Are ads crossing the line too often these days?

26 Sep,2011

By A Correspondent


Sinful minds must be at work in the advertising world these days. Or we are simply not getting it. Of late, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has been deluged with a flurry of complaints about “offensive” ads.


This year the council has received 777 complaints regarding 190 ads, a steep jump over the 200 received last year about 153 ads. The most vociferous complaint has been about increased sexual content, with parents saying it is difficult to watch the ads in the company of children.


They cite the recent Tata Docomo ads for their suggestive content and alleged class bias. One of the ads shows a rocking SUV which stops when a cellphone rings. “How do I explain that ad to my daughter when she asks me what it means?” asks mr Sunil Krishnan, a media executive in Chennai.


Another father, Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, has the same problem with other ads. He says he cracks a joke to divert the attention of his children. “The deo ads can get naughty,” he said. “Like the one that showed a batsman getting out. But the girls run after him rather than the fielder who’s taken the catch, because the batsman’s wearing a particular deodorant.” Incidentally, the star says he “turned down a deo ad because he didn’t like the idea of women chasing him.”


Obviously, it doesn’t work that way in real life. An aggrieved user, Mr Vaibhav Bedi, took Unilever to court in 2009 saying he’d been using the Axe deodorant for seven years and not one woman had found herself inescapably attracted to him.


Do the parents have a point? The problem, says Mr Anand Halve of the brand consultancy firm Chlorophyll, is that a number of ads have begun to use sexual attraction gratuitously. He cites an SUV ad in which “the woman is so taken in by the driver that she tries to hide her mangalsutra from him” . He adds, “In such cases the use of sexual attraction is built on the assumption that, ‘Arrey, audience ko sex achcha lagta hai’.”


But that does not work every time. According to ASCI secretary-general mr Alan Collaco, there’s only so much leeway a company or its advertiser should take. Not for moral reasons, but financial. He cites the earlier Fast Track ads – “which depicted young men and women being promiscuous” – that were shown to college students to elicit their opinion. Mr Collaco says the students turned around and told him, “But that’s not us” .


Which is why Mr Collaco believes that “an ad which grabs eyeballs when it is first released might at best garner some sales but all future sales will depend on the quality of the product, not the ad” .


Flying Machine recently ran into trouble with its latest ad campaign for jeans. The tagline said: “What an Ass!” It punned on the word for bottom, then went on to say the “ass” was “the man who didn’t call me after the first date” or “the friends who wanted to give me a makeover” . That wasn’t how women’s rights activists saw it. They protested to the National Commission for Women (NCW) saying the ad was “vulgar” . The complaint is now with the ASCI, which will decide on the case next month.


Mr Arun Iyer, national creative director of Lowe Lintas, defends his ad for Flying Machine, saying the idea was to grab attention. “The ad is tongue-in-cheek and progressive,” he says. “It shows a woman with attitude.”


Just as nonplussed is adman Mr Prahlad Kakkar, who was recently sent a notice by the Information and Broadcasting ministry for his tagline in the Lilliput children’s wear ad – “There’s another man in every woman’s life.” Once the suspense has built up, you realise the “other man” in every woman’s life is the son. “I really don’t understand why they’re objecting ,” he says.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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