Home / Companies / News /  Vim’s parody ad on dishwash for men causes stir, backlash

NEW DELHI : Following a backlash on social media by a section of consumers, Hindustan Unilever Ltd on Monday said ‘Vim Black for Men’ is a fictitious product and the ad featuring actor Milind Soman was indeed a joke.

While many considered it a successful campaign, the company did receive mixed opinion from social media users.

In the ad, the protagonist is seen berating a man claiming to do household chores such as washing dishes. While some users across Twitter and Instagram criticized HUL’s advertisement, many others praised the campaign.

The company defended the ad saying it breaks gender stereotypes. Societal stereotypes, defining women only through chores such as caregiving and household tasks are bogging them down, it added.

To raise this issue, the firm launched the ‘limited edition product’ that was purportedly designed for men, but in reality the product is the same as the existing Vim liquid.

HUL’s executive director and vice president for home care, South Asia, Deepak Subramanian said the negative chatter around the campaign is something that the team had hoped would come as a part of the strategy. “The campaign was born more out of brand purpose and brand thought—Vim has been on a mission now to really drive this thought on how we can empower women more and give her an identity which is more than just her role in the kitchen." “Household chores unfortunately always falls on the shoulders of the woman no matter which income strata we talk about. Covid, of course, brought about some changes and that was simply because there was no help and everything was at home. And we did see greater participation of men in cleaning chores. However, things have returned to the old normal," he added.

For years, advertisers have followed the same narrative —often showing women in the kitchen, or as a primary caretaker of the child. However, as social mores change, brands have tried to capture the shift in how households behave. It isn’t the first time brands are trying to critique the gender divide existing in households. Rival P&G’s laundry brand Ariel, has been running the ‘Share the Load’ campaign for years to encourage men to participate in household chores.

Communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan said the whole narrative of the ad was tonally different from its earlier campaigns, in which the company followed similar themes for its campaigns.

In 2020, it had taken out an advertisement with cricketer Virender Sehwag washing the dishes with a gel product to highlight that men need to or are doing more dishwashing and were participating in more household activities.

According to Srinivasan, by doing this kind of a campaign, HUL removes men altogether from the dialogue by mocking them for not doing enough and for bragging when they do very little. This campaign was conceived by Lowe Lintas, put out by media agency Mindshare and produced by MTV.

“Just creating a fake product would not have served its purpose. So it did produce a product in limited numbers on its website for the campaign. But the campaign was successful in the sense that everyone is talking about it though it may not be purposeful in producing a useful dialogue," Srinivasan added.

More recently, children’s drink brand Bournvita, too, had come up with a ‘forced packs’ on Children’s Day, this one was a campaign ‘Faith Not Force’ by marketing firm Ogilvy that was urging parents to identify their child’s hidden or true talents, instead of putting them in pre-set categories. It did so by putting Bournvita into different shaped bottles like spray cans and dishwash bottles.

Piyush Raghani, founder and director of ad-firm Like-Minded People whose clients include Oppo, Apple’s Mac computers and Country Delight, said that this could be a bit of a self-defeating exercise on part of the firm.

The advertisement takes you through the story of a man who is telling a woman in a gym that he’s done the dishes at home the night before to help his mother. “But the narrator and the actor (Soman) are guilting him into washing the dishes even more, despite him saying he’s already done the dishes. It’s a bit of a self-goal. But at the end of the day, no publicity is bad publicity. People are talking about the brand," he said.

Subramanian of HUL said the band will continue to drive the agenda in the future. “One conversation is not going to change the whole perspective. This is going to require a series of campaigns which will provoke the conversation," he added.

Vim is among the 20 most-chosen brands in the country, according to the 2022 edition of Kantar’s Brand Footprint. Vim tops the rankings for the brand which gained the most shoppers in 2021. Three out of four homes use brand Vim.


Varuni Khosla
Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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