallets heard.

Akshaara Lalwani, CEO & Founder, Communicate India:

Conceptualization of an ad campaign is backed by the vision to create an emotional connect with the audience. While ṭhis attempt may at times click well for the brand, there is a possibility of it backfiring too, especially during such sensitive times, when the world is battling through a global health crisis and emotions are heightened. However, keeping that in mind, it is also imperative for brands to believe in its value system and not change as per audience receptiveness. Thus, pulling down the ad wasn't the best way to deal with this situation and only reflected the lack of belief in the idea that the brand had executed through this campaign

If we observe the audience engagement post-global-lockdown, it has reflected an upsurge in the rate of social media trolls. Having had the technological access and ample amount of time at hand, people are consuming content on a larger scale and hence brands have been put under the microscopic lenses. In order to deal with such trolls, brands need to evaluate and understand the sentiment that the campaign has brought forth among the audiences. Basis the audience reaction, devising a strategy that helps communicate the campaign’s authentic idea is the best way to tackle the situation at hand.

Amyn Ghadiali, Vice President -Business & Strategy, Gozoop:

It definitely sets a wrong precedent. I believe that more than trolls, the customers also lose faith in the brand because it doesn’t have the courage to see through things that they actually believe in. If I were the brand custodian at Tanishq, the fundamental question I would ask myself is that do I believe in what I am saying & are the ones trolling me/ my customers? If they are, then I would really like to understand their POV better rather than pulling down the ad. If they are random trolls, who never would be able to afford my brand, why even bother? Also, if a brand believes in a progressive society, I would want to have customers who share that ideology. Look at how Jeff Bezos supported black lives matter. I wouldn’t call it strategy, I would simply call them principles. We all know principles mean nothing if they don’t cost us something.

The best way to deal with trolls is to create an army of brand advocates that stand by your decision and belief. In-case of a polarising debate like that of Tanishq or for that matter any brand, it is important to have a spine and stick through. People who support your belief system will come forward, defend you and in-fact respect you even more.