Anil Thakraney | 18 Again: A question of ethics

13 Aug,2012

By Anil Thakraney


Ordinarily, I would have dealt with this ad in the Debrief section. But the TVC for 18 Again isn’t just another ad. It opens the whole Pandora’s Box of itchy issues like morality, ethics and decency. Here’s the link to the naughty commercial, if you haven’t already ‘enjoyed’ it:


The product in question is a ‘vaginal tightening’ gel. And the positioning is: ‘Makes you feel like a virgin’. Am sure Madonna would approve, but before I discuss the communication itself, must say I am quite flummoxed by the product description. Is it scientifically possible to tighten the vagina? That too with a simple gel? Sounds pretty farfetched and dubious to me. And being a man, I can’t even suss it out! So let’s proceed further by assuming that the damn thing works.


[youtube width=”400″ height=”220″][/youtube]

In the ad, a middle class housewife suddenly feels, er, horny, and dances the salsa with her excited hubby. The dance is obviously a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The message: 18 Again’s magic makes you feel as fresh as an unplucked lily. No problems with the treatment itself. There is no skin show, no vulgarity, so that’s fine.


However, there is a fundamental problem with this one. They say, if a product is being allowed to be manufactured (and my cigarette manufacturing friends will readily agree with this), it should be allowed to market itself. I, too, agree with this theory in principle. But that freedom comes with a rider. While I am all for keeping pace with changing times, 18 Again’s ad alarms me. Because it seems to have been created for the mass media, that too for television, which is a ‘full family’ medium in India. Parents will most likely feel very uncomfortable explaining this product to their inquisitive kids. I haven’t seen the media plan, but am hoping this TVC occupies the mid-night slot, at the very least. The main issue however is this: Should mass media be used to promote such a deeply personal product? Should not selective direct mail or targeted digital media be used, especially considering that this will end up being an urban brand? I do believe so. This product has no business being on the mass media. Period.


Additionally, I also believe a medical product such as this one can’t be sold over the counter. There is also the niggling worry of possible side effects. 18 Again should ideally be dispensed by a chemist, under medical supervision. Much like Viagra is. I hope the makers of this brand have factored in and accounted for all these considerations.


Anyway, let’s see how the hyper-active moral brigade of this nation reacts to this one. Should be interesting. And fun.


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PS: Insightful blog post on all the hype around interactive advertising. That, it seems to be delivering a lot less than it promises. This is another reminder to all marketers and their ad agencies to focus on the good ol’ Big Idea. The new media obsession may not get them very far.




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