This is something that Idea might have never taken into consideration while spending mega-rupees on it outdoor advertising blitzkrieg. Veteran actress and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan had recently said at the music launch function of her son Abhishek’s forthcoming film ‘Drona’: “People of Maharashtra, please excuse me. I am from Uttar Pradesh so I will speak in Hindi”, followed by a giggle.
This off-the-cuff comment was enough to further stoke the fires of the Marathi-North India tension in Maharashtra. Reacting to this comment, Raj Thackeray issued a diktat, putting a ban on all promotional campaigns featuring the Bachchan family in Mumbai and other parts of Maharastra. Following this diktat, activists of Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have gone on a rampage pulling down or defacing all hoardings and outdoor displays with even a hint of Bachchan on them.
The worst sufferer has been Idea. Hoardings, displays, bus shelters featuring Abhishek Bachchan have been vandalised in Mumbai, Nasik, Thane, Beed, Latur, Ahmednagar, Sangli and Nanded. Other campaigns that have faced the MNS ire include Binani Cement and Parker Pen, both of which are endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan. Posters of Big B’s forthcoming film, ‘The Last Lear’, have also been vandalised.
exchange4media spoke to the advertising fraternity and OOH players to get their reactions on the latest fracas. While all of them felt that it was time for the Maharashtra Government to bring the situation under control, others came up with solutions and questioned the right to speech in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, the commercial capital of India.
Praveen Vadhera, Country Head, OOH, 141 Bates, the OOH agency for the Idea campaign, said, “It is a wait and watch situation for us and we shall decide our next course of action by the end of the day. At this hour, it’s a great loss for our client Idea, in terms of visibility of the campaign and of course, there is a huge monetary loss too.”
Indrajit Sen, CEO, Stroer Media India, had a word of advice for media owners. He said, “For media owners, it is an occupational hazard. I would suggest that from now onwards, the affected media owners can cover such unforeseen losses by getting their properties insured under the riot, fire and malicious damaging insurance policy. As far as the client is concerned, I feel that Idea officials should take up the case in the court of law against the political party involved.”
Vijay Cavale, Vice-President, Infinity Media, a 360-degree media agency, said, “Such actions are driven by vested interests and mar the industry in a big way. They have to bear unnecessary losses for no fault of theirs. It is a pity that even after 61 years of Independence such instances keep happening in cities like Mumbai, which is not only a cosmopolitan city, but also the financial capital of India. Actions such as these by political parties does not justify their act by dismantling the OOH property of the outdoor media owners, rather the party workers should have resolved the case in the court of law.”
Kalpesh T Vora, Director, Creation Publicity, said, “The rules against the use of language should be laid down properly by the State Government so that the industry per se should not be a victim of the actions and reactions of a third party. Already, media owners are facing a lot of monetary burden as we need to upgrade our sites and comply to new rules and regulations that are imposed by the BMC, and now with such unforeseen instances, it seems that the problems of a media owner in Mumbai are never ending.”
Satish Singh, CEO, Outdoor Media Integrated (a division of Laqshya Outdoor Media), also condemned the move. He said, “It is unfortunate to see such things happen in a country which is regarded to be the world’s biggest democracy. The right to speech is now a question that can be debated in the court of law. As of now, the Government officials who are responsible for the law and order in the State, should take up this issue with the political party concerned and prevent the outdoor industry from such uncalled for and unforeseen losses.”
At the time of filing this report, Mumbai Police had stepped in and issued a prohibitory order preventing Raj Thackeray from making provocative speeches and holding press conferences for a month till October 7. However, the MNS chief ridiculed that and said, “It seems that the Government has extra stationery... they keep on issuing me notices. Let them issue notices, I will keep on expressing my views.”
With such an impasse, what remains to be seen is whether how the outdoor industry can safeguard itself in future.