A public service advertisement by Bharat Matrimony, a matrimonial platform, is the latest addition to the list of advertisements that created controversy over hurt religious sentiments.
The online matrimonial platform came under attack on social media for its advertisement on Holi which it released on Wednesday. The ad features a woman washing off the Holi colours from her face, and as the colours begin to fade, bruises start to show up on her skin. And the captions read, "Some colours don't wash away easy. A third of women who've faced this trauma, have stopped playing Holi."
Tweeting the 75 seconds video from its official Twitter handle, Bharat Matrimony asked for a more welcoming environment for women during Holi and acknowledged the need to draw attention to the challenges that women face in public places.
How did people react to the ad?
Several Twitter users asked the matrimonial site to take down the ad as and called it 'anti-Hindu' for linking social issue with a Hindu festival. People demanded the company issue an apology.
There were several others who criticised the backlash received by the Bharat Matrimony ad, and stood in favour of the message what the ad tried to convey.
Past instances of outrage over advertisements
Advertisements on religious issues have been a controversial topic in India in the past as well, and have garnered extreme reactions. Here are some of them which were at the receiving end of the outcries for hurting the 'religious sentiments'.
Detergent brand Surf Excel was caught in a Twitter rage over its Holi ad campaign, back in 2019. The ad revolved around Hindu-Muslim friendship, against the backdrop of Holi.
With the theme "Rang Laaye Sang" (colours that bring us together), the one-minute ad shows a young girl dressed in white provoking children to splash her with Holi colours until they run out of them. The girl then gives her Muslim friend, who is wearing a crisp white kurta, an all-clear signal and leads him to the mosque for prayers. "Later it's your turn to get sprayed with colours," she tells him as she drops him off her bicycle.
While many on social media applauded the company for spreading a message of peace and love between the two communities, the detergent brand owned by Hindustan Unilever received enormous criticism from others. Calls to boycott Surf Excel rose, claiming that the ad promoted love jihad. Some users registered their protest by returning their purchase order for the detergent.
Even after the backlash, the ad was not pulled down and currently has 31 million views on Youtube.
In October 2021, a Diwali campaign by the clothing brand received severe backlash from Twitter users over naming its Diwali collection “Jashn-e-Riwaaz”, an Urdu phrase that translates to meaning a "celebration of customs". Several social media users called for a boycott of the company, claiming that the Urdu phrase had been used to hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community.
Post the uproar, Fabindia took down the campaign and replaced it with its new 'Jhilmil si Diwali' campaign, which stood for the "homecoming and the anticipation of celebrating Diwali with loved ones".
An ad campaign for Tanishq’s collection called Ekatvam (oneness) was released in October 2020. The ad showed a Muslim family organising a traditional Hindu baby shower ceremony for their Hindu daughter-in-law. However, in no time many social media users called to boycott the brand as they accused the jewellery brand of promoting 'love jihad'.
The outrage was not just limited to the social media. According to the reports, around six to seven persons had barged into a Tanishq franchise in Gandhidham, Kutch, before one of them wrote an apology on behalf of the store with a sketch pen on the noticeboard. Giving into the backlash, Tanishq pulled down the campaign the very next day of the release, and issued a statement, saying the company was "deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions".
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