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Home >Industry >Advertising >Trolled and beautiful: a year of viral advertisements

Ground down by the pandemic, advertising began picking up again after the easing of lockdown restrictions, with ad agencies turning to remote production and launching more digital campaigns.

Advertisers quickly got into their stride with some heartwarming and entertaining ads. Equally, some campaigns were controversial, mirroring society. Either way, they went viral. Here’s a recap:

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Tanishq’s Ekatvam

Perhaps the most achingly controversial advertisement of the year, this was the jeweller’s attempt at featuring an interfaith couple (boy Muslim, girl Hindu).

The family of the couple is shown celebrating a baby shower. But this irked some people, who trolled Tanishq on social media platforms with calls for a ban saying the ad promoted “love jihad".

The Tata-promoted jeweller released the ad in October but later withdrew it from all media platforms. A Tanishq store in Gujarat put up a hand-written apology note and criticized the ad.

“This film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective. We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners and store staff," Titan Co. Ltd, which owns Tanishq, said at the time.

Unfortunately, the campaign failed to do the thing it set out to achieve—celebrate the coming together (Ekatvam) of people from different communities and families in a trying year when bonds remained severed.

In a way, the whole incident was prescient. As the year drew to a close, several states sought to clamp down on inter-faith marriages.

This trend has been followed by reports of harassment faced by young Hindu-Muslim couples.

In an earlier statement to Mint, Naresh Gupta, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Bang In The Middle, an advertising agency, cited it as one of the best ads of 2020 and expressed concern that a brand such as Tanishq had to bow down to a few trolls.

White Hat Jr

As millions of children suddenly found themselves locked out of schools and attending online classes, India’s ed-tech startups did everything to hard-sell online education.

The most aggressive of them was kids’ coding platform WhiteHat Jr. Acquired by Byju’s earlier this year, it led an advertising frenzy that raised a few eyebrows.

These ads featured young children as future coders: a 7-year-old as a TEDx speaker and app developer, and a controversial 12-year-old fictional character named Wolf Gupta, who has a LinkedIn profile and gets plum job offers from Google and Apple after learning AI skills online.

The ads ignited a debate around the pressure that children often endure.

In a country with an overburdened education system, WhiteHat’s ads appeared to add pressure on children to succeed.

Eventually, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) ordered the company to pull down five of the ads.

Amul

Yes, even the iconic Amul girl in her polka dot frock courted controversy—it was that kind of a year.

The dairy cooperative’s Twitter handle was temporarily suspended over a campaign after the India-China border standoff calling for a boycott of Chinese goods.

The ad saying ‘Exit the dragon’ (punning on the Bruce Lee film) and ‘Amul Made in India’ showed the Amul girl taking on a red dragon.

It displayed logos of Indian brands and that of Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.

Amul shared the feature with the caption, “#Amul Topical: About the boycott of Chinese products..."

The ad, which went viral on social media, was briefly blocked by Twitter before being reinstated the same day.

“Amul Butter Girl is owned by Indians, and she comments on every socio-political issue over the years. She conveys the mood of the average Indian," said R.S. Sodhi, managing director of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation.

Cred

This was the most star-studded campaign of the year.

Fintech startup Cred’s hilarious IPL2020 ad-films featured Bollywood stars Govinda, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan, Daler Mehndi and Bappi Lahiri—all veterans auctioning for Cred ads with their slightly old-fashioned songs and dances before unimpressed, young studio bosses.

The campaign bagged the best new brand on the block award on Twitter’s listing of the year’s most creative and engaging brand campaigns.

Mondelez

In a year of despair for several small businesses, chocolate and confectionery maker Mondelez released a warming campaign that featured small and local stores.

It tapped tech and AI to create India’s first hyper-personalized ad where several stores were featured for specific pin codes in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Indore, Ahmedabad and Lucknow.

The ad shows a woman celebrating Diwali by gifting every member of the household. All the gifts are bought from local stores. In all, the campaign promoted more than 1,800 local retailers across 260 pin codes.

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