Failing to hit the mark

The Asian Age.  | Namrata Srivastava

Entertainment, Bollywood

In an age of perpetual outrage, it’s essential for brands to tread the waters of advertising carefully.

Amitabh Bachchan and Shweta Bachchan Nanda in a still from the advertisement.

They say all publicity is good publicity. But this adage doesn’t always seem to hold true, especially when it comes to brand promotion. For instance, a bad advertisement can create a deep dent in brand perception. These days, people are attracted to good content and this understanding should be the basis of any ad campaign. Today, not even a big celebrity can salvage a poorly made advertisement. And Kalyan Jewellers seems to have learnt this lesson the hard way.

The Kerala-based jewellery chain recently came under fire from the All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC) for its advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter Shweta Nanda. The bank union termed the advertisement as ‘disgusting’ and accused it of attempting to create distrust in the system.

The controversial ad shows Bachchan as a retired person visiting a bank along with his daughter to return the extra money credited to his pension account and his bitter encounter with bank employees in the process.

After facing flak from the bank union, the jewellery brand has decided to withdraw the ad from all media with immediate effect. Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director of Kalyan Jewellers, was quick to issue an apology. “We understand that the advertisement has hurt the sentiments of some people including members of our esteemed banking community. Any such hurtful interpretation being drawn is unintended. We state that the creative advertisement was a work of fiction and not a reflection of banking employees at large. Along with crores of Indians, we acknowledge the valuable contribution of the banking community to our country,” read the statement.

Last year Kalyan Jewellers gave the creative mandate to Ogilvy and L&K Saatchi & Saatchi for India and West Asia markets. Shedding light on the incident, Piyush Pandey, Co-executive Chairman and National Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather India and Vice-chairman of O&M Asia-Pacific, says, “I don’t think that the jewellery brand has done this intentionally. However, knowing that their ad has caused some discomfort to a certain community, they have done a very honourable job of withdrawing the ad.” He adds, “Advertising is a very tricky business. People make a judgement and sometimes, their decisions backfire. It’s just as simple as that.” No one from L&K Saatchi & Saatchi was available for a comment.

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While some may agree with the sentiments of the bank union, many feel the matter has been blown out of proportion. Well-known brand consultant Saumya Kumar feels the ad wasn’t completely incorrect. “Not in the urban cities, but in suburban and rural areas many bank employees behave in the way that’s shown in the ad. While they may deny it, it’s not completely untrue. Many banks need to improve their customer service,” she says. But Saumya also feels it’s important to make ads without demeaning anyone else. “I think the ad could have been made in a better way. However, it doesn’t deserve this kind of backlash.”

It’s no secret that an advertisement can make or break a brand’s image in the market. From Pepsi to Nivea, many brands have had to apologise for inadvertently hurting sentiments in the past. Chhaya Momaya, who is an image consultant, emphasises the importance of double checking everything before the ad is aired. “Advertising is all about connecting with people and understanding their emotions. So I feel it's important that the advertising team of any company does a thorough research and scrutinises the content very carefully. Because once it becomes public, there is no calling it back. Kalyan Jewellers may have withdrawn the ad but people will remember it, especially now, due to this controversy. Everything a company puts out in front of its customers should be checked and re-checked beforehand,” she concludes.

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