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Advertisements that courted controversy in 2017

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Advertisements that courted controversy in 2017

There is no such thing as bad publicity, especially when it comes to advertisements that land in controversy. Because what is the point of advertising and marketing after all, if not searing the image of the brand in the consumer’s mind? In 2017 some brands inadvertently landed themselves in hot water because of cheeky puns, risque taglines, and ‘insensitive’ use of gods and religion in ads.

Here’s a look at some ads that faced the heat in 2017:

Manforce Condoms: 

Manforce Condoms was forced to withdraw nearly 500 hoardings in Gujarat after protests broke out earlier this year. The Confederation of All India Traders had raised an objection with the Centre seeking ban on Manforce Condoms’s outdoor advertisements all over Gujarat alleging it was derogatory and put the festival in bad light.

Sunny Leone’s condom ad for Manforce that tried to piggyback on the Navratri festivities faced severe outrage in Gujarat this year. The people of Gujarat took offense to the hoarding that portrays Sunny Leone seductively holding dandiya sticks, as the ad reads: “Aa Navratriye ramo, paraantu prem thi” (Play, but with love, this Navratri).


The curious case of the recent outdoor ad campaign by online food ordering and delivery app, Zomato is worth a mention. The cheeky and ‘punny’ campaign attracted severe social media outrage so much so that Zomato eventually had to take down the ad in question.

Critics of the ad felt that one of the creatives of the campaign glorified desi expletives as it mentioned words like MC (mac n' cheese) BC (butter chicken) in an attempt to connect with the brand's core target audience - the millennials. While the brand had to pull down the ad, the outrage gave the brand exponential mileage among the target audience. Indeed, there is no such thing as bad publicity, is there?

Jawed Habib

Hairstylist Jawed Habib came under fire for hurting religious sentiments of the Hindus when he used the context of Durga Puja to promote his salon’s services. The ad suggested that even the gods visit Jawed Habib’s salon, so why not mere mortals? Durga and her children were seen getting pampered at the spa in the print ad. The backlash was such that Jawed Habib had to issue an apology. 

Meat and Livestock Australia

Though not an Indian ad, this ad referencing Hindu God, Ganesha was off menu for a majority of Indians. Meat and Livestock Australia, an industry body, received flak for a recent ad promoting lamb as the meat that can bring together a diverse group of people. The ad showed Ganesha, sitting at a table for a meal accompanied by Jesus, Moses, Zeus, Mohammed, Aphrodite, and even L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

The Indian High Commission in Canberra took notice and registered a complaint with the Australian government over the ad for depicting Lord Ganesha endorsing lamb. The ad was subsequently banned as it was found to be “discriminatory to those of Hindu faith” by an independent review by the Australian Advertising Review Board. The ad conceptualised by an Australian agency, The Monkeys, was seen as trivialising various religious figures, not just Ganesha.

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