Ashee Sharma
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Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?

Paytm, one of the brands cashing in on - no pun intended - the ongoing demonetisation discussion, tweaked a recent ad; "drama bandh karo" was replaced by "chinta mat karo". A look at the spot.

The demonetisation of higher denomination notes by the government has given a fillip to e-wallets and other fin-tech brands, and it appears as though the excitement will last long. Following the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, market leader Paytm (as per Nielsen) responded with just two words, 'Paytm Karo' as its founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma tweeted "Welcome to truest digital cash India".

On November 10, people woke up to a volley of ads in leading publications by mobile payment apps including Paytm, Freecharge and Ola Money. Others that cashed in on the development were online marketplace Snapdeal, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Future Group, to name a few.

Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
Paytm, along with its agency McCann Delhi, quickly rolled out a set of video ads on how it can save the day for cash-strapped citizens across socio-economic classes. The ads show people struggling to pay for daily needs and services such as the electrician, maid or to the local shopkeeper, and how they are taken by surprise when asked to stop worrying and 'Paytm' the amount instead.
Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
However, one of the films in which the maid tells the anxious employer, "Didi, drama bandh karo, Paytm karo", did not go down well with some who thought it exploited the crisis and made fun of the trouble that poor people are facing due to demonitisation.

As these critics began uninstalling the Paytm app, the brand took note of their grievances and withdrew the ad immediately. This is not the first, nor is it going to be the last time, a brand has withdrawn an ad following a digital backlash. Some of the recent examples include the #OlaMicro ad that was lynched for being sexist, Havells' 'Main Pankha Hoon' which found itself in the midst of controversy for taking a stand against reservation and, rewinding a little more, Kalyan Jewellers' print ad that got bashed online for being racist and pro-child abuse.

Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
But such is the ethos of this digital age that brands can no longer ignore viewer/consumer feedback, and in all the aforementioned instances the ads were taken down. That said, Paytm appears to be a brand that refused to buckle under pressure and went ahead with relaunching the ad, albeit with a minor tweak.
Post backlash, Paytm tones down 'drama'; Does the tweaked ad cut it?
"With our strong belief in financial inclusion for every Indian, here is our upgraded ad," said the brand while sharing the new film which is a toned-down version of the previous one where instead of saying "drama bandh karo; Paytm karo", now the maid says "Hamaari chinta na karo; Paytm karo" (stop worrying and 'Paytm' the money).

Talking of brands that changed their communication based on feedback, one of the examples that comes to mind is that of Mahindra & Mahindra TVC. The original version of the ad showed the XUV500 with an Indian (Maharashtra) number plate in a South African setting. The anomaly was rectified later.

That said, there were two sides to the Paytm story. While there were some who criticised the ad, others spoke for it, and still others shared pictures of small vendors such as the 'panipuri-walas' and 'chai-walas' using Paytm, as if justifying the ad's execution. Following are some snapshots...

As reported in Business Standard, buoyed by a sudden surge in demand for digital transaction, Paytm said it has touched a figure of five million payment transactions per day.

"Backed by a large payment ecosystem of customers and merchants, the company registered a 700 per cent increase in overall traffic and 1,000 per cent growth in the amount of money added to the Paytm account over the past couple of days. During this period, the transaction value continued to be 200 per cent of the average ticket size, while the number of app downloads went up 300 per cent. The number of transactions per user also went up from three to 18 transactions in a week," the report said.