A little girl bicycles through her neighbourhood street on Holi, encouraging her friends to throw all their colours at her until they run out. She happily does so to help her Muslim friend safely reach the nearby masjid to offer namaaz before he later joins the festivities.
This was Surf Excel’s latest ad under its ‘rang laaye sang‘ campaign ahead of Holi celebrations. The response to it, however, has been astonishingly vicious.
The moment Surf Excel released the ad, right-wing handles started posting hate tweets online about how it promotes “love jihad” by showing a Muslim boy court a Hindu girl. In an attempt to offer an alternative narrative to what they claim was being propagated in the ad, some also shared pictures of Hindu men playing Holi with hijab-clad Muslim women.
By the end of the day, #BoycottSurfExcel began trending with the hashtag’s proponents vowing to discard Surf Excel and everything produced by its parent company – Hindustan Unilever (HUL).
— imshashankrajput (@XhaxhankXingh) March 9, 2019
However, amid these vitriolic comments, some also came forward to condemn all the hate the ad was receiving, and lauded its underlying message of love, friendship and community. A few others posted about buying the detergent after watching the ad.
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
— afzu (@justacitizen86) March 11, 2019
Notably, this is not the first time HUL has been targeted for an ad campaign. On March 7, #BoycottHindustanUnilever topped the trending charts on Twitter for a Brooke Bond Red Label advert. Set in the Kumbh (a religious fair at Prayagraj), the 30-second clip featured a man deliberately trying to abandon his father in a crowd only to reunite with him later at a tea stall. Though there is a problem of older family members being abandoned, some Hindus said they felt offended by an ad about it.
The ad was attacked for projecting the Kumbh in the wrong light and insulting Hindus and their festivals. One Twitter user labelled HUL a group of “colonial companies trying to fix and civilise natives” and promoted Patanjali products instead.
#BoycottHindustanUnilever is good for your health, pocketbook and culture. Avoid the toxic Chemical factory that it is.
And you know what @HUL_News can do with its Vaseline. 😬
Picking Patanjali is a good idea. Enough of colonial companies trying to "fix" and "civilize" natives. https://t.co/72LipgpAxH
— Sankrant Sanu सानु (@sankrant) March 7, 2019
Others say that at a time when online spaces and television are filled with hate messages and political propaganda, HUL’s recent ad campaigns with their emphasis on empathy provide much-needed respite.
Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab