Eid is here, where are the brands?

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Brands in India seem to be maintaining a conspicuous silence when it comes to advertising during significant Muslim festivals such as Eid. Despite India boasting the second-largest Muslim population globally, the absence of dedicated campaigns during Eid and Ramadan is striking.

Typically, brands in India are known for their active involvement in festive seasons, rolling out elaborate campaigns and advertisements to capitalise on the celebratory spirit. Last year, the ad spends for the festive season rose by 15% to 20% year-on-year, as per industry estimates.

However, when it comes to Eid and Ramadan, the enthusiasm appears to have waned. The silence from brands during these festivals raises broader questions about inclusivity and representation in advertising. With India’s diverse cultural landscape and significant Muslim population, the absence of Eid-themed campaigns reflects a missed opportunity for brands to connect with a large segment of their consumer base. Even brands with a strong presence during other festivals in India and internationally are absent from the Eid advertising scene.

Last year, the only notable brands that celebrated the Muslim festivals with proper campaigns included McDonald’s India, Tata Motors, Smart Bazaar, and Julaha Sarees. This year, it appears only Smart Bazaar has shelled out its advertising bucks for Eid. We’re sure there will be celebratory social media posts from many brands, but those aren’t the point of discussion here.

Some industry observers speculate that the reluctance of brands to engage in Eid advertising could lead to an unpleasant consumer perception for them in the long run.

KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, global chief creative officer, of Nihilent & Hypercollective, a global consulting and services company opines that the brands choosing to avoid these festivals is distasteful, and a fairly new phenomenon. He says, “Brands cannot afford to ignore such a large section of the population. You want the consumers to believe that you’re a part of their lives, and then you don’t wish them on their special days. That is hypocritical, and will hurt the brand image in the long run.”

 

KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar
This brand behaviour could also be attributed to a heightened sense of caution amongst consumers, particularly in light of a politically polarised nation. Brands have faced severe backlash for ads deemed insensitive or controversial by consumers. Examples include Swiggy’s Holi ad urging consumers not to throw eggs, and BharatMatrimony’s Holi ad addressing violence against women. These incidents have underscored the growing sensitivity among consumers towards the portrayal of cultural and social issues in advertising, often bullying the brands into submission and retraction.

“The differences have been created by the political parties. Brands need to take a stand for what they believe in and move past these divisive roadblocks. If they fail to back their own beliefs it is going to be very hard for them to retain consumers in the long run. How long are they willing to let the goons strong-arm them?”

Given the potential pitfalls associated with festival advertising, brands may be exercising caution to avoid inadvertently offending or alienating their target audience. The upcoming election cycle in India could also be contributing to this sense of apprehension.

However, Manish Porwal, managing director of Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions, says that other factors could be at play for brands to avoid delving into festival advertising altogether. He says, “There is a larger story at play here. Brands used to be in anticipation of festivals because that is when the consumers would step out and shop extravagantly. But now, consumers don’t necessarily wait for these occasions to make purchases. So the brands have shifted their focus from festivals to large media properties.”

Manish Porwal
Porwal remarks that the responsibility for festival advertising has increasingly shifted towards social and digital platforms rather than traditional television channels. This shift has also influenced how brands allocate their production budgets for these campaigns. With a greater emphasis on digital platforms, brands are now more discerning in their advertising expenditure.

This calculated approach reflects a broader trend in the advertising industry towards optimising budgets and targeting specific audience segments. Consequently, brands are investing in digital channels to reach their target demographics more effectively while also managing production costs more efficiently.

“With more brand action around festivals shifting towards digital, the brands are now also very calculated in their ad spends,” he adds.

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