Radhika Apte is omnipresent: Netflix twists the plot, turns trolls around

By spoofing itself and Radhika Apte in a mock video, Netflix earned thousands of likes and retweets
As Netflix India found itself being trolled over the excessive programming around actor Radhika Apte, it decided to join the bandwagon by trolling itself through a series of memes and funny tweets. 

It all started with a few memes that mocked the brand and the actor over the spate of shows that the two had launched together. Netflix’s and Apte’s Twitter handles began blowing up with some witty and some abusive tweets about the association.

Instead of backing down or staying silent, Netflix took the trolls on. With quick, clever repartees it began mocking itself. It made a spoof trailer for a fake movie called ‘Omnipresent’ where Apte played all characters, and churned out clever responses to every tweet. It ran the risk of inviting further ridicule but as Ashish Mishra, managing director of Interbrand explains, “If you are a brand that is positioned as spontaneous, expressive, irreverent and have a topical POV and the capability to actively lead the conversations and content; then it may be worth the risk.”

Brands have a choice when faced with online hate, they can respond with bland responses, block them or not respond at all. But when they are able to hold their nerve and stare down the opponents without lynching them, they win followers and add heft to their online presence. 

Mishra says that online behavior must reflect brand governance. “What are the tone of voice principles and the boundaries that the brand needs to work within. Much as they pretend to be otherwise, the truth is that most brands don’t really have a clear system of how to govern themselves in general. Governing themselves on social is even more unclear simply because social itself doesn’t know how to govern itself. But if we take the ungoverned social reality as a given, the brands then will need to weigh in the risks of inviting unfettered reactions and cynicism as also of the inintended associations inevitable in a polarised social world. The upside is visibility and engagement surely but the question is what kind of brands can take the risks without diluting themselves.”

Other brands too have jumped on to the Netflix show on Twitter. Zomato compared the versatility of Apte to ‘paneer’ dishes on their restaurant menus and Ceat Tyres played with the actor’s omnipresent status. Even KFC India weighed in with responses to Netflix’s repartees.

Sandeep Goyal, founder of media and brand consultancy, Mogae Media, said that this reflects a new environment. It doesn’t tie in with the old school marketing belief of ‘not sticking your neck out where it doesn’t belong’. Brands are bolder now, but so far this has been largely the case with digital-first labels or global entities. Traditional Indian brands are still finding their voice online say experts.

According to Vani Gupta, co-founder, hypersonicadvisory.com, social media banter is a great way for brands to use light hearted wit and humour to express personality. “Zomato has latched onto such opportunities in the past and established itself as a brand with oodles of attitude,” she added.

Netflix India’s decision to troll itself sets it apart, but it is not the first time that online ridicule has been turned into fandom. In 2014, actor Alia Bhatt, starred in a spoof on herself, in response to being trolled extensively for being stupid after a talk show appearance.  

A brand’s social media presence is especially critical in the dynamic and fast paced world that companies operate in today. “Since, topical conversations like these are time bound, not only does the brand need to give more leeway to the agency handling their social media, but the agency also must imbibe the brand’s culture, said Srinivasan.  

Clever conversations are also a big differentiator in a world where all brands are trying to imbibe a homogenous set of values. And the rapidly changing social media space means that brands can afford a misstep or two. 

“Public memory is short so if a certain post doesn’t work, a brand can always try shooting out a different message, the next day,” said Goyal. But they need to tread with care, balancing the gains of temporary visibility with the risk of losing long term credibility.

TIMELINE OF A TAKEDOWN
  • Users post memes of Radhika Apte, troll Netflix and the actress
  • A meme with a backdrop of her faces with Homer Simpson says: ‘When you open Netflix these days’... 
  • Netflix joins the trolls in poking fun at itself and Apte. It creates posts around Apte, makes a spoof video called ‘Omnipresent’ that has the actress playing every role and also being a part of the production crew. ‘For every role, Radhika Apt hai,’ is their line 
  • Netflix’s tweets go viral,  fellow brands and more Twitter users jump in
  • Zomato tweets, ‘And you thought only Radhika was versatile’ alongside a list of dishes from its menu with paneer (cottage cheese) in them
  • Netflix banters with Zomato, using its tweet to deliver the message that the actress is everywhere. Its Instagram bio reads: just another @radhikaofficial fan account
  • Ceat Tyres joins in, tagging Netflix to its ongoing ad campaign  and plays with the omnipresent theme