New Delhi: Several recent commercials that have come under attack for being a little over-the-top in the use of sex to get their message across have resulted in more attention for the brands and companies behind the ads. And they’re loving every bit of it.
Thus, while some blogs term a commercial for Amul underwear that shows a woman fantasising about her man while washing his underwear as “the most obnoxious commercial ever done” and “indecent”, the Kolkata-based JG Hosiery Pvt. Ltd, which owns the brand, is happy at the flak it is attracting. “After we launched the commercial in May, our sales have gone up 35%,” says Sandeep Seksaria, director, JG Hosiery.
A spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the advertising regulator which does not have any punitive powers, says it did receive some complaints about the commercial and adds that its consumer complaints council did not find any substance to the issues raised. “Earlier when people would want to buy underwear, they would just buy anything they found that met their requirements,” says Pushpinder Singh, chairman, Saints and Warriors, the agency that created the Amul commercial. “Today, people are conscious about the brands they wear. So, marketers need to build immense brand recall among their target group and hence, such aggressive advertising,” Singh adds.
There are other brands adopting similar “aggressive advertising” techniques.
Henkel India Ltd’s new commercials for its Fa range of deodorants seem to suggest that the use of the product makes women flirtatious—and aggressively so; in one ad, a female model is shown cornering a man in an elevator.
Hindustan Lever Ltd’s Axe deodorant has consistently used sex as a selling or, at least, an advertising proposition, and there appears to be some subliminal connection between deos and sex.
A recent ad for Aqua Cool, a deodorant brand for men from Nivea India Pvt. Ltd, implies that the product is the perfect pre- or post-sex spray.
And another ad, this one for Wild Stone deodorant from McNroe Chemical Pvt. Ltd, shows a traditional Bengali housewife fantasising about sleeping with a stranger after catching a whiff of his spray. “Our consumer is between the age group of 15-30 and the imagery in the advertisement was created keeping in mind what will appeal to them the most,” says R.R. Garnayak, CEO, Asian Shopping Club, a Kolkata-based agency that handles the Wild Stone account.
One advertising executive says such ads are a good way to stand out. “The intention is to break from the clutter and create an identity for the brand,” says Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Grey Worldwide. According to TAM Media Research, the Mumbai-based television audience measurement agency, a total of 37,867 advertisements are aired across all TV channels each day, and an additional 11,525 ads are seen on various print publications every day.
Several of the advertisers are aware that their commercials could offend some people. In-store advertising posters for Lee’s straight cut jeans, for instance, show men holding hands and women about to kiss. The campaign openly celebrates homosexuality with the tagline: ‘Not everything in life is as straight’. “We got a lot of complaints against the advertisement and we had protests outside our store in Bangalore,” says Ajoy Adwani, creative director, Alok Nanda and Co., an advertising agency. “The brighter side of this, however, is that if this advertisement had appeared five years ago, the store would probably have been burnt down.”
The information and broadcasting ministry, usually quick to react to anything that it considers “improper”, has chosen not to get involved as yet.
“The controversies have only given us an extra mileage,” says Saint and Warrior’s Singh. He is planning a sequel to the Amul advertisement, which will be aired towards the end of this year.