Trolls scalp big brands this festive season

Keyboard warriors brought top brands to their knees, forcing them to pull down ads as outrage culture rages on

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Updated: Oct 27, 2021 2:22 PM

The season of festivals ad campaigns in India has effectively become the season of outrage against brands and their ads.

Dabur, FabIndia and many other brands have faced the wrath of online mobs, calling for the boycott of their "controversial" ad campaigns. The online army is so powerful that it drives social media trends, creates perceptions against certain brands, calls for boycott and thus maximizes the noise against the companies whose revenue runs into thousands of crores thanks to the years of branding and beautifully cultivated image.

Although this trend is running for the past few years, at least five brands faced social media outrage and threats of boycotts in the past few weeks only. 

  1. Dabur 

Consumer goods major Dabur India is the latest target of the cancel culture on social media. At the centre of the controversy was Dabur’s “lesbian Karwa Chauth ad” to promote its “bleaching cream''. 

Even the Madhya Pradesh government threatened legal action against the brand if it doesn’t retract the ad. 

The concept of the same-sex couple observing Karva Chauth wasn’t well-received by many although some people also appreciated the brand's creative input to perpetuate inclusivity.

Dabur issued an apology on Monday after it was condemned by right-wing netizens and LGBT activists alike. The latter took umbrage against the "misogynistic themes" in the Karva Chauth ad to promote their product. 

  1. Fab India

Recently, Indian retailer Fabindia had to withdraw an ad for their collection titled “Jashn-e-Riwaaz”, an Urdu term that means "celebration of tradition" after a massive online trolling by a section of netizens and several BJP leaders. Some suggested that the use of Urdu words for Diwali is like the 'Abrahmization' of the Hindu festival.

  1. Nykaa

The fashion e-commerce platform was pronounced guilty by the social media trolls over its Navratri ad campaign which also mentioned that lubes and condoms are available at discount.  Trolls call it an “insult to Hindu festival”. 

  1. Manyavar

Another clothing brand that had shown actress Alia Bhatt, describing a gender-neutral meaning of Kanyadaan in the advertisement displaying a social message, had also faced threats for attacking rituals. 

  1. Ceat

Tyre manufacturer Ceat, starring Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, has also faced the ire of some netizens including a BJP MP from Karnataka. 

“Your company’s recent advertisement in which Amir Khan (sic) advises people not to firecrackers on the streets is giving a very good message. It is a very common scene in many Indian cities where Muslims block busy roads and perform Namaz. At that time, vehicles like ambulances and firefighters vehicles are also stuck in traffic causing grave losses. I also request you to highlight the issue of noise pollution in your ads. Every day loud noise is emitted from mikes (sic) arranged on top of mosques in our country when Azan is given,” Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada and former Union minister Ananth Kumar Hegde wrote to Anant Vardhan Goenka, MD of Ceat, on 14 October. 

This letter went viral after it was uploaded to Hegde’s official Facebook page.

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