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Storyboard | Are Zomato’s latest celebrity-laden ads tone-deaf?

Adlanders weigh in on the food delivery company’s latest campaign, ‘Har customer hai star’, featuring Bollywood stars.

August 28, 2021 / 01:11 PM IST
Actor Hrithik Roshan in a Zomato commercial, part of the ‘Har customer hai star’ campaign conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup India. (Image: screengrab)

Actor Hrithik Roshan in a Zomato commercial, part of the ‘Har customer hai star’ campaign conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup India. (Image: screengrab)

Food-delivery brand Zomato is known for its witty personality on social media. It’s the one strategy that has given the brand a distinctive voice over the years. However, it seems, the company is changing up its game by adding major celebrities and emotion to its advertising recipe.

Zomato first released a video featuring comedian Danish Sait a few weeks ago. In the film, Sait is seen as a delivery agent, riding around Bengaluru to deliver food. Sait's collaboration with Zomato drew flak from netizens for not depicting the realities of a delivery professional. He later took to social media to apologise and took down the video from all his pages. The video is still listed on the brand’s official YouTube channel.

This week, the brand released another video starring Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan. The campaign titled ‘Har customer hai star’ wants to hero Zomato’s delivery partners. In the film, Roshan calls the delivery agent ‘Jadoo’ (an alien character from his film ‘Koi Mil Gaya’). He is seen asking the delivery agent for a selfie for magically delivering the order on time despite heavy rains. Alas, another order comes up and the agent has to rush back sans a selfie with the celebrity. A similar story plays out in the second film featuring actor Katrina Kaif. Only in this one, the delivery agent has no time to have a piece of birthday cake that Kaif offers him. A third film with another celebrity from the South will go live next week. The campaign is conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup India.

The ads sparked some outrage online as users pointed out that Zomato seems to be masking over real issues with this ode to its delivery agents. Storyboard asked advertising executives to weigh in.

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Hot or cold?

Omkar Joshi, founder and chief creative officer of the digital-first consulting shop, hybrid>, thinks the backlash is “not just unwarranted, it teeters on the edge of keyboard activism.” In his view, in the ad, the celebrity is not the star. The delivery professional takes his job seriously and is proud of that. Joshi says, “The ad is a brilliant piece that softly conditions a customer to treat the delivery guys with respect and patience. So the question to ask yourselves is – when was the last time you did that when your order was delayed?” he adds.

Bengaluru-based communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan sees this campaign as the equivalent of Cadbury's using Amitabh Bachchan to address the worms controversy or Coca-Cola using Aamir Khan to address the pesticide controversy - the common thread is that there is a controversy and the brand enlists stars (in Zomato's case, Danish Sait, Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan) to help tell their side of the story using advertising.

He explains, “It seems more like Zomato is keen on addressing the perception arising out of the delivery personnel issue than addressing the problem per se. With the Danish Sait video, Zomato took a slightly more detailed approach, showcasing their version of the delivery personnel's lives, but that clearly backfired as Danish was questioned online and he took down the video with an apology. With the Katrina and Hrithik videos, they feature incredibly dedicated delivery personnel while skirting the issues being raised around their treatment.”

Where’s the jadoo of creativity?

Naresh Gupta, co-founder and chief strategy officer of creative shop Bang in the Middle, says, “It’s always tough to evaluate such ads as there is a celebrity and involves a brand that has obvious issues with its compensation for delivery partners.”

“Jadoo as a character was created in 2003, I don’t know the reason to date it that old. Could they have done more? I would have liked a far more contemporary narrative and not so straight story," Gupta says. "What I liked more was the way they created the social media chatter, with the name of the delivery partner. That was interesting. What they lacked in creativity, they made up with a stunt on social media.”
Priyanka Nair
first published: Aug 28, 2021 12:23 pm
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