Increasing power of social media forces Indian brands to take a stance

A conversation is brewing in India after the CEO of Bajaj Auto, Rajiv Bajaj made a statement that his company will no longer use media outlets as an advertising medium as they are becoming a source of “hate-mongering” and “toxicity”. 

Rajiv’s company is India’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer and the comments he made were in relation to the recent police investigation into three Indian TV news channels, following accusations of manipulating ratings and spreading fake news. 

Rajiv’s comments were followed by a similar statement days later by the country’s biggest biscuit maker, Parle-G. 

According to the BBC, these statements being made by brands that are Indian household names, has come as a surprise as Indian companies tend to avoid making daring public statements. However, as brand safety becomes an increasing concern in the age of social media, more of these public statements can be expected from companies in India. 

According to veteran media consultant Paritosh Joshi who spoke to the BBC, growing activism by media watchdogs such Newslaundry, who’ve sought to hold brands accountable for funding vitriolic content, has played a part in getting this conversation going. 

“Brands just don’t want to be seen sponsoring, or even tacitly condoning, content that their consumers might find abhorrent,” Paritosh said. “But this isn’t an altruistic or socially enlightened view, it’s purely a business decision as brands want to be known by the company they keep.”

According to the BBC, other consumer brands, such as dairy giant Amul, which spends 40-50% of its advertising budget on news channels, and grocery chain owner Future Group have said they too are worried about the growing negativity and aggression on some platforms.

While the dip of ad expenditure on news channels in recent years have been partly attributed to an economic slowdown, experts say increasing concern over “brand safety” is also a reason.

BBC also reported that in recent months, ratings for a section of TV news media soared amid the frenzied coverage that followed the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. However, the media platform also drew flak for sensationalising Sushant’s death and were accused of defamatory reporting from accusing Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty of driving him to suicide. The ethics of the TV station’s reporting was also questioned as it aired images of Rajput’s body. 

Much of this conversation was spurred by troubling Twitter trends and trolls, which led to a backlash.

Cover photo credit:  Egor Myznik // Unsplast

Source of information: BBC News

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