The latest Surf Excel advertisement, featuring a young 'Hindu' girl who ensures her Muslim friend gets to go to the mosque in pristine white clothes during the Holi festival, caused quite a stir on social media after it was released on 27 February. The "Hindu phobic" concept faced instant flak from Hindu extremists, however, the tide of hate was overtaken by activists, journalists, and others who came out in support of the ad's message of "unity and love".
Some users also pointed out that the '#BoycottSurfExcel' campaign run by "bhakts", had, in fact, helped increase traction for the ad on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. A Twitter user posted screenshots of Surf Excel's Facebook page engagement before and after the campaign against it. The 'likes' and 'follows', according to the screenshot, are shown to have jumped from 8,29,000 to 1.5 million and 9,08,000 to 1.4 million, respectively. The ad now has around 93 lakh views on YouTube.
Another user observed that the trending #BoycottSurfExcel hashtag had actually helped Hindustan Unilever (HUL) "up their share prices" in comparison to last week.
We were using Tide and patanjali. Now we changed to #SurfExcel
— happyin (@happyin6) March 12, 2019
The HUL-owned brand, which is known for its "daag achhe hai" (stains are good) ads, tried to do something similar recently with its latest Holi special "Rang Laaye Sang" (colours bring us together) campaign. Under this campaign, the brand released an advertisement in a bid to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. The advertisement ends with Surf Excel's classic tagline "daag acche hain".
While those criticising the ad used #BoycottSurfExcel to share their messages, supporters also made #SurfExcel trend on Twitter. Critics of the ad perceived it as "Hindu phobic" and "controversial" and believed that it wants to showcase that "namaaz is more important than Holi". Supporters, however, labelled those outraging against Surf Excel as 'The Cult of Stupidity'.
"#BoycottSurfexcel because you also know that the add is humiliating Hinduism," read a user's tweet.
#boycottSurfexcel because you also know that the add is humiliating Hinduism. And promoting love jehad. Gender selection and talking holi colour as "daag" is not acceptable by hindu because it is done intentionally. Gender selection could have been reverse also.
— मेरा भारत महान:वंदे मातरम् (@MBMRKDr) March 10, 2019
Claiming that the ad humiliates Muslims, a user wrote, "#SurfExcel ad is humiliating Muslim girls to the core... It is directly saying that a Muslim male child needs the help of a Hindu girl for doing his prayer. This is shaming and humiliating all Muslim children."
Many of the angry tweets seemed to have been deleted on Friday.
While opinion over the ad was clearly divided, some also advised "caution" during "crazy times".
South Indian actor Siddharth Suryanarayan wrote, "Can Indian advertisers keep religion out of the picture while pushing FMCG products? Don't complain when people witch hunt you later. I'm sure the red flags are visible when creatives are being finalised. You're selling detergent! Crazy times warrant caution."
By Monday, the tide had largely turned in favour of the ad.
"There is nothing wrong in this ad. Why people take everything so seriously and make unnecessary interpretations. Just cool always think simply," a tweet read.
The outrage over this Surf Excel ad by Hindutvawadis on the day elections have been announced is a testimony to how the country has regressed in the past 5 years. pic.twitter.com/Z8a4x8yPsO — Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) March 10, 2019
I am buying 2 extra 2 kilo pack of #SurfExcel for reminding us that we are nice people. And live naturally in relative harmony. And, kids know no barriers, until they are taught. It will last me 6 months. but it is worth it to defeat haters. — Harini Calamur (@calamur) March 10, 2019
Search #BoycottSurfExcel hashtag and witness #TheCultOfStupidity in action. I hope @HUL_News will have the conviction to stand by their advertisement aimed at promoting communal harmony & not be cowed down by hate mongers. — Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) March 9, 2019
By trending #BoycottSurfExcel, Bhakts have actually promoted further and helped the company to up their share prices compared to the last week. Bhakts will be Bhakts. #SurfExcel#BoycottHULproducts pic.twitter.com/GPIQOexogb — Nihal Kirnalli (@NihalKirnalli) March 11, 2019
What a beautiful ad by #SurfExcel #RangLaayeSang. Those outraged, where is your sense of community, commaraderie, religious tolerance? Can we no longer co-exist & celebrate love in peace? https://t.co/q4HVXhN3xx — Dr. Shruti Kapoor (@kapoors_s) March 11, 2019
This #SurfExcel ad celebrating friendship between a Muslim boy & presumably Hindu girl is being attacked by Sanghi haters who view it through the lens of their communal patriarchal sexualised anxieties of 'love jihad'. Teach them a lesson in love, India! https://t.co/w4UajX6qBG — Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) March 10, 2019
Such a beautiful ad. Watched it 10 times, left me smiling EVERY SINGLE TIME. Depicts India through the eyes of innocent/naughty/lovely kids Touched. Why attack #SurfExcel ? Why look for conspiracies everywhere? https://t.co/6Iz5Ml92QT — Manak Gupta (@manakgupta) March 10, 2019
This is not the first time Hindustan Unilever has faced flack for the story line of their advertisements. Days before releasing this Surf Excel ad, the company released an advertisement for Red Label based at the Kumbh Mela that had irked viewers. In the ad, a son contemplates abandoning his aged father in the crowd, but soon realises his mistake and comes back to him.
Soon after the ad was shared on the HUL Twitter handle, people objected to it, saying it hurt the sentiments of Hindus and portrayed the festival in the wrong light.
With inputs from ANI
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2019 09:43:15 IST