Zomato and Cult.fit Mistakes Are Lessons for the Advertising Industry


Advertising is tricky business; it’s not just about selling a product or service but also about creativity and authenticity. Time and again, even the most viral and successful advertisements have been challenged by critics and the masses for various reasons; whether it’s copyright violations or insensitive representations, or creating a false image of the brand, and sometimes promising much more than a product can afford to deliver. Last week also saw two such examples when two popular brands and their seemingly creative ads faced the wrath of different orders, offering lessons for the advertising community.

Zomato’s ‘deaf’ attempt to turn its delivery partners into heroes

After its recent IPO, one could say that Zomato is an impressive success story of a local brand that has made a big mark for itself. Exceptional needs-based services coupled with scintillating marketing efforts and a digital media presence that any brand would envy, Zomato has managed to create its own clout. But that success and fame hasn’t come without its own share of controversies – the biggest, probably, being its treatment of its delivery partners.

And that’s why its recent campaign, featuring Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif, which the brand says was an attempt to portray delivery partners as heroes, drew a lot of criticism from netizens.

The internet has partnered with the brand for its “tone-deaf” and “insensitive” portrayal of delivery partners.

The brand was quick to provide a clarification, also explaining how they’ve revised their compensation policies for delivery partners, but the internet doesn’t seem to buy it too.

The ad becomes a case study in how brands can’t use a marketing objective unless they themselves champion it. Consumers see through bluffs quickly and have all the tools at their disposal to call the brand.

Cult.fit Infringement of Yash Raj Film Copyright

Cult.fit has released interesting and hilarious advertisements, drawing inspiration from popular Bollywood movies to convey the message that fitness is not an option. While the ads impressed netizens for their creative treatment, the brand had to remove one of the spots because Yash Raj Films flagged it for copyright infringement.

The scene was taken from the cult classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, produced by Yash Raj Films, in which the cast is seen reprising the film’s famous climax – Simarn running towards the train to meet Raj. The interesting twist introduced by the brand is that the female protagonist here was too unfit to ride that train and had to tell her partner that she would take the next train to meet him the next day.

While the attempt was interesting, the brand made a big mistake by not going to the original creators for the rights.

However, the ad was uploaded again with a disclaimer, along with another spot that put a spin on Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’s (ZNMD) final scene “The Bull race”. It features comedians Rahul Subramanian, Aadar Malik and Rahul Dua as Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay Deol. However, this time they did not forget to put a warning.

Responding to the controversy, a The cult.fit spokesperson said, “At cult.fit, our goal through various marketing campaigns has been to resonate with our audience and create something relatable and memorable. We often draw on popular culture that has proven to be impactful time and time again. We took a similar approach for our latest campaign – ‘Fitness is not an option’. Both advertisements have been produced and published after all due diligence has been performed on our side. The response has been outstanding overall. The first commercial is also back on the air and our campaign will continue as planned. We settled the issue with YRF out of court and then resumed the ad.

Brands and agencies should avoid using direct or indirect references to copyrighted materials while working on their campaigns, otherwise a good attempt may fail.

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