Shreyas Kulkarni

MakeMyTrip’s print ad for the India-Pakistan match books a flurry of pats and jabs

Some love the cheeky ribbing; others abhor the below-the-belt targeting. Brand Homestays & Villas adds black salt to the conversation.

MakeMyTrip’s print ad on the day of the India-Pakistan cricket match has performed a Herculean task akin to a Kohli run chase when the rest of the batters disappoint – get people talking about it than the match itself.

The full-page print ad on the entertainment supplement of The Times of India’s various city editions invites Pakistan fans to book and stay at MakeMyTrip’s homestays and villas.

Nothing wrong with it at all. What caught people’s eyes were the discount codes lettered in red. They, with the foregone conclusion of India’s win, were phrases uttered by former Pakistan cricket captains which are now part of pop culture when it comes to cricketing relations between the two countries.

MakeMyTrip’s print ad for the India-Pakistan match books a flurry of pats and jabs

“Jale se pehle hi namak chidak diya MakeMyTrip,” wrote Ashneer Grover, founder CrickPe, and former co-founder of BharatPe. 

Following him in praising the ad was former cricketer Virendra Sehwag. “Na Ishq mein na Pyaar mein . Jo mazza hai Pakistan ki haar mein. Aise kaun invite karta hai yaar. Sahi khel gaye MMT!,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Commenting on the passion between an India-Pakistan match was Sundar Kondur, South and East director of Bennet Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (The Times of India):

“This kind of emotion and passion runs so high that it gets a disproportionate share of attention and hence becomes a bonanza for marketing folks to be on a communication high. While share of voice is important, the jabs, innuendo’s and sometimes on-your-face communication gets bang for the buck. MakeMyTrip has started rubbing salt into wounds in anticipation of wounds being inflicted.”

Viraj Seth, co-founder and CEO, Monk Entertainment, an influencer management and content agency praised the ad. "Rockstar ad by MakeMyTrip. Been seeing some very attention-grabbing work in print today. It's funny and plays along the lines of pure cricket banter. The true bleed-blue Indian in me loved it," he wrote on LinkedIn.

Enormous Brands is the agency behind the print ad. Founder Ashish Khazanchi says the agency is working on a large campaign for MMT and that there is no bigger moment marketing opportunity than an India Pakistan match.

“Print gives you more topicality, more impact, and more reach than social media,” he quips.

The print ad has got a divided audience. People have praised it for its cheekiness and others have decried it for its poor taste and the act of pulling down someone.

“It is good-natured ribbing,” Khazanchi comments and says it is not the first time it has happened in advertising and states it has been “done in the manner where the craft has more people smiling…”

On top of it, Homestays & Villas, a hospitality brand decided to bash MMT on the lines of nationalism because it invited Pakistan fans who travelled to India for the World Cup.

“We have no affiliation with this absolutely disgraceful advertisement published by @makemytrip. Our country comes first before any business and we do not serving our property to Pakistan citizens.”

And entering the debate was MMT's rival Cleartrip trying to grab a upper hand in the devolving online debate around the print ad.

We (afaqs!) reached out to advertising and marketing folk and asked them to give us their take on the MMT ad.

Rajiv Dubey, head of media, Dabur India (views are personal and do not represent the company’s point of view).

The ad is just a pun and is not pulling anybody down. It does not cause violence and puts the message across in a funny way. It should be taken lightly.

It is, one should note, assuming the only scenario that everybody in the country wants – Pakistan losing the match.

Also, the statements in the ad are the summation of what old Pakistani captains have made in the past after losing a match.

The ad has got the attention the brand wanted.

Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Rediffusion

I think it is a bit of both. Clever yes, it is. Good timing for sure. But the content leaves lots to be desired. I am sure it was intended to be all good fun but the end product is lowly and derisive. Doesn’t speak well of either India or the MMT brand.

Sai Ganesh, independent marketing consultant (former Dunzo brand head)

It is in bad taste. Nuance works on social media; they were trying to go down the road of trolling and perhaps parodying.

There is a higher bar for content today, especially on social media, than it was five to seven years ago when this ad may have flown. Punching up works on social, this is punching down.

It is better to be spoken about than to be trolled. The same person who reads the print ad will consume the conversations around it on social media. They can see what is being spoken about MMT.

It seems the internal checks before an ad is approved were not followed.

Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer, Bang In The Middle

Of course, this print ad is doing the rounds. As any Indo-Pak issue would. Especially when it’s about bashing those across the border. I didn’t feel good about this ad. Something just didn’t taste right.

Considering it begins with welcoming Indian guests etc it just isn’t graceful. It sounded like another jingoistic sabre rattling that belongs to little-known political chottus trying to make a voice for themselves.

Cricket is a gentleman’s game, and this slant of the brand is nothing gentlemanly. I really wish that India doesn’t get whipped, and the brand and its agency would get more than an egg on their face. I would have personally preferred the brand to play the play the perfect host. Instead of this skewed and immature playing to the gallery.

Kushal Sanghvi, India and SEA head, CitrusAd

I understand cricket is a sport and a national obsession, but the ad is done in bad taste and is derogatory. You can be cheeky and creative and hit below the belt on social media for a laugh, and the audience will understand it. You do not do it on the front pages of a mainline newspaper.

A company like MMT does need to create such kind of PR. It has created negative chatter and could lead to some higher authority stepping in and releasing unnecessary guidelines.

It is right there on the front page. Youngsters, who do not read newspapers, can see it and be influenced that this is how one should respect their neighbour.

If you want to hit below the belt, do it on social media and not through print.

Sanjeev Kotnala, founder, Intradia World, a brand marketing advisory

The Make My Trip ad is a sheer waste of time and collective energy. It humours Indian sentiments and incorrectly associates with 'Athithi Devo Bhava' in the most amazingly negative feeling. It is lost in the twisted play and an attempt to be cheeky.

The advertisement does make the reader stop for a moment. The ad does get a complete look and even a full read! That's it. After that, the reader realises it is not for him. He gets confused about getting the discount because he is not a neighbour (I think Indians won't get the discounts).

Or maybe neighbours mean anyone intercity, interstate! There is an attempt to provoke a reaction, but it is misplaced. I must also add that the current global situation demands that brands be more careful with what they do.

Saurabh Parmar, fractional CMO (ex digital head Ogilvy and CEO Brandlogist and then Cupidly)

As a marketer, you do not punch down if your brand does have that personality.

The bigger worry is if India loses the match, the ad will become a laughing stock, and it will be awkward for brand MMT and brand India.

The ad is well-written but you do not get personal culturally. Brands are built on grace, not going viral.  

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