The 43-second ad contained nothing ‘indecent or vulgar or repulsive’ enough to cause ‘grave and widespread offence’, says Advertising Standards Council of India
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
JEWELLERY brand Tanishq has withdrawn its ad video on Hindu-Muslim amity after social media backlash but the business world has made its point that it does not approve of the Hindu majoritarian order that a bunch of fanatics are trying to impose.
A good-intentioned ad campaign promoting communal harmony has been forced to be withdrawn just because a vocal section of society claimed it was promoting ‘love jihad’.
Last year, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) faced a similar challenge for its Surf Excel Holi ad that sought to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. Fanatics had then raised a storm over the ad but HUL refused to budge and braved out the social media trolling until the controversy died down.
Tanishq, owned by a joint venture between the Tata group and a Tamil Nadu PSU, could not follow that example. Maybe, the situation has changed for the worse during the last one year. Surf Excel ad had come during a period when the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was seeking re-election.
Post-election, the Hindutva goons are feeling emboldened. They think they can do anything and get away with it. As on previous occasions, it is revealed that those who led the campaign against the Tanishq ad are not ordinary people.
Tanishq’s decision to withdraw the ad from its YouTube page was prompted by a Twitter user who flagged the Muslim identity of a manager with the jewellery brand and linked him to the advertisement. According to The Telegraph newspaper, that user, Hardik Bhavsar, is followed by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Advertising and marketing portal Melt made this disclosure on Tuesday: “An employee of Tanishq–and his family–was trolled mercilessly and threatened with his life. That one detail was provocation enough for the company to decide to pull the communication–even if the company remained convinced that the ad was well-intentioned and not remotely disturbing. There was only one overriding reason for the decision: the safety of the employee in question.”
Ironically, Bhavsar, who targeted Tanishq employees, is the same person who in 2018 had targeted the then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj after she helped a Hindu woman who had complained of being denied a passport renewal as she had married a Muslim and still used her maiden name. When this happened, Swaraj was left alone; no one from her party or the government, including Modi, came forward to defend her.
Tanishq’s apprehensions were not without reason. On Wednesday, a mob of over a hundred people raided the jewellery brand’s showroom in a Gujarat town and reportedly abused the showroom staff and pasted a poster on its door which stated that “Tanishq was apologising to the entire ‘Hindu Samaj’ of the town for its advertisement.”
Though the incident was denied by the local police administration, an unnamed employee of the showroom was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “They said they were Hindus and wouldn’t tolerate such ads”.
What is heartening in this controversy is rejection of bigotry by the trade bodies. Top advertising associations have issued statements concluding that the commercial “is not derogatory to any individual, organisation or religion.”
“The Advertising Club on behalf of the Indian Media and Advertising industry strongly condemns the threatening and targeting of Tanishq and its employees in regards to their latest advertisement on the new jewellery line,” said a Club statement.
The Indian chapter of the International Advertising Association described the events that led to the withdrawal of the Tanishq advertisement as “very unfortunate”, and demanded action from the government against what it called the “intimidating behaviour”.
The Advertising Standards Council of India, the industry’s self-regulatory panel, said the 43-second ad contained nothing “indecent or vulgar or repulsive” enough to cause “grave and widespread offence”. The unanimous conclusion was reached after the council received a complaint against the ad.
“The Advertising Club of India, Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), International Advertising Association (IAA), ASCI, and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) need to come together and immediately approach the powers that be–including the Prime Minister (who has spoken at an IAA event) and the I&B Ministry to find a permanent solution to this problem and ensure that no repeat of this occurs. Do it now, and nip it in the bud–before it becomes a problem that cannot be controlled,” wrote Anant Rangaswami in Melt.