India: Ad Celebrating inter-faith confluence Ëkatvam Faces Outrage – Isn’t it time to rewrite the code of ethics in commercial speech?

5 Most Controversial Inter-Faith Ads That Caused Massive Outrage - Funniest  Indian

by Dr. Bhargavi D Hemmige        17 October 2020

Regardless of Indian advertising has evolved to where it is today, we live in a time where even 43 seconds of communal harmony hurts. Yes, the discussion is about the recent advertisement by Tanishq from Titan, TATA Group, which was released last week that is October 9th. This ad was part of Tanishq’s latest line of Jewellery called the “Ekatvam” series, which means oneness was released ahead of the festival season marked by Durga Puja and Diwali.

The advert showed a baby-shower ceremony which is called Seemantham or Valaikaapu in south India, with a description of the video on YouTube which said “She is married into a family that loves her like their own child. Only for her, they go out of their way to celebrate an occasion that they usually don’t. A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions, cultures.”

So, this 43- sec advertisement, showing a Muslim family preparing a traditional Hindu baby shower for their pregnant Hindu daughter-in-law was criticized subjected to which was subjected to constant trolling and was trending with hashtag # BoycotTanisq by more than 20000 netizens who called for the banning of the advertisement. The brand which initially disabled its comments later removed the video. This also resulted in Titan’s stocks falling by 2.58 percent and the company losing Rs 2400 Crore market capitalization.

One Twitter user wrote, “We live in a time when an ad is withdrawn for literally Promoting communal harmony. And we think COVID-19 is India’s deadliest virus right now”.

Any social media user would notice that these days #Boycott seems to trend in the last few months for example #BoycottKaranJohar, #BoycottKangana #BoycottMedia #BoycottArnab #BoycottRajdeep and #BoycottTanishq seems to be the latest entrant to that list.

This opens up a debate on how tolerant we are as a society and when a Company takes a bold stand like this is trolled, bullied, and made to back off for taking up the bold issues like inter-faith marriages, and if such progressive ideas are condemned what about the Unity in Diversity idea which one is taught from school and what about our preamble promising all of us Sovereign, Socialist Secular Republic coupled with Justice, Liberty of thought, faith, and worship.

No Violations:  A complaint was also filed to The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) against the said advertisement which after an enquiry by an independent multi-stakeholder panel stated that the panel was unanimous in its decision 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 complaint was not upheld, as the advertisement did not violate the ASCI codes of honesty, truthfulness, and decency in advertising. Therefore, ASCI has no objection to the airing of this advertisement, should the advertiser choose to do so.

The company finally clarified with a post on its Twitter handle which read “The idea behind the Ekatvam campaign is to celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life, local communities and families during these challenging times and celebrate the beauty of oneness. This film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective. We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film, keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff.”


Concept of Communal harmony in Ads:  The advertisements have played an essential role in creating awareness on the changing the social values, awareness of the society the past we have Hindustan Unilever Group’s Brooke Bond label which showed inter cultural advertisement unlike their previous adverts directed at connecting families with the tag line “Swad Apnepan Ka”. Another ad from Havells Fan with the tag line “Hawa Badlegi” which showed a young couple who while completing the hospital procedures before taking their baby daughter home writes the baby’s religion as “HIMU’ and the father explains to the nurse that it was a convergence of the letters Hindu and Muslim, depicting the idea of freedom to choose one’s.

Real, no figment of imagination: In the latest development many couples married under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act have shared their inter-culture marriage experiences. Ms. Griha Atul said “I’m married into a Muslim household which respects and accepts my religious identity. So, the Tanishq advert wasn’t a figment of any imagination.” and Rasika Agashe, actor-director married to Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub. shared her baby shower pictures on Twitter.  Actress Mini Mathur in her Instagram post shared her happy marriage story with Bollywood Director Kabir Khan.

Another couple on Facebook under the Humans of Bombay handle shared their story of finding peace, with a picture of their house in Goa “Hum”, where H stands for Hindu and M for Muslim.

As a faculty trying to give examples on do’s and don’ts of an advertising campaign, one faces with a dogma on what is right and what is wrong. Is it time to rewrite the ethics of advertising, one wonders?

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