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Storia ad controversy: Did the brand cut it wrong in terms of strategy and execution?

Advertising experts weigh in on the spot that had to face ire from the Congress party

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Apr 29, 2021 9:38 AM
Storia ad

In yet another incident of a brand’s ad sparking controversy, Storia Foods & Beverages had to face the ire of Congress workers. Mumbai Congress, on Tuesday, protested outside the office of the beverage company in Mumbai taking offence to a recent advertisement of the company that allegedly mocks Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi. The Mumbai Congress in a statement accepted to have “vandalised” the premises of the company. The Mumbai Police stationed itself at the spot to monitor the situation and the brand had to take down the ad. Advertising experts weigh in on the spot, the controversy and whether it was the brand’s strategy that cut it wrong. 
Dr. Sandeep Goyal, Brand Expert and Chief Mentor, IIHB thinks that it may be a bit of an overreaction. “Brands indulge in this kind of brinksmanship all the time, inviting controversy and trouble. Then if such untoward incidents happen, you can’t call it an intolerant environment. Storia asked for trouble and they got it,” Dr. Goyal remarked.
Echoing a similar take, Jagdish Acharya, Founder-Creative Head, Cut The Crap opines, “The point is this. The entire joke - which is in poor taste - has no relevance to the brand. Therefore, at best, people may discuss the ad but without a penny for the brand.”
The Congress unit’s press statement said, “Storia Foods company has made an advertisement in which they have shown defamatory images of Congress leader and former president Rahul Gandhi and incumbent Congress President Sonia Gandhi. To condemn this, on the directions of Mumbai Congress President Bhai Jagtap and General Secretary Nitin Sawant, along with Mumbai Youth Congress leaders, vandalised the office of Storia Foods at Mumbai in Andheri East.”
N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA observes that the Storia campaign story says a thing or two about how things can go haywire, when the brand does not understand the sentiment of the consumers and other interested parties. “Parodies are fun for everyone, other than those being parodied, and a brand must preferably never indulge in it, and if it does, must do so with extreme care. Storia is in a crowded market, with hardly any differentiators, and it is the unwise logic of the brand custodian and the agency at humour-gone-wrong. Apart from the fact that the ad was very poorly made and executed, the ad concept shows the shallow and narrow mindset of the brand and its promoters,” he opines.
After the incident, Jagtap tweeted, “Congratulations and appreciation to Mumbai Congress General Secretary Nitin Sawant and Youth Congress workers for responding to the defamation of Revered Sonia Gandhi ji and Revered Rahul Gandhi ji by Storia Company through advertisements. It should be noted that such dirty trades will not be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, feels that it has more to do with both lack of tolerance and lack of sense of humour that causes brands to get in such fiascos. “ I cannot remember a time when something or the other in particular – a book, a play, a movie or even an advertisement – did not provoke a hostile and often violent response to some perceived slight on the grounds of “hurting sentiments.” Metaphorically speaking, there are just too many metaphorical holy cows in India, which is why one needs to be extra mindful of a backlash when venturing outside the narrow boundaries of acceptability. While much of the ruckus is often obviously motivated by political considerations, I doubt whether as a nation we have matured enough or as a culture become confident enough to be able to laugh at ourselves. I sincerely hope that one day we will,” remarks Sinha.
exchange4media reached out to Storia but they declined to comment. 

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