At a time when the nation is all decked up to celebrate the arrival of Bhagwan Ganesh, an 11-month old Hindustan Unilever advertisement has become a major cause of discontentment for the Hindu community. HUL and many FMCG companies through their advertisements have ensured that no Hindu religious festival goes without the FMCG brands taking pot shots at Hindus and showcasing them in poor light. While the memory of Red Label’s Kumbh Mela advertisement is still to fade away, the old Red Label ad has resurfaced.
So, an excited Hindu man decides to bring a beautiful Ganesh idol home, he goes to an idol shop where he meets an elderly seller who carefully explains the different poses of Ganesh and their significance. Impressed, the Hindu man commends the seller for knowing so much. He sets his eye on a Ganesh idol as the seller offers him tea. Mesmerizing Azaan chants flow from a nearby mosque and the elderly man takes out a skullcap from his pocket and asks “so will you be buying this one?”, the Hindu man is taken aback. While he tries and stay calm, a disgusted bewilderment flows all across his face. He tells the seller that he will come back tomorrow. The seasoned old seller understands everything and presses him to just have tea. Tea arrives in cutting glasses, the man takes a refreshing sip and all traces of racism and his hatred for the Muslim community is washed down with the tea. The Muslim man then explains that his bewilderment is justified as the hands that have made the idol are the same that offer Namaz to the idol. The Hindu man then cutely asks “Why this work?” to which the Muslim seller responds “Ye bhi to ibadat hai” (Even this is worship).
The Red Label ad intends to bridge the gap between the two communities with an excellent role-play ad where the Hindu man is hateful and naïve, and the Muslim man is dignified and reasonable. The Hindu man knows nothing about Ganesh despite being a Hindu, the Muslim man knows everything about him despite being a Muslim. The Hindu man is hateful enough to abandon his deity just because a Muslim man made it and a Muslim man is generous enough to make Hindu idol making his profession, despite being a Muslim. The Hindu man is arrogant enough to storm out of a deal for purely religious reasons, the Muslim man is humble enough to offer him tea. The Hindu man is naïve enough to let his emotions cloud his puzzled face, the Muslim man is resolute enough to not let his emotions get the better of him.
Hindus could have rejected Red Label ad as a pseudo-liberal ad director trying to paint his version of the world in the form of an advertisement. But there exists a pattern. HUL has been running a sustained Anti-Hindu agenda. How many of us have forgotten the Kumbha Mela ad in which a Hindu Man goes to Kumbh Mela with his old father just to abandon him there?
From HUL’s Close Up ‘free to love campaign’ to its Surf Excel’s Holi Ad to the two Red Label advertisements, it is enough to sketch a pattern. Art is the subtlest form of Agenda, all one needs to do is take a slight look at the way Nazis used art as a propaganda tool. Flyers and Movies were their most potent propaganda tools. The method is very simple, send subtle anti-Hindu messages and let it spread. Over a period of time, the indoctrination of the masses will be complete.
A company’s culture is defined by the way it conducts business. The company that’s running a sustained Anti-Hindu propaganda has also been associated with corporate malpractices too.
On December 25, 2018, HUL was found guilty of profiteering worth Rs 385 crore by not passing on the GST benefits to its customers by the National Anti Profiteering Authority. NAA was set up to ensure manufacturers and service providers passed on the benefit of lower taxes under GST and that derived from the seamless availability of input tax credit. The amount has to be returned to customers, but where this is not feasible, it has to be deposited in customer welfare funds. Right around the same time, HUL came up with it’s Free To Love campaign for Close-Up which was followed by Surf Excel’s Holi and to finally the Red Label Tea ads which have divided the nation. On a closer look at its advertisements, one can clearly notice that there was absolutely no real connection between the entire Kumbh narrative and the product in question. The entire story revolved around the pontification on how Hindu offspring have no love or concern for their parents and want to off-load these inconvenient elders. Coming to the Surf Excel advertisement where the Hindu girl was protecting the Muslim boy on his way to namaz, it was clearly an attempt to portray that the Muslim prayer is sacrosanct. There is perhaps a belief at HUL that controversy is not bad for brands. Twitter outrages are quelled at the same speed they rise.
It speaks volumes about a brand when the brand resorts to stealing from its own customers. Look at the systematic diversion attempted by HUL to hide their wrongdoings through a series of ads which divides the nation. The question is whether Hindustan Unilever is truly Indian? From the present evidence, surely not. I am not calling for a boycott of HUL since such Twitter outrages are often short-lived, but the joke is on the customers of HUL with the brand stealing from its own customers and masking it with a bunch of Hindu bashing advertisements.