Advertisements tactfully created to mislead the people are the biggest challenge faced by various stakeholders in present days scenario. One such was the recent ad campaign designed for FreeBasics by Facebook.
They carefully chosen the word “Digital Equality” to counter the nightmare created by “Net Neutrality” and even went a step ahead to project as if the Facebook’s Free Basics are Pro Poor and Aam Aadmi, whereas in reality the Free Basics is a villain that dreams to keep the Poor Aam Aadmi as poor forever.
It seems in the process of growing business, even Mark Zukerberg forgot how he has grown Facebook with the support of a neutral net atmosphere. But, today he is trying to monopolise it with his Free Basic. Through Free Basics, only Facebook’s partner websites and applications can be accessed. This has irked advocates of net neutrality, who have spoken out against the initiative across Twitter and other public forums, online.
In response to this backlash, Facebook began promoting Free Basics even more aggressively through highly visible print and outdoor ads. Titled ‘Save the Free Basics’, the campaign managed to grab a lot of eyeballs. The print and outdoor ads target Indians across the socio-economic strata.
A recent full-page print ad in a leading national daily, talks about a farmer and his family that benefited from Free Basics, as it helped them access the internet and consequently make informed decisions about their produce.
“… Free Basics is at risk of being banned, slowing progress towards digital equality in India. Show your support for Free Basics now and help India move forward,” reads the copy, urging people to support for Free Basics by dialling a number.
Another print creative features two young men with the accompanying message: “A connected India means 65 million new jobs.”
Meanwhile, an ad that’s part of Facebook’s outdoor campaign shows a henna-smeared hand; the copy reads “Support the Connected India.”
ASCI, through its official Twitter account, responded to one of the complaints against Facebook’s Save the Free Basics ads, and promised swift action.
Speaking about the issue, Shweta Purandhare, secretary general, ASCI said, “We will send the details of the campaigns to advertisers and seek a response from them. We expect their reply by early next week. After that, it will be taken up in our Consumer Complaints Council.”
Facebook launched the Free Basics initiative in India in February this year by partnering with Reliance Communications. The telecom major offered the Free Basics service through a ‘Freenet’ button on mobile phones. However, the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) has asked Rcom to put a halt on the Free Basics service.
Apart from media campaigns, Facebook has been urging its users to send a pre-drafted mail to TRAI requesting them to ‘Save Free Basics’.
Facebook users need to be very careful with its misleading campaign under the mask of ‘Save Free Basics’ as many of them are not aware of the long-term consequences of Facebook’s Free Basics.