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.
— Be'Havin! (@WrongDoc) November 13, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.