A kiss is a kiss is a kiss, but not when you see some of the most powerful politicos sticking their necks out for “endorsing” a clothing brand. Earlier in the day when criticism for the campaign gained scale I was attending a seminar organized by Advertising Standard’s Council of India (ASCI-which is basically a watch-dog for “unethical and immoral” advertisement in the country). Veterans like Piyush Pandey and members of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting debated on what stands as “unobjectionable and moral” advertisement as opposed to creative ideas smothering the sentiments of the society at large and the role of self-regulation in such a case.
“Create self-regulation but don’t push society into a back-lash where the government set-ups have to step in”, remarked Rajiv Takru, a speaker at the seminar. Mr Takru has a tough job up his sleeves, as the Additional Secretary for the MIB , he sits through scores of regional movies, screens advertisements and any form of mass-communication that could potentially create a riff in the society.
To reinstate his point, why create a situation where public anger can potentially harm your brand. Is your creative idea bigger than the hundreds of years of effort and people who toil to make your brand a success?
The concern lies not with the “idea” which stands relevant in today’s time and date, but of its execution in this bizarre form. That it seeks to promote a social message (which is a sort of an idealistic situation) is no doubt the larger purpose of the Un-hate Foundation. The foundation, “seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values”. Which it has constantly done, Benetton’s more provocative ad-campaigns in the 80’s and 90’s which showed a clutch of models from different ethnicities has always evoked a strong sentiment of unison, in an un-offensive fashion.
The advertisement with all its purpose to “un-hate” is evidently creating spurts of anger from the elitist class of people, which sets to dilute the very purpose of the campaign.
The idea of the advertisement is bold no doubt; it has generated a tumultuous amount of publicity, criticism, anger and even humor. For the common man, it becomes a mockery of political establishments, a reversal of power-play between individuals and nations and raises questions we all seek to ask - why can’t there be solvency of political issues? Of hierarchy’s between the developed and developing nations? But then it could have been through other physical gestures, a peck on the cheek, a kiss on the forehead, a kiss on the hand (lest it raised questions of power-positions). The physical gesture has probably been too far-fetched.