Ads for social change

By: |
October 18, 2021 6:53 AM

Experts believe that if a brand truly believes in a particular cause and would like to stand for it, the messaging needs to be constant and frequent

Earlier, brands like Tanishq and Surf Excel, too, have been trolled online for ads that hurt sentiments of certain sections of the public.Earlier, brands like Tanishq and Surf Excel, too, have been trolled online for ads that hurt sentiments of certain sections of the public.

Manyavar is the latest brand to draw the ire of netizens over an ad — now pulled off air — that reimagines a Hindu wedding ritual. Earlier, brands like Tanishq and Surf Excel, too, have been trolled online for ads that hurt sentiments of certain sections of the public. Venkata Susmita Biswas asks three experts the pitfalls of standing for causes.

‘Brands should not try to change society’

MG Parameswaran, Founder, Brand-Building.com

A brand that wants to have a social narrative needs to be very careful, as people are becoming very sensitive towards acts or initiatives that could harm their heritage and values. Further, social media makes it easy for people to complain.

At times, brands needlessly portray social change, when they should just be trying to sell their products. In such situations, it makes one wonder whether the brand really means it. For example, State Street Global Advisors, the firm that commissioned the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue at Wall Street, was found to be paying its female executives less than male colleagues. The firm paid a $5 million compensation over unequal pay allegations from 305 women. As brands pick up causes that they want to espouse, they need to be sure they are true to it.

Although brands have become cautious about the communication they put out, ads that may look innocuous on the face of it might offend someone. Therefore, I believe, brands must focus on selling their products and not try to change society.

‘Don’t take a stand for attention’

Russell Barrett, CCO & CEO, BBH India & Publicis Worldwide India

It is great for brands to stand for a cause. However, when doing so, brand custodians need to decide whether they are ready to accept that there will be a counterpoint as well.

Sometimes, taking a stand on an issue could border on appropriation of a movement or a section of people. If a brand that has been built on values of being fun or as following traditional tropes, suddenly has a point of view, it risks being shallow and confuses audiences. A brand can avoid this if it historically has had a point of view or has made it a habit to spark conversations.

Further, brands can avoid appropriation by supporting their marketing campaign with allied actions and initiatives towards the same cause they wish to rally behind. A brand needs to believe in the cause it stands for; if not, it could be accused of appropriation. Taking a stand should not be something you do for attention, or because it’s ‘topical’, unless you’re prepared for negative reactions, too.

‘Messaging needs to be constant and frequent’

Indrajeet Mookerjee, Managing Partner, dentsuMB

When dealing with the dynamism of consumer behaviour, it is always wise to assume the kind of conversations that may be sparked due to some specific social messaging. It is important to weigh the pros and cons before jumping the gun, but equally important to stand for something crucial if need be, because that’s what creates a strong association with the audience.

With internet penetration soaring every passing day, it is impossible to shield a specific section of the audience from a specific kind of messaging, and keep a campaign heavily targetted. Having said that, it is also important to be clear about the communication objective while planning it. We cannot negate the negatives of trolling, but at the same time, these things tend to spark healthy debates and conversations that might work in the brand’s favour.

If a brand truly believes in a particular cause and would like to stand for it, the messaging needs to be constant and frequent.

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