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When Causevertising becomes cringevertising: How and why Cadbury Bournvita’s ‘force fit’ ad flopped

While some viewers found the campaign remarkable a huge section of audiences found it “forced” and “cringeworthy”.

By  Storyboard18Nov 15, 2022 3:05 PM
When Causevertising becomes cringevertising: How and why Cadbury Bournvita’s ‘force fit’ ad flopped
In the advertising and marketing community, the campaign went on to create a stir where many executives thought it to be a ploy designed to win advertising awards. (Stills from the ad)

Cadbury Bournvita, the malt-based beverage brand from Mondelez India, found itself at the centre of a social media storm when it released the #FaithnotForce campaign on Children’s Day. The brand’s ‘Forced Pack’ campaign aimed to sensitise parents against forcing kids into preset career moulds. To make a point, the brand showcased the product in containers meant for other items such as tissue holder, disinfectant, ketchup bottle instead of a regular Bournvita packaging. The objective of the campaign is to convey to parents that they should not force their children to be something they are not meant to be.

Conceptualised by Ogilvy Mumbai, the campaign, which was promoted across platforms, went viral. The video campaign released on the brand's YouTube channel on November 10, has garnered over five million views so far.

If the idea was to shock people by showing a beverage brand in a disinfectant bottle then it worked.

Social buzz

The campaign elicited a wide variety of reactions. While a section of readers found it remarkable, a huge section also found it forced and cringeworthy. In the advertising and marketing community, the campaign went to create a stir where many executives thought it to be a ploy designed to win advertising awards.

Shantanu Deshpande, founder CEO, Bombay Shaving Company took to LinkedIn to share that he loves the brand Bournvita but not its recent ad.

“Very few things are more cringe-y than over-woke preaching by brands. This one is the classic trifecta: preaching to people, that too on a topic as sensitive as parenting, force fitting own brand in an ugly way to give this message, assuming that they are saying something very original. Love the brand, hate the advertising,” he writes.

His post received 92-odd comments where readers were seen arguing for and against the campaign.

On Twitter, for instance, independent brand and marketing advisor Sanjeev Kotnala says, “Aimless purpose based ad... New jar shapes of #BournVita Select #starBazar stores . #FaithNotForce may be the brand that should apply it to the campaign. Only Pledge not even contribution against something like child labour.”

Another user seemed confused about the context of the campaign and took to the platform and tweeted “I like the premise #FAITHNOTFORCE - recognise your child’s talents and don’t constrain them to your preconceived ideas. But, without reading the text I really wouldn’t know what this ad was referring to.”

Of course, there were multiple people who liked the concept of the campaign as well.

“Once in a while you come across an ad that makes you go 'Wow'. A very bold commercial, stretched, convoluted use of brand power - but with an extraordinary message,” tweets another user.

Changing narrative

As a brand, Bournvita has been shifting its narrative towards a more encompassing and hot topic of “mental wellbeing”. While it's “Taiyyari Jeet Ki” proposition stays, the narrative is slowly becoming more wide and mindful of how success is being interpreted from its communication and marketing promotions.

For instance, in July 2022 Bournvita released a campaign titled “The Boy Who Failed” which shows the journey of a young boy who seems to be giving up on playing tennis after losing a game. His mother though sets an example that failing is alright as long as one learns to keep practicing and get better at the game.

However, the recent campaign takes a much more bold and aggressive stance on the well-being of kids and shifts the narrative towards its target audience – the parents.

A report from E4M quoted Harshad Rajadhyaksha, chief creative officer, Ogilvy: “If you look broader perspective on what Bournvita has been doing, it is on ‘Tayyari Jeet Ki’ which is an integral part in a lot of activation and on-ground work with kids. If you look at the journey, we have always stood by this. We have been enabling the kids to be physically active and prepare for the world which is Tayyari jeet ki.”

Ogilvy CCO Kainaz Karmakar added, “Bournvita stands for progressive parenting and there is no real need for a brief anymore between the client and the agency. Any idea that comes to us is pushing a certain philosophy of progressive parenting ahead, we go to the client and we make it happen.”

While the jury is out on whether the Cadbury Bournvita ad was indeed a forced fit, the debate around the campaign definitely kept the brand in the spotlight on the Internet. In the times of achieving the feat of making a brand trend, this works for a brand like Bournvita whether or not the campaign execution fully aligns with the core narrative.

First Published on Nov 15, 2022 3:05 PM