Sambit Mohanty
Guest Article

"Nowadays, people take offence like it’s a limited time offer": Sambit Mohanty

The creative head, McCann South, on how CRED's much-loved 'Indiranagar ka gunda' ad has one foot stuck in the 'cancel culture' trap.

“It’s a shit ad. Don’t ruin Rahul Dravid for us…”

“How can road clashes be promoted like this?”

“It is irresponsible, anti-societal (sic) and shameful.”

This is a sampling of a few hot takes on social media to the CRED ad, starring Rahul Dravid, that went viral a few days back. I, for one, was baffled by these comments because I really enjoyed watching the ad, and so did a vast majority of other people.

Sambit Mohanty
Sambit Mohanty

When was the last time anyone actually wanted to see an ad? One that is equally funny and refreshing amidst all the noise? One that made you think, ‘Hey, that was cool…wish I’d done it!’

Sure, there’ll always be a few who won’t like an ad mostly enjoyed by everybody. (Or, as I call them, the few who would run away from a circus to join the orphanage.) But there is a deeper reasoning to these adverse reactions that must be understood and acknowledged.

1. We live in a world where ‘cancel culture’ is real

Thanks to the Internet, everybody is a keyboard warrior – quick to cross swords at the slightest (perceived) offence and eager to spew vitriol. For CRED, what’s being conveniently overlooked is that a comparison is being drawn... Rahul Dravid blowing his top, which, of course, is what’s being dramatised and is so entertaining.

Our warriors don’t see advertising as entertainment – it has to be sombre, morose, bland – just like cold soup. Make it lukewarm, and your order stands cancelled. Growing up, I was a big fan of Jaspal Bhatti’s ‘Flop Show’ that took potshots at everyone, from VIPs to doctors to ‘babus’ and more. It’s probably a good thing he isn’t around any longer, as the man would’ve probably been lynched for his satirical takes on the world.

2. Analyse to paralyse

'Wait, what was the creative strategy there?'

‘Did anyone get the product connect?’

‘How will this ad impact their business?’

People who don’t ‘get’ something (the CRED ad in this case), tend to unkindly dissect it down to the bones. Rather than enjoying the helicopter view, they get down on their knees to examine the helipad, where it took off from. How is it possible that the world likes something, while I don’t? There must be plausible reasons for my dissatisfaction, and I have to convey it to the world forthwith.

3. Ads, like films, are a soft target

How dare they name a pet after my pet’s name? How dare they show that freshly laundered shirt only in brilliant white, not bewitching black? How dare they show good boy Dravid indulging in bad behaviour? Nowadays, people take offence like it’s a limited period offer.

I remember a film we’d done a while ago for a well-known mobile brand. It was a montage of shots. One had a guy sitting astride a mechanical rodeo bull. This particular shot was asked to be removed for fear of offending a certain section of people. Who? I dare not name anyone for fear of offending them.

Fear is a direct byproduct of this cancel culture that all of us see, but rarely acknowledge. We have forgotten how to have fun, how to laugh at ourselves, let alone at ads. Brands don’t want to take an iota of risk when it comes to advertising because someone will start frothing at the mouth – and it won’t be because of toothpaste. Aisa bolenge toh kahin kuch aisa-waisa na ho jaaye! Everyone plays it safe for fear of offending someone over something.

What is that something? I don’t know, but let me watch the ad and go figure! No wonder we’re swimming in a sea of banality, where a fun ad like CRED’s comes in like a torpedo and blows everyone out of the water. Hell, I won’t be surprised if someone takes offence to this piece I’m writing!

So, to all the haters out there, here’s my two bits. It’s an ad, not an apocalyptic world event, i.e., nobody died. Watch it, enjoy it, or not, forget it. And, the next time you want to write something mean about an ad, ask yourself, kya ye mere chehre pe nikhaar laegi? Chances are it won’t… so don’t.

(The author is the creative head, McCann South and has over 15 years experience in the world of advertising.)