Thursday, December 07, 2006


Sharmila Tagore ko gussa kyon aata hai? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri tunes into some interesting sound bytes from the female frat, about a TVC that aspires to be the new ‘flavour of the day!’

Sex in advertising has always been a real toughie to zip! Remember the howls and hysteria created by the Pooja Bedi-driven Kama Sutra ads a decade and a half back? And who can forget the steamy coffee ads ignited by Arbaz Khan and Malaika Arora, symbolising a killer wake-up call... and man, the orgasmic TUFF ad with sexy, toned, gorgeous Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman entwined like Adam & Eve sent a zillion hearts to the planet Venus & courts, baying for their blood!

Now comes the latest time bomb with its mouth open in the shape of censor board’s Chairperson Sharmila Tagore’s firm suggestion to both, the I&B Minister and Secretary, to immediately yank off the new XXX flavoured condoms’ TVCs (‘What is your Flavour of the night’?). Terming it as ‘tasteless and offensive’, she believes it’s ‘not meant for unrestricted viewing’ and is shocked that such an ad could be aired during such a hugely viewed event like the recently concluded ICC Championship Trophy. She was most embarrassed when people endlessly complained to her about the ad’s inappropriateness in every way. When contacted, Sutosi Batliwala (General Manager, Marketing, DKT India) was reported to have retorted that the ad was never meant to titillate or promote oral sex, but to encourage couples – in positive fashion – who appear repulsed by the smell of latex. Boy, that’s a whole new ball-game in the area of inventiveness and originality, sweets! Anyway, what do the women think? Standby for the verdict...sound bytes from the big fight...

Delhi-based film-maker Ishani Dutta thinks that the Begum is spot-on. “I think a modern, sophisticated, sensible and intelligent person like Sharmila Tagore certainly has her reasons to be browned-off and I would tend to agree with her. Forget the corny ‘India Shining’ picture constantly projected by the media, positioning India as the next global super-power; the fact is – a very large segment of our country remains hugely conservative, backward, sexually ignorant and repressed. For them, these ads will raise curiosity and unnecessary questions from kids that one can do well without.” Ishani believes that flavoured condoms (as a concept & category) cater to a very westernised, elitist and niche market and can quite easily be tapped into through focused and customised media avenue, “You don’t have to flash it on prime time and air it across popular family-oriented programmes for Chris sake. And Batliwala’s rationale for promoting the flavours is truly Woody Allen stuff... pure and unadulterated comedy!”

Newfield CEO, Esha Guha brings her very own spin. Announces the bindaas fifty-something adperson, “My take is totally on the presentation, not on morality. This is year 2006 and it’s time, the best things in life are not constantly perceived as stuff that is illegal, immoral or fattening!” On a less frivolous note, Guha reckons that the ad guys really let go a fantastic opportunity to do genuinely super creative stuff. What we see, according to her, is a very predictable, sexist and corny TVC. “In these categories, evocation and imagination should be the prime drivers. Communication celebrating suggestion rather than definition should have held centre-stage.”

Copywriter Moon Moon Dhar gives the Guha-take a miss and roots for Dutta’s viewpoint. She has no issues with the manufacturing or selling of the product (“it’s a free country, guys!”), but blitzing on primetime betrays an extremely low professional quotient. “Besides, family viewing can go for a six with a 3-year old daughter insisting that she will only have the salad if that strawberry flavoured thing is given to her! Scary, na?” Moon is confident that these flavoured condoms can quite easily be sold successfully, as OTC products at select chemist shops and up-market retail outlets. “I think more sensitivity and responsibility could have been exercised by the rubberwalas.”

Sunaina Anand, Director of Artalive Gallery, plays it cool. “Flavoured condoms are a fact of life and its dumb playing ostrich! However, since it’s sex-related, special care must be taken to ensure that it’s not depicted in a cheap or vulgar manner. As for the family viewing factor, I think most kids today know the score.” From the youth point of view, Tania Haldar, a young PR executive, believes that it’s not the morality but the depiction that is the key. “As a person who’s done time in the West, I am totally clued into the advertising agenda and not likely to be shocked easily, but yes, vulgarity and obscenity is a huge turn-off. These ads don’t toe that line. They are predictable and titillating in an obvious male-pandering way which is, I guess, what a lot of advertising is (anyway) about. No big deal.” However, she does agree with Sharmila that it should be shown only after 11 p.m. because it could, otherwise, (unnecessarily) provoke a whole lot of very uncomfortable questions.

Journo Andy Dutta doesn’t know what the fuss is all about. She believes that presentation is everything and done with truth and integrity, it establishes an instant connect with its target group. Rubbishing the family-viewing aspect as hypocritical, she believes it’s time that sex-related issue like flavoured condoms are yanked out of the closet and into the streets. “I think flashing it on prime-time was a masterstroke because it could lead to healthy debate and discussion within the family and across generations, decimating once and for all, a zillion half-baked and idiotically cock-eyed ideas on sex-related issues.”

The final words must be reserved for the amazing, bold & beautiful Perizad Zorabian. “The ad is shot in such a sensuous and stylish way that curiosity meets titillation in explosive fashion triggering seduction of the mmmm... kind. To the evolved, sophisticated and westernised, there is no reason for open-mouthed awe but for the unfamiliar and unacquainted with sexually liberated mores, it could mean a deliciously provocative, bewildering and distracting series of dots that need to be urgently filled in any which way!”

While one cannot deny that sex education is still extremely minimally provided to the Indian youth, one cannot but deny also that despite the tastefulness or tastelessness of dramatic campaigns, controversial ads in India will continue to remain, how do we put it, “controversial.”