I’ve often wondered whether creative heads and brand managers take a calculated risk when they give their nod to a controversial ad. Of course they know the traits of the business all too well, especially in this social media age where every one loves to take offense to something or the other. Perhaps brands go ahead with a plan B: “if there is outrage, we pull down the ad,” trusting the old PR trick that any form of buzz is good till it gets people talking!
The latest brand to go with this plan B is OlaCabs, an Indian online transportation network company that had to pull down its ad titled “Too expensive to take girlfriend out on a date?” Reason being the ad was “sexist” and encouraged the fact that Ola’s new cab service ‘Micro’ is cheaper than taking out your girlfriend on a date.
Created by Happy Creative Services, the film shows the boyfriend trying to fulfill all the shopping expenses of his girlfriend. It ends with the boyfriend saying this facing the camera – “My girlfriend costs Rs 525 per km but Ola Micro costs just Rs 6 per km.”
Here’s the ad that you can still watch:
A perfect recipe to offend both men and women, and thus began the outrage on social media (to be read as Twitter).
"Meri girlfriend chalti hai 525 Rs/Km pe aur OLA Micro sirf 6 rs/km"
Lol who wrote this. Apart from being sexist, makes no sense at all.
— Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) April 23, 2016
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) April 23, 2016
— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) April 22, 2016
Not booking a cab under a service which projects such a discriminatory, vile, sexist, retrogressive outlook in an ad. @olacabs Shame!
— Samadrita (@AuraofDreams) April 22, 2016
— Pratyasha Rath (@pratyasharath) April 22, 2016
Not sure how many would stop using Ola Cabs but the company was quick to react by pulling down the ad and informing the same on social media. But not faster than the news of outrage being covered by popular online media sites.
We understand one of our TVCs has ended up hurting some sentiments. We've pulled it down. However, #OlaMicro continues to run at Rs.6/km.
— Ola (@Olacabs) April 23, 2016
Isn’t that a perfect plan? First approve a controversial ad, then wait for the social media to react, let the media write about it and once that happens, pull down the ad with a social media apology. This seems to be the norm nowadays, and it is being followed with full knowledge of the consequences too. Call me a cynic but I see this is as a win for the brand.
Meanwhile, #OlaMicro continues to run at Rs. 6/Km and so does the remaining campaign with the other two ads. Both the ads focus on the affordability of an Ola Micro at Rs. 6/km as against potentially expensive pursuits with loved ones.
According to the company, TVC marks Ola Micro’s success in offering economy AC car rides at Rs 6/km across 42 cities in India. Ola Micro was launched with the aim to make AC cab rides more affordable for millions of Indians, who will potentially experience their first cab rides in this category. Ola Micro is a reliable mobility option at just Rs 6/km with low ETAs (Estimated Time of Arrival) for customers, available in less than 5 minutes in most parts of the city.
The remaining two ads focus on the same storyline like the earlier one, which Ola had to pull down. In one of the videos we are shown a kid that doesn’t stop with his requests while his poor dad struggles to fulfill them. At the end of the video, the father says – “My son runs at Rs.125 Km but Ola Micro runs at Rs. 6 Km.”
In the other ad we see a group of three friends, of which one keeps on adding his eating demands and the other one keeps paying the bill. The video ends with a similar message that shows how Ola Micro is cheap and economical for the common man.
If you look at all the ads, they have a similar thought process while blending with day-to-day situations. While no one objected on the other two ads as it was all about friendship and parenting, the boyfriend paying the bills was not seen as a funny side of a relationship. They could have reversed the roles in the ad and Ola could have become a progressive brand!
It is the season of people getting offended by ads – recently Havells had to pull down its ad on anti-reservation, part of its ‘Hawa Badlegi’ campaign since it was successful enough to hurt the sentiments of some viewers. So it’s always better to have a plan B, because you never know what may hurt peoples’ sentiments or maybe you do.