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CONTROVERSIAL ADVERTISING: THE SHOCK FACTOR

Advertising is ubiquitous, step outside on any given day and rest assured you will be faced with a host of adverts in all mediums trying to sell you something from the commercial world we inhabit. Used as a way of communication its sole purpose is to influence individuals to purchase a product or service. The advert will conventionally show the name of the product or service and all of its benefits to the potential consumer. A successful advert is persuasive and success is gauged on the increased volume of sales achieved and the raised awareness of the brand. Its rise came in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries with the influx of mass production. Since then companies have competed and strived to be more inventive, original, eye catching and sometimes more controversial than ever. Along with the myriad of safe, traditional adverts viewed everyday, once in a while one will appear that leaves people shocked, surprised and sometimes even offended. Some of reasons for this include that todays society has become more complex, increased awareness of the harmful effects of some products and as agencies try to become more creative to "cut through the clutter" to gain attention and brand awareness. For advertisers the problem can be that a controversial advertising campaign can be very successful or very damaging, depending on what ultimately happens in the marketplace. Advertisers wanting to undertake a controversial campaign must, therefore, then tread the fine line between successfully communicating to the marketplace and offending some people.

The issue for some advertisers and their agencies is to determine who may be offended by their controversial campaign and what are the reasons for offence, particularly when the product itself may be controversial. To some extent the advertisers, particularly those with controversial products, have a social responsibility not to offend people by their advertising images, yet in a free market they should be able to communicate a message to their customers.

Some advertisers, by the nature of the product, may be perceived as controversial and any promotion of their product may generate negative responses, for example:

(1) Gender/Sex Related Products (eg. condoms, female contraceptives, male/female underwear, and feminine hygiene products) (2) Social/Political Groups (eg. political parties, religious denominations, funeral services, racially extreme groups, and guns and armaments) (3) Addictive Products (eg. alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling) and (4) Health and Care Products (eg. Charities, sexual diseases (AIDS, STD prevention), and weight loss programs).

INDIAN ADVERTISING: Advertising in India is a highly competitive business. Advertisers in India reach about 75 per cent of the population through television, and almost the entire population through radio. Certain televised programs enjoy a viewership of more than 100 million. The Indian viewership exhibits brand name recognition of both foreign and domestic products and services. The major Indian advertising media are newspapers, magazines, television and radio, internet, business publications and billboards.

The ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India) regulates the advertisements and is responsible for approval of ads. CONTROVERSIAL ADVERTISEMENTS FEATURED IN INDIA: AMUL MACHO, crafted for CONTROVERSIES

The ad in question has a newlywed woman entering a dhobi ghat (a place where clothes are washed, generally near the banks of a water body), as other women eye her curiously. Regardless of their stares, the woman opens up her bundle of clothes and pulls out the first garment Amul Macho innerwear belonging to her husband. She then starts brushing it, and through her expressions (arguably totally fantasy driven) shocks her companions and her body language blows their mind. The voice-over comes on to the super: Amul Macho Crafted for Fantasies. The agency handling the account was Saints & Warriors but there seemed nothing saintly about their ads. The sequel to the village ad is the all new Orangutan ad. The hints and suggestions are less sexually explicit, with all the monkey business going on, but it still causes more than a few red faces if the whole family is watching together. Both the ads have been alleged to have a negative effect on zillions of tele-viewers and generally playing havoc with the very concept of family viewing. In India, television is family

viewing and if an ad affects that, then that's when the complaints start coming - because people are not comfortable watching it with their grandmother, son or granddaughter. Advertising in India still thrives on its rural population and certain aspects of sex and religion should not be brought into advertising. This ad is very controversial in terms of its content and presentation which is vulgar and obscene according to the Indian audience. Although there were many controversies surrounding the meanings the advertisement conveyed, it was still able to achieve 70% sales in the states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh which covered its main target audience. FAIR AND LOVELY, is it FAIR?

