Does Religion Stifle Creativity?
That’s what we asked a few creative experts, in the context of Jawed Habib’s recently trolled ad.
NARESH GUPTA managing partner and chief strategy officer, Bang in the Middle
RELIGION AND COMMERCE ARE LARGELY DIVORCED FROM EACH OTHER. THERE IS NO STIFLING THAT HAPPENS
due to religious symbols. What matters is symbology that comes from mythology; the victory of good over evil; the bad effects of ego; and the loss of megalomania all of which are good things and have been used in communication. However, we must remember that brands have not completely banned hints of religion; they do exist all across the spectrum.
I don’t think we need to apply a religious censor. If that was done, then many pop culture symbols would never have made it in advertising; for example the sindoor that was used by ICICI Prudential to build the narrative of security.
The job of communication is to create a following for the brand; awards and accolades can wait. The ads that win internationally are those which remain true to local culture. Like the Australian ad for Lamb; if the culture of the land is religious equality then the symbology of sitting and having a meal together can’t be faulted. Till ads continue to borrow and build on culture of a land, we won’t have a problem.
SANDHYA SRINIVASAN chief strategy officer and managing partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi
IF YOU OBSERVE MINUTELY OR JUST LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE, THERE IS CLEARLY ENOUGH
(and more) happening in this world, in the name of religion. This country has seen good, bad and the ugliest too in the recent past. Tempers get frayed, violence erupts, and people get hurt when a subject evokes a strong, often negative or difficult emotion. Why unnecessarily tamper with it?
Use religion, if at all, to impact change in a mindset, halting detrimental outcomes, in recognising that it’s time to re-haul it, in promoting plurality perhaps or the need to elevate beyond that to ‘humanity’. This is what the world needs right now. That is the only role for religion in advertising; the rest is just opportunistic.
SUMANTO CHATTOPADHYAY chairman and chief creative officer, Soho Square
BENGALIS REGARD MAA DURGA AND HER FAMILY LIKE THEIR OWN FAMILY. AS WITH ANY CLOSE-KNIT FAMILY,
there is love and devotion. But equally, there is also good-natured teasing, joking and laughter. It’s all very light-hearted which, I believe, any mature person’s relationship with religion should be.
I have seen Durga and her children portrayed in all sorts of tongue-in-cheek situations in books, films, art and, by extension, advertising. And I have seen Bengalis take it in the right spirit.
I am disappointed at the reaction to the Jawed Habib ad. I wish it had been taken in the light-hearted spirit it was meant. A picture like that would not have been amiss even in the typical Bengali children’s magazines we grew up with. But with the trolling in social media, threats and court cases that seem to be the standard response these days, I suppose one has to think twice before bringing in any sort of religious reference in an ad. It would be prudent, given the times we live in.
SANTOSH PADHI (PADDY) co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot Dentsu
WE ARE A MULTIDIMENSIONAL, RELIGIOUS SENSITIVE AND EMOTIONAL NATION, WHICH IS
the reason some of the religious parties are still stronger than some of the national political parties today. Most of these religious parties just wait for opportunity to flex their fake muscles by which such campaigns become a campaign for their parties and that’s how they sustain.
My biggest reservation towards this is that we, the advertising and marketing community, are soft targets when it comes to such issues. Many religious parties striping each other’s religions openly are protected and there are no consequences. I have a bigger question here – Bollywood, which is far bigger than the ad industry and has a mega impact on society, are given many liberties compared to our industry; why? I’m not against them, but I believe we should get the same freedom of expression in a 30 second commercial.
Both social media and the media play a very important role in our society today, hence they have a big responsibility to shape the nation, how you portray the story clearly suggest which industry you’re in.