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Erection Pills To Paytm: 6 Ads That Are Shamelessly Cashing In On Demonetisation

Posted by Saswati Chatterjee in Business and Economy, Media
December 2, 2016

Demonetisation has flooded newspapers and advertisements, since the night of November 8, when PM Modi announced it. While the government has launched a 10-crore advertisement drive to promote demonetisation, other companies have spotted the golden opportunity to strike it rich too. At a time when demonetisation has come down heavily on the common person and those without bank accounts (and there are far more than you think), certain brands and companies have run distasteful ads, completely ignoring the people’s inconvenience in the process.

1. When Paytm told us to “stop the drama” and just use its app to solve all our inconveniences:

Social media was quick to point out what was wrong with the ad and Paytm quickly replaced the ad with a different version, where they had changed exactly one line. But they seem to have completely missed the rather obvious elephant in the room, which is the insensitive messaging in the ad that seems to imply that the solution for everyone is super simple – stop cribbing and get a Paytm account. Because clearly everyone either has a smartphone or knows how to use one. Oh and, in India, only about 50% of the population has a bank account.

2. When an Ayurvedic “power capsule” that claims to help men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, thought it was necessary to chime in:


Because we live in a patriarchal society like India’s, we have found a way to link something like demonetisation with virility and masculinity! And what better than ‘ayurvedic medicine’ claiming to ‘reinvigorate’ you as you perform sacrifices for your nation!

To quote this Facebook status: “Be male, be a virile male, or die. Hence proved that the “Idea of India” is patriarchal and oppressive and so is the idea of demonetisation.” The message is clear: If you are complaining about suffering under demonetisation, then you are weak and not ‘patriotic’ enough. Never mind that it’s nobody’s ‘duty’ to suffer anything for anyone.

3. When a mall in Jharkhand told us not to lose sight of our “style statements” in these times:

Rather than take into account the actual problems in having to deal with demonetisation (long queues, lack of ready cash and, lack of food being only the least of them), ads like this trivialise the many problems the common person face (not to mention the woeful wordplay!). Clearly important to protect your eyes from the sun when standing in those huge long lines at the ATM/bank, right?

4. When Schmitten Chocolates said, “Why to worry about currency ban when you have #Schmitten by your side”:

‘Tone-deaf’ seems to be the flavour of choice, but this is definitely winning some awards. It’s great that nobody needs ₹500 to buy the chocolate, but honestly, the people who can afford the chocolate, to begin with probably don’t need the notes anyway.

How does this help anyone who is currently undergoing an acute cash crisis? Forget the fact that millions in India don’t have the cash to ‘wrap themselves in luxury’. And while the brand’s target audience might be only those who aren’t going through a cash crisis, this was certainly a bad time to send out this message.

5. When a jewellery brand used demonetisation to remind us about how diamonds are a girl’s best friend:

Good ol’ sexism. Always there when you need it. Yes, if there’s anything this recent demonetization drive has proved, money isn’t forever, but that diamond ring totally is! And diamonds are every girl’s best friend, am I right? And who needs those pesky ₹1,000 notes anyway?

6. When ‘Book My Chotu’ didn’t realise it was promoting child labour in the name of “help”:

The cream of the crop awaits. Is demonetisation getting to you? Are lines too long for you? Is the heat just terrible for your skin? This company knows how you feel and have got just the right above-18 lads to go and get your money for you!

And while they have (several times) clarified that their helpers are over 18, the point of the name remains. ‘Chotu’ is a very common name used to refer to children and India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. This is just perpetuating and normalising the idea of child labour, an idea that too many people are okay with in the first place. Also, a label like ‘Chotu’ robs thousands of children of their identities and reduces them to just that – a label. And ‘Book My Chotu’ – really? This is a person, not a car.

The point is, at a time when everyday livelihoods are uncertain for so many people, advertisements saying either ‘fall in line’ or ‘indulge in luxuries’, is irresponsible. Ads like these reach thousands of people, and so does the messaging in them. While the goal is to promote a product, let’s also be mindful of how we do it.