Raahil Chopra
Dec 31, 2020

Blog: The year advertising and marketing made it to dining table conversations

TRP scams, Amul’s advertising during re-runs on shows on Doordarshan, boycotts of brands due to hurt sentiments, and a campaign featuring celebs from the 90s – advertising, media and marketing sure made it to mainstream conversations in 2020

Raahil Chopra
Raahil Chopra
As I write this article, I can claim I’m a survivor of the year 2020.
To end this year, we at Campaign India have been running a year-ender series running through December, in which we asked agency heads and marketers about learnings from this ‘different year’.
While they have shared their experiences, we believe this is the year advertising, media and marketing became mainstream news. It’s the year the industry, which otherwise receives very little attention from those uninvolved with its routine workings, made its way to dining table conversations between families. Not unlike how cricket and Bollywood have been doing for years.
This ‘phenomena’ began during the lockdown.
Since there was no live sport, no new content, Doordarshan released re-runs of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Amul jumped on the nostalgia bandwagon by airing some of its popular ads from yesteryears during the shows.
This made discussions around content and advertising become a point of conversation. And as things began to open up across the country, Covid continued to dominate the news between May and October. Sushant Singh Rajput’s death was also in the news at some of the highest decibels we’ve seen. Different theories about his suicide were floating around, depending on which news channel viewers watched. 
And then after a lull of about five months, advertising and media became a hot topic in October.
It started with the commissioner of Mumbai Police, Param Bir Singh, addressing the press on 8 October. He revealed that the police were looking into a ‘TRP Scam’ where channels were tampering with BARC data to boost their ratings. Two ex-employees of Hansa, the firm that was working with BARC in collating the data, were arrested. Owners of the channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were arrested, too. Singh also stated that Republic TV was being investigated. This made HANSA, BARC and Republic TV as commonplace as soup at dinner. 
Since then, Republic TV’s editor-in-chief, Arnab Goswami (for a separate case); the CEO, Vikas Khanchandani and former CEO of BARC Partho Dasgupta and COO Romil Ramgarhia were booked, causing more discussions around the scam.  
A few days later, brands made it to dinner table chats.
Tanishq rolled out a film for its Ekatvam collection that showed a Muslim lady host a baby shower for her Hindu daughter-in-law. Some sections of social media users called for a boycott of the brand, citing ‘hurt religious sentiments’. As Tanishq withdrew the film, experts weren’t impressed: did the brand succumb to pressure? While Tanishq clarified that its stance was for employee safety, families had begun discussing whether the brand did the right thing or not. A former editor of Campaign India was also on a mainstream news channel during prime time discussing the issue.
To cite a common millennial phrase, other brands joined in this ‘felt cute, might delete later’ culture, by putting out ‘controversial’ messages on social media only to delete them once the furore began. Other names that faced boycott threats were Eros Now, Zomato, Bingo, PhonePe, Amazon, White Hat Jr., and Netflix. Some brands stood their ground, some didn’t. But all of them became mainstream discussions. 
The IPL shifted to the United Arab Emirates and was played behind closed doors. A month before the first match, Dream11 bagged the title rights after Vivo’s contract abruptly ended (coinciding with another movement in the country – #BoycottChina). 
Among the several start-ups that advertised during the tournament, one campaign stood out and was being discussed even by people outside the industry: Cred. The app – that helps users make credit card bill payments – got Bollywood celebs from the 90s to feature in self-deprecating ads. WhatsApp groups buzzed each time an ad with a new celeb released, and most of the ads even ridiculed the brand. If the brand’s idea was creating buzz, then it’s 120 on 100 for them. Everyone who saw the IPL had seen the ads and others in the household knew about it.
With that, Cred, brand ambassadors and advertising campaigns made it to dining table conversations.
2021, all eyes are on you now.
The vaccine needs to be made available worldwide. The Covid threat needs to end.
Advertising needs the Cannes Lions, and Indian advertising needs its plethora of events. The word scam needs to be associated with advertising only. Yes, it had its naysayers, but wouldn’t one rather see great creative work that came with the label, rather than people being arrested? The world order has been turned upside down, truly. And it’s good to see the industry being discussed, but maybe it should be for great ads. No more, no less.
And last but not the least, as a Liverpool fan, let’s hope the fans can celebrate one more Premier League trophy in the middle of next year!
We wish all the readers a Happy and Safe New Year! 
Campaign India

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