Intent does not count in a troll-defined world

14 Oct,2020

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

For me, the  Tanisq Ekatvan (Unity or Oneness with Divine Consciousness) advertisement appeared first in a WhatsApp group. A group that is reasonably levelheaded. The post read, “https://youtu.be/t3dJtFoVWWM,  the trolls have got this ad pulled off the air. Let’s spread it as widely as possible.

 

What do you think happened next? 

We did not ask why the ad should be spread widely? However, eight of us saw it in the next 2 minutes and started discussing the advertisement, the story, the trolls and the brand. It is safe to presume that this must have happened across a hundred and thousands of WhatsApp groups. Keep this thought parked at the back of your head.

 

Tanishq Ekatvan Content

The story of a Hindu girl marrying into a Muslin family. The Muslim family adopting one of the Hindu rituals to see their daughter-in-law smiling. A thought of unity, inclusiveness and togetherness. However, the big political trolls saw it otherwise—an opportunity to keep alive the hatred and polarised emotions.

It was trolled to such an extent that the Tanishq took it off from their official digital platforms. Maybe the nearness to the festival season influenced the hasty decision of bowing to the trolls. Being a commercial entity, it made sense. But there are other things that, according to my dear friend and a familiar person, the Consultant Vermajee thinks makes no sense. I am surprised, how most of us, the myopic in-sighters lose the sight of sinister possibilities that the Trolls can expertly visualise.

Somewhere someone commented on the Tanishq ad. The person said, ‘the Hindu Trolls should understand that it is the Muslim family, which is adapting to the Hindu Rituals, they should be happy’. However, a large section of voice on the social platforms challenged brand Tanishq to do the same communication with the roles reversed. A Muslim Girl Marrying into a Hindu family and the family adopting a Muslim ritual for her. Well, one can anticipate how bad the backlash could be. I am sure, no smarty at the client-side considered such a possibility.

 

 

Personally, I find nothing wrong with the ad. In fact, I find it a decently good ad.

 

Why Integration Is Tough.

The buzz on social platforms will make us believe that no one wants to see a better tomorrow. No one wants re-integration of regions and religions. Unfortunately, we seem to be trained now to see ulterior motives in everything positive. Maybe the current situations make us believe the impossibility of the task. In the process, we are creating our cocoons. We are alienating ourselves. We believe the hatred-filled narrative presented to us on the social and political platforms and Toxic channels.

 

Some Voices.

I like the same voices on twitter. @RosheeLc tweet’s, “It’s unfortunate that a creative ad of the Tanishq brand is pulled out just because it is distasteful to a particular section of the society. The basic premise to launch any ad should be to target the heterogeneous audience that endorses its belief system and sees value in it”.

@Ambimpg says, “This is a wonderful ad. I said so in a media interview. But trolls being trolls.. @TanishqJewelry has withdrawn the ad. Maybe Diwali season is too close for comfort”.

A voice not held in high esteem by me, Chetan Bhagat tries to take a high stand without evaluating a business decision. He tweets, “As a TATA group company, expected #Tanishq to be fairer and braver. If you have done nothing wrong, if you have shown something beautiful about our country, don’t get bullied. Be Indian.

Be strong”. A voice @Srimatesh tells Chetan, “Absolutely. And it takes a real spine to own up a goof-up which they promptly did. Kudos #TanishqEkatvam #TanishqJewelry #TanishqAd

 

 

And I am appalled by a voice that I respected now acting silly. Kangana Ranaut tweeted, “As Hindus, we need to be absolutely conscious of what these creative terrorists are injecting into our subconscious, we must scrutinise, debate and evaluate what is the outcome of any perception that is fed to us, this is the only way to save our civilisation #tanishq“. And the tweet was running with thousands of likes!

 

 

Social platforms will make us believe that more people are against the advertisement. It will tell us that the highly polarised voices are getting appreciated. It is definitely a sad state of affairs.

 

Consultant Vermajee Debates

Tanishq is a big brand and a Tata company. It must be having decent-sized agencies on its roll. The agencies must be alive to the current situation on the ground. They must know the prevailing sentiments that the minority in the majority and the majority in the minority have against each other.

In such times, how could the agency be so blind, as to propose such a goody-goody- we-all-are-same-blood-Hindustani inclusive communication. Unless it was a strategic call. Unless the brand expected to be trolled for it. Unless the brand believed, trolling will give them more eyeballs than a typical media investment can. Unless they think, the buying decision of the people who can afford Tansihq will not be impacted by the trolls.

With such a communication, the client-agency teams would have done scenario building and planned their defence and an honourable escape.

If the agency failed to advise the client to take an open-eyed conscious decision and have a backlash management plan ready. In that case, they should not hold their position. What was their Consultant doing? Talking of being hyperopia with a myopic skew.

Dinesh Gopalan a friend and IIM-A batchmate puts it in the right perspective. He says, “love jihad is real. Excessive political correctness is not good. It is good to call a spade a spade. The ad needs to be taken down.”. It is a point-of-view that Vermajee and I may not wholly agree with. We like a true Consultant would add, “if you do this as a part of an open-eyed decision, then be willingly stand up for your right and don’t take the advertisement off”.

 

The Question Remains.

Till when will the freedom of expression be denied to the advertising profession. When will we ensure that polarised voices do not pressurise business entities to withdraw their communication? Something so harmless; unless seen with polarised eyes and mind. Till when will the creative expression and storytelling need to be watered to be politically and socially acceptable to every Tom-$@&# and Harry.

 

Should We Get Back To Storyboard Approval?

I worked in the only-Doordarshan era. The period when we would submit a storyboard for approval. No one shot without approval. No one knew what could be objected to. Invariably the approved storyboard would come to the rescue if any objections were raised later-on.

It seems we need a communication approving body with members representing regions, religions, caste and professions which would approve the script. And even that may not be a complete assurance for any objection on a later date but will be better than the state of anarchy we face today. I don’t see it as sarcasm or a retro mindset. What we are doing is retro.

 

PostScript.

Someone said- if only Tanishq could have added at the end- Jago Re Jago Hindu Jago re. And it really summed up the picture.

 

 

Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior business and marketing strategist and educator. He writes on MxMIndia every Wednesday. His views here are personal

 

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