The ad features a father lamenting the fact that he has no son, just a dark-skinned daughter who cannot get a job because of her complexion. Kaash mera ek beta hota, (I wish I had a son) he says in a fit of depression. The indignant daughter then uses Fair & Lovely, becomes an air hostess and takes her father to a five-star restaurant where the father naively asks her for the same cup of coffee that created happy chaos just a few weeks ago. This ad is an example which hurts the sentiments of most Indian women.

Such ads only reinforce the stereotype that fair equals beautiful and success. The question is, how can a brand justify this whole colour bias that is the foundation of Indian society itself in many ways? I know plenty of dark-skinned women who can easily be qualified as stunningly beautiful and successful. I suppose if you happen to live in the metro cities, this ad can certainly affect your sensitivities and make you vocal. The target audience, however, lives in interior Tamil Nadu or Gujarat, where people unabashedly demand not only dowry but fair brides. But one of the things going for this commercial is that it strikes a chord in the hearts of dark girls even as it makes you and me say How dare they? KAMASUTRA CONDOMS, very BOLD indeed

For a copywriter, it is quite challenging to churn out subtle ads for condoms, when the nature of the product itself is explicit. Besides underwear, the other product that is on the crosshairs of regulators is condoms. The brand Kamasutra broke into the scene with a controversial campaign featuring Pooja Bedi and Marc Robinson playing a hot game of chess. Such an ad is controversial in terms of its content and presentation. Also it hurts the sentiments of joint families to a great extent.The ad became an instant hit as well as a controversy because of the sensual visuals. The so called Moral police brigade cried foul. The ads were instant hit and the sales soared. Consumers used the acronym KS for this brand. The ads gave lessons of Kamasutra postures and customers loved it. But the campaign had its fair share of problems. The tvc was not allowed in National channel and the campaign was restricted to print.

For a bold brand like KS, the opportunity to create waves in the market was immense. The brand was aiming the target segment of youngsters below 25 ( unmarried) ,College students and young professionals. That TG was a risky proposition at that era because Sex was a taboo. But the brand was able to become relevant to the TG with its boldness and iconoclastic stands. The brand used the tagline " For the Pleasure of Making Love" emphasizing the brand as an enhancer of pleasure ( emotional ) rather than a family planning tool ( rational). RIN, Ethics vs Market Share

The Ad features two ladies waiting at a bus stand for their children. One of the ladies has a packet of Tide (P& Gs product) in her bag and the other has Rin (HULs). The lady with the Tide packet boasts of the whiteness and the fragrance caused by Tide. The other lady merely beams at this boasting. After this exchange a school bus stops and off come the children of the two ladies. The child of the lady with the Tide has a distinctively dull white shirt on while the child of the lady with the Rin packet has a spotless white shirt on. The child of the lady with the Rin packet asks her Aunty chaunk kyun gayi? which appears to be a direct reference to the recent Tide campaign chaunk gaye. This ad would go into the history books of controversial ads for being popular for its marketing gimmick.

Are we entering into a new world where everything is gonna be topsy-turvy? A world where old rule books are going to pave way for the new ones? The recent RIN commercial reminds me of the 1975s Blind Taste Test by Pepsi to gain market share of Coke. Such marketing gimmicks only lead to a major price war between the two companies. In effect, people start consuming whichever they find price-reasonable or cheaper for that matter. Consumers today want more of those things they value. If they want low cost, they want it lower. If they value convenience or speed, they want it easier and faster. If they look for stateof-the-art design, they want to see the art pushed forward. If they need expert advice, they want companies to give them more depth, more time and more of a feeling that they are the only customer. When consumers are so smart, why not let them alone decide the comparative advantage of one product over the other? Instead of this short term gain, HUL could have made use of its distribution reach, which is far more superior than P&G and done some serious promotional campaigns to outsmart P&G or even more could have roped in some celebrity to endorse its brand (enchanting Chamakti Safedi )rather than entering into this cheap gimmick. BISLERI, play safe

In India, water is scarce and quality is poor so initially the consumers were only foreigners and NRIs. The advert titled Play Safe was done by AMBIENCE ADVERTