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Ad execs voice opinion on call to boycott Surf Excel’s Holi campaign

The ad also drew a string of support from media specialists and others.

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MUMBAI: Brand Surf Excel has been known for its string of heart-warming advertisements that say ‘Kuch Accha Karte Hue Agar Daag Lag Jayein Toh Daag Acche Hain’. Be it Ramadan, Holi, or Diwali, the brand always has something interesting to offer the viewers in terms of a beautiful narrative promoting unity, most of the times with kids as the anchor.

This Holi as well, the brand came up its ‘Rang Laaye Sang’ campaign with a video ad that shows a little girl helping a Muslim boy reach the mosque without getting the colours on his cloth. In the end, she also quips that he will have to play with colours once he is done with praying. While the ad impressed a lot of people, a certain section did not like the narrative, which allegedly was against the Hindu sentiments.

The ad is drawing a lot of backlash on social media, with #BoycottSurfExcel trending on Twitter over the weekend.

However, there has been immense support pouring in for the brand as well. Vasan Bala, the director who is a part of the team that has made the ad, took to Twitter to share his pride on the support they have received for the ad.

Speaking about the ad and the backlash it is facing, communications consultant on digital/social media marketing and PR Karthik Shrinivasan said, “In the social media space, everything is a conversation because big brands and people are merely part of the stream of conversations.”

Sharing his own views on the ad, Shrinivasan quipped, “I thought the new Surf Excel ad was a lovely piece of work by Lowe Lintas. It made me smile at the ingenuity of the little girl who helps her little friend, while also tearing up a bit at the innocence with which children look at each other, beyond the differences we adults create among ourselves. Surf Excel has been doing similar ads using festivals as a backdrop, even in Pakistan (done by Lowe Lintas India). The connecting link is, of course, Daag Achche Hai.”

He further added, “I do not understand the pointless objections and controversy over the ad. If someone wants to see the ad from their Hindu lens, then doesn't the ad show the girl (presumably a Hindu) as a brave, intelligent, magnanimous and quick-witted child? It shows her as a fantastic human being. That's worth lauding if you care deeply about Hindu sentiments, I presume.”

Shrinivasan concluded, “The other objection is that they show Holi colours as daag and that somehow is insulting Hinduism. I do not understand this either. Holi may be a Hindu festival but it is not a pan-Indian festival. For South Indians, Holi colours are nothing but daag simply because they do not celebrate Holi. I won't even venture into addressing the love-jihad angle given we are talking about children and that argument is way too disgusting and demeaning to even refer to.”

Brand-nomics managing director Viren Razdan also reflected the same sentiments as he said, “Adding a 'human touch’ to dirt has been a continuing theme of the ‘Daag Ache Hain’ campaign. This ad too sits pretty much in the centre of this platform. Holi has on one hand been a celebration of the spirit of togetherness, its brash aggressive play being its hallmark - this story adds a layer of being sensitive and respectful, of course till you hug them with Holi.”

Logicserve Digital co-founder and CEO Prasad Shejale, however, feels that marketers need to be cautious about the sensitive issues like religion and politics while designing their campaigns. He said, “A well-intended campaign can be seen in a different light as well, the negativity can spread rapidly with the use of social media. The unintended consequence of a well-intentioned idea can actually lead to brand erosion. Gone are the days when we could say that 'any news is good news'. With multiple conversations across several platforms, all happening in real time, the perceptions of individuals are most fragile/easily malleable. Brands need to be aware of this and strategise their campaigns considering all the factors and without diverting themselves from the core brand values.”

He added, “HUL, known for its heart-warming campaigns, tried to accomplish something similar with a well-intention-led advertisement for Holi. In what has become a habitual trend on social media, the advertisement was seen in poor light, essentially blowing a non-issue out of proportion.”

Despite all this, a number of celebs and public figures also stood in support of the campaign. Here are a few tweets that have come up to support the campaign:

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