Abid Hussain Barlaskar

The Hindu calls out ads that ride on COVID fear, message finds support

Quite a few brands, which are essentially a publisher's clients, have been called out for their Coronavirus-related ads. And this ad, by a major print publisher, doesn't mince words.

Recently, a former adman called out COVID19-centric marketing in a guest article on afaqs!. And now, a major print publisher has come out with a campaign asking brands to not ‘milk’ the crisis for their benefit. The publisher has also asked brands to refrain from using advertising and social media to take advantage of the situation for ‘personal/material gain’.

“If you really feel the urge to milk something, kindly go find a cow.” This was seen on national daily The Hindu’s jacket ad.

The same ad was seen in the The Hindu Group’s mailed campaign, too.

The complete copy reads:

The world is faced with a health crisis, unlike anything it has experienced in recent years. In a time like this, being thoughtful is the least one can do. However, some are attempting to milk the situation. Sad, but true. We, at The Hindu Group, refused to be drawn into this opportunistic rat race. In fact, we strongly discourage it. Going by this stance, we urge marketers, companies and the general public to not use advertising space and social media in any way to take advantage of the scenario for personal/material gain. However, if your messaging is responsible, considerate and empathetic towards the situation, we are more than happy to spread it through our publications.”

The Hindu's COVID19 campaign
The Hindu's COVID19 campaign
The Hindu

Historically, print brands have always chosen the ‘bringer of change’ stance in campaigns, say in terms of casting votes, equality, governance, politics, environmental awareness, and so on. One of the recent long copy ads of the publisher, which was about environmental pollution, was also very much appreciated. However, it is quite a valiant move on the part of a publisher to call out the pockets it relies on for business.

Quite a few brands have been called out for their Coronavirus-related ads. The worst of the lot was probably Arihant, a mattress brand which put out an ad about ‘Corona resistant’ mattresses.

The new ad has been crafted by Ogilvy, based on a brief from the brand's team.

The purpose of the communication was to curb misinformation and dissuade brands from force-fitting themselves to a crisis like this, and capitalise on the situation. The brand has decided against accommodating such ads on all the group verticals. This comes at a time when print media is under tremendous pressure to build healthy revenue streams. There would be more such initiatives from the brand, on similar lines, in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the publisher’s effort has created quite a buzz on social media.

“I was thinking about the dilemma this crisis presents. On the one hand, there is this. And, on the other hand, there is a need to save jobs, which can only happen if stuff is bought and sold. I would probably err on the side of kindness to the brands and people, who try to keep the wheels of the economy turning, as long as there’s no exploitation or profiteering of the crisis,” wrote Anamika Sirohi, a senior marketer with a healthcare brand on LinkedIn.

Ramesh Narayan, founder of Canco Advertising, posted, “In a world where everything is an opportunity, and we are discussing whether ASCI should take action against advertisers who are touting a Corona free mattress, The Hindu has taken a proactive ethical stand and refused to carry such advertising. And that, too, at a time when revenue is not exactly easy to find. A great lesson for all corporates.”