Havells Withdraws Anti-Reservation Spot

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 30, 2016
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The recently-released TVC, now off-air, titled 'Main Pankha Hoon', appears to have come in the wake of the recent Jat agitation over reservation-related issues. The film falls under the brand's popular 'Hawa Badlegi' umbrella thought.

"Main pankha hoon.. bhale main chota pankha hoon

Apni hawa mei hoon palaa, apne dum par hoon khada

Nahi chahiye mujhko seedhi, arre main hoon aane waali peedhi.."

Havells Fans anti-reservation ad

These powerful lyrics are from a recent anti-reservation campaign executed by the electrical equipment company Havells India, a brand that stands tall with its four-year old 'Hawa Badlegi' proposition. The campaign, which was rolled out last week, has been withdrawn by the brand after it received negative feedback on digital.

The ad is still available on a YouTube channel called Dr Ambedkar's Caravan, with a link to the ASCI website in case anyone wants to file a complaint against it.

Executed by Mullen Lintas, the spot begins with a young girl choosing to fill a general category form instead of one for quota, much to the surprise of her father. The ad further proceeds to feature a civil servant who refuses to use her official vehicle for running a personal errand. The last sequence (and the controversial one) is a scene from a protest where books are being burned when a young man picks up a half-burnt book and is stopped by a protester. When asked who he is, he simply replies, "Main pankha hoon", the harbinger of change, metaphorically speaking.

The ad campaign has received a mix reaction over social media. While some called it a bold and inspiring campaign, others found it casteist. Clearly, the negative comments toppled the positive ones.

Havells adopted the 'Hawa Badlegi' proposition four years ago, executing campaigns which highlighted social and topical issues such as religion, inter-caste marriage, gender discrimination, politics, and the upliftment of women.

However, in the light of the recent Jat agitation, the campaign has attracted eye balls and was subjected to virtual backlash.

Is it offensive?

K V Sridhar, ad guru and chief creative officer, SapientNitro, thinks otherwise. For him, the ad is progressive and inspiring which features a confident young India refusing to take concessions and wanting to make it on their own merit. However, he agrees that the fate of the ad is sealed due to the controversial issue of reservation.

"Reservation has been a burning issue since the Mandal Commission, and ever since I was in school. The brand, I believe, has not taken a stand against the reservation issue but has highlighted the fact that the youth today have a choice - to avail concessions or make a mark on their own. It's sad that people find it offending and file complaints against it," he asserts.

Sridhar notes that Havells has stood for change in society. It has become a big brand because it has a voice. "I hope this incident should not dampen the spirit of the brand proposition of change," he says.

K V Sridhar

Saurabh Uboweja

Reminiscing about the old days, Sridhar laments the absence of role models from political or religious spheres. There is no Gandhi, Nehru or Shastri anymore, and therefore, it is brands across the world that are inspiring people, such as Coca-Cola, Maggi, Uber, Airbnb. These brands are embracing life values in their propositions and inspiring consumers.

Sridhar goes back to the Havells campaign and believes that now that it has been withdrawn more people will see it online and the message will spread.

Saurabh Uboweja, CEO and chief brand strategist, Brands of Desire, shares Sridhar's opinion. According to him, Havells' choice of topic is strong and built up with powerful emotions.

"As a brand, it has positioned around 'change'. But, as a strategy, this campaign is entirely around polarising thoughts and building on a wave of progressive pluralistic thinking. I think Havells wants trouble, that's the way to create interest and conversations around the brand," he quips.

His only advice to brands taking up topical issues while creating campaigns is to stay away from mentioning specific organisations and sticking to sentiments.

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