For any detergent brand, Holi is an obvious opportunity to advertise its cleaning powers. But Hindustan Unilever’s new advertisement for Surf Excel (above) has evoked an extreme reaction from some right-wing quarters, who have succeeded in trending the hashtag #BoycottSurfExcel on twitter.

The advertisement offers a warm – and timely – message on inclusivity, building a story about a young girl who helps her neighbour complete his Namaz he can join in the colourful festivities. However, the response from many has been a tweet campaign asking that the detergent being advertised be boycotted. The reasons are not difficult to find, going by the contents of the hate tweets.

They claim that the ad promotes “love jihad”, the conspiracy theory floated by Hindutva supporters which claims that there is a campaign by Muslim men to court Hindu women merely so that they can then convert them to Islam.

The controversy comes hot on the heels of frenzied criticism on Twitter against another recent Hindustan Unilever advertisement (below), which was for Brooke Bond Red Label Tea and was set against the backdrop of the Kumbh Mela.


This advertisement led to a storm of protest from those who interpreted it as an insult to the Kumbh Mela, and, by extension, to Hinduism.