Tanishq withdrew its ad after facing vicious abuse and boycott calls.

Screenshot of Tanishq ad featuring a Hindu woman and her Muslim mother-in-law Screenshot Tanishq ad
Voices Opinion Tuesday, October 13, 2020 - 14:47

Have you seen the new Tanishq Ekatvam ad film titled ‘Confluence’? No? You cannot, anymore. Because Tanishq has officially succumbed to the online trolls and removed the video from all their platforms. Watch a copy of the ad, here:

They started with comments enabled and Likes/Dislikes allowed. Then they disabled both. Finally, they have removed the video. Why? The kind of comments they are getting for the same video on Facebook would offer you a reason. Here’s a snapshot. There’s a lot more on Twitter that’s hundred times more vile and vicious, including naming and abusing specific employees of Tanishq.

To be honest, I was very, very surprised that someone at Tanishq and their ad agency considered this script, passed it for production, and were bold enough to release it now. That this needs to be called ‘bold’, in itself, is an odd situation to be in. We had a time when a Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre wore nothing but a snake to sell shoes and we used to call that ‘bold’.

Within days of its release, the ad has found virulent denouncement. And boycott calls too.

So what exactly is the problem in the ad according to the detractors? It supposedly normalizes “Love Jihad”, a term that has been categorically stated in the Parliament as a non-existent concept by the ruling party’s own junior home minister G Kishan Reddy in February 2020 (much like there is no record, meaning, explanation or context for ‘tukde tukde gang’, a term used to defame anyone not fitting a particular narrative).

Does the ad claim that this is representative of all of India? No.

Does the ad showcase violence between people? No.

Does it show that people live in harmony, beyond their religion? Yes.

Is this kind of harmony impossible? No.

Is this kind of harmony needed? Of course.

So, what’s the problem then? The problem is supposed to be that since gullible Hindu women (who, under the ‘Love Jihad’ conspiracy theory, have no agency of their own and are mere puppets that can be led anywhere) are being lured by rabid men from Islam/other religions, according to the theory of “Love Jihad”, this ad shows the opposite – that a Hindu woman is living peacefully with her Muslim husband and family, who are arranging an extensive Hindu-style VaLai Kaappu ceremony (Godh Bharai/Indian-style baby shower) for her.

Is the man shown in the ad violent and abusive? No.

Is the family ill-treating their daughter-in-law? No.

Is this scenario impossible? Hardly.

I have at least three friends with the same set-up – Hindu wife-Muslim husband. They are living as normally as anyone else. They celebrate both festivals with equal fervor.

So, can’t the ad showcase what-could-be? Of course, it can. That’s what advertising does anyway – showing the what-is-possible scenario. And this is not necessarily a make-believe world – it is what it is, at least when I look at my own friends. The what-could-be is usually based on insights on user behavior, with the usual advertising-led exaggeration layered in.

Are there exceptions to what’s being shown? Absolutely, there could be.

Do exceptions become the norm? Not at all. 

The other major gripe with the ad, as per angry comments is, “Why can’t they show the reverse? A Muslim wife and Hindu husband?”.

Yeah, why not? But, Closeup, the toothpaste brand, tried showing both, in 2 different ad films, in a 2018 campaign (my post from 2018 has all the context, but the videos have been removed by Closeup). Both got trolled heavily and Closeup withdrew both! There’s no end to this trolling.

So, I’m genuinely surprised that Tanishq and its agency actually passed this, knowing fully well the kind of reactions it may lead to. I’m fairly sure they do not live in a bubble to not know what kind of reactions to expect for this ad film.

All they are showing is a happy, sane and peaceful coexistence of religions. But in a situation where there is a constant need to hold up a villain for people to be perpetually angry and fearful about, this ad becomes yet another easy target.

Tanishq hasn’t done anything wrong, or hasn't shown anything to be ashamed of. So, it is sad that they had to succumb to the online trolling and withdraw their ad.

For context, here are a few other ads that tread this ground, between the two religions. Most of them have been trolled for assorted reasons and some of them have been withdrawn too.

Surf Excel – Holi, February 2019 | Agency: Lowe Lintas Mumbai

Closeup Lost Loves: Naghma & Arghadeep, November 2018 | Agency: Lowe Lintas and VICE Media

Closeup Lost Loves: Adithi & Umar, November 2018 | Agency: Lowe Lintas and VICE Media


Brooke Bond Red Label – Ganesha, September 2018 | Agency: Ogilvy

Brooke Bond Red Label – Neighbours, April 2014 | Agency: Ogilvy


Kaun Banega Crorepati promo, July 2014 | Agency: Leo Burnett

This article first appeared on Karthik Srinivasan’s website and was republished with permission.

Karthik Srinivasan is a communications strategy consultant and the author of 'Be Social'.