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Advertising is mostly subjective and often polarising. After receiving backlash on social media for an advert it had launched a few days back, jewellery brand Tanishq, owned by Indian conglomerate Tata Group, decided to pull down the advertisement from its YouTube page.

Inter-religion narratives can be challenging  

  • The advertisement released on 9th October was essentially to promote ‘Ekatvam’, the new line from the leading jewellery brand - to build-up the festive momentum. Tanishq is a brand that has been known for its creative storytelling over the years with its well-made campaigns.
  • The ‘Ekatvam’ film comprised a 45-second video depicting a Muslim family preparing a traditional South Indian baby-shower for their pregnant Hindu daughter-in-law. The story-line of the ad was described thus: "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, and cultures."
  • While the brand chose to take the brave route of showing two religions and their interplay, social media posed mixed reactions to the communication. While many people liked the inclusive tone of the advert, it also received a lot of backlash and hatred on YouTube, Facebook and twitter. #BoycottTanishq was trending on Twitter on Monday. The comments ranged from accusing the brand of being a bigot and a pseudo-secular to much more.
  • Among the supporters of the advert were noted author Chetan Bhagat and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor heaping praise on the ad as an example of Hindu-Muslim unity said: "If Hindu-Muslim "ekatvam" irks them so much, why don't they boycott the longest surviving symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity in the world - India?"

Taking the tough call

Tanishq eventually took a call and decided to pull back the ad. Tata Group issued an official communication sharing the reasons behind pulling it down, “the idea behind the 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.”

Regulators have no objection

  • The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) issued an official communication on the much-debated Tanishq ad stating that it had no objection in the airing of the advert. “The advertisement in question was viewed at ASCI by an independent multi-stakeholder panel- The Consumer Complaints Council, which balances viewpoints from industry, civil society, lawyers, consumer activists as well as domain experts.
  • This panel was unanimous 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.”
  • Another industry body, Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) which is the official, national organization of advertising agencies also came out in support of the advert. It disapproved the targeting of the recent Tanishq ad featuring an inter-faith couple and said in its official communication, “The threats against Tanishq as well as its employees, which led to the withdrawal of the advertisement, are a matter of great regret and concern.”