4 Zomato Ad Controversies: What to Learn From Them

Team Pepper
Posted on 30/05/225 min read
4 Zomato Ad Controversies: What to Learn From Them
Zomato’s advertising mistakes are as common as some of their most brilliant advertising campaigns. Let’s learn from the Zomato ad controversies to create foolproof ad campaigns.

Whenever any brand puts up an advertisement across multiple media to promote its products/services as part of its branding and marketing campaign, it has to be on point.

An advertisement aims to bring the target audience towards the sales funnel and instantly give them a tour of the entire funnel. The Zomato ad controversies or the Cultfit ad debacle do simply the opposite – repel leads and prospects.

How Advertising Helps in Marketing Campaigns

An advertisement is the combination of audio-visual media that hooks the audience and makes them aware of the new product/service available on the block, provokes their desire to buy, and provides the necessary call-to-action to buy the products/avail the services immediately.

Advertisements have positive, targeted messages to reach the brand’s right audience and convert prospects or leads into paying customers. Advertisements encourage customers to buy and engage with them directly to reinforce their loyalty to the brand.

Let us learn about the 5 Zomato advertising mistakes that cost them dearly.

4 Zomato Ad Controversies

The following series of advertisements and negative marketing campaigns highlighting the Zomato ad controversies will help you think before creating a marketing campaign.

1. Zomato Delivery Executive, Hrithik Roshan/Katrina Kaif

According to Zomato’s Twitter and other social media handles, the ad that sparked the massive Zomato ad controversy was meant to portray the delivery partners as the real heroes and not those they deliver to—even celebrities. Zomato also wanted to convey that people should not condescendingly talk to them and salute the job that they are doing.


But the entire concept of the ad received a backlash from netizens all over as they said that Zomato hardly pays enough to its delivery partners each day, they have to rush in between deliveries, often at risk of their lives, maneuvering their way through heavy traffic, and the tips section in the app doesn’t even tip the delivery partners directly.

One of the main reasons for this backlash was that @DeliveryBhoy, who is quite a popular figure on Twitter and other social media platforms and is a real-life delivery partner, slammed the founders and marketers that they are always averse to engaging in fruitful discussions and have always avoided the collective voices of people who talk about issues like the dangers faced by the delivery community.

The internet community also slammed Zomato for its revised remuneration regarding delivery partners, which don’t even reach them as tips through the app. In contrast, the brand spent millions behind this ad endorsed by Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif. People risking their lives rushing to deliver food should not be glorified or looked down upon by being called an “alien.”

The Zomato ad controversy did not die down when the company took to Twitter to explain that their ad was conceptualized much before the gig economy took center stage and that getting treated with dignity, demonstrating the pride to be working as Zomato delivery partners, and hence becoming the real-world heroes/celebrities were the main intentions of the ad.

The Zomato advertising mistakes continued when netizens pointed out that they did not need clarification or finger-pointing. Instead, a humble apology that they would treat their workers better and incentivize them properly would have been adequate.

2. Zomato’s tongue-in-cheek advertisement hoardings across Delhi and NCR sparked rage.

Zomato’s advertisement campaigns are considered some of the most creative and imaginative pieces because they use various contexts and often use tongue-in-cheek humor.

But this time, the humor became a costly advertisement mistake for the company. Several hoardings represented colloquial slang and their acronyms across Delhi and NCR, which the public didn’t take too well. They referred to those urban Delhi cuss words as the actual representative of tasty meals that could be ordered at Zomato.



Although several modern and Gen Z people lauded their creative and imaginative ideas, most customers put pictures of those hoardings on social media. They called out Zomato along with the relevant information and broadcasting minister.

After being slammed mainly by social media personnel and public personalities, Zomato Co-founder Pankaj Chaddah tweeted that they did not see the double meaning before putting these up and how these could turn into an offensive. This was one of the biggest Zomato advertising mistakes. He also ordered those hoardings and placards to be taken down immediately to resolve the problem.

3. #DefundtheHateZomato campaign

With the previous Zomato advertising mistakes not simmering down and the term “Zomatrolled” being invented by netizens, actress and social activist Swara Bhaskar raised a pertinent question which ended in Zomato being further slammed by netizens.

She said that being their regular customer, she had funded Zomato’s initiative of feeding India during the COVID crisis. But she felt and expressed that not only hers but several unsuspecting customers’ money got indirectly transferred to fund communal bigotry through channels like Republic Bharat – known for their notoriously pro-government stance.


Swara particularly pointed out certain hate speeches on the channel and created the hashtag #DefundtheHateZomato and made a public campaign to pull down all its ads from that channel. This indeed snowballed into a sizable Zomato ad controversy to date, although the contents of the Zomato ad were not debated about here.

4. Sonu, aka the Smiling Zomato Guy being happy with his daily wages

The minimum wages that Zomato pays to its delivery partners have always fueled rage among netizens and Zomato’s regular customers. One of the videos of Sonu, aka the Smiling Zomato Guy, went viral in 2020 on TikTok, where he expressed satisfaction with his job, his 350-rupees-per-day salary, and everything else the company offers.

Although not created by Zomato and not categorized as a Zomato advertisement mistake, this highlighted the ugly truth behind corporates. Zomato put Sonu’s picture as their social media DPs for a day to return the gesture.

Sometimes ads can go wrong, as we saw above. That is why brands should refrain from committing advertising mistakes that create flared-up tensions among customers and make them turn their backs on the brands.

If the advertisements are poor in quality, they will harm and lose a chunk of the existing user base, failing to convert any new leads or prospects. Create your buyer personas very carefully and personalize them to anticipate all the backlash or hatred that could result from advertisement campaigns and turn them into complete debacles.

In Summary

As we have seen, a brand that markets its content in a manner that epitomizes content marketing in today’s age can also slip up and create controversies it may not have intended to in the first place.

The lesson to learn from this is consistency and that such brands also need to consider the possible backlashes before posting an advertisement.