The Tanishq Controversy Has Nothing To Do With Advertising

Anant Rangaswami, October 17, 2020

This is not about an ad and about an inter-faith marriage. This is about the feeling of insecurity that has overtaken our society.

As we read more and more about the Tanishq ad and the attacks (or threats or intimidation) that Tanishq and Tanishq employees had to suffer as a reaction to the ad, the media narrative has focused on the advertising.

Should Tanishq and the creative directors working on the communication have stayed away from a subject such as inter-faith marriage?

Should Tanishq have stayed true to their belief system and refused to withdraw the ad?

Are creative directors ‘creative terrorists’ (as the supremely erudite Kangana Ranaut referred to them)?

Should brands stay away from issues that are debated in society?

Lost in the TV studio debates and in print media are the deeper questions: Should individuals or groups be allowed to take their unhappiness about ANYTHING to a point where they break laws?

Should the police and local administration enforce the laws of the land and protect the victims (in this case, Tanishq)?

Should political parties on all sides of all the divides call upon their supporters and constituents to protest only in lawfully permitted ways and not take the law into their own hands?

In this case, the focus is on an ad.

The focus should be on an intolerant society and on trouble-makers, aided and abetted by an incompetent or willfully negligent administration and further aided and abetted by political parties who gain from the brouhaha.

The Tanishq Store In Gandhidham
Image Courtesy NDTV:

The lawbreakers are further aided and abetted by a media that is chasing viewers or readers and that affords the culprits undue and loud media coverage, often on prime time and on the front pages.

This is not about an ad and about an inter-faith marriage.

This is about the feeling of insecurity that has overtaken our society.

Tomorrow, ‘aggrieved’ parties could threaten and force apologies out of departmental stores because they stock meat.

Or, indeed, by stretching the illustration, by stocking paneer.

A showroom selling readymade garments could be targeted for selling clothes that are pink-coloured. Or orange-coloured. Or whatever colour.

Bookshops could be targeted for selling titles someone doesn’t like. Or a restaurant could be targeted for including items that one doesn’t like – or excluding them.

This is the real issue. A complete freedom to trouble-makers to create, well, trouble, secure in the knowledge that

  1. They will not get into any legal trouble
  2. That they will be covered by the media
  3. They might, as a result of the attention, become more influential and powerful

The narrative needs to change to the deeper issue in society and not in the small world of advertising. 

We should see panel discussion on the issue on leading news channels and discussions in leading newspapers that exclude advertising altogether and focus on the principle of the problem.

Get politicians, bureaucrats and police authorities to defend and justify what is happening across the country on intolerance. Ask them what they are doing about it and ask them to show us, the citizens of India, how they will ensure that the freedoms that we are constitutionally guaranteed  are available to us in the future.

And of course, we need journalists in the discussion as well.

Stop the continuous, shallow debates on Tanishq and the Tanishq management and their advertising.

Focus on those who break the laws, not on those who are terrified because of those who break the laws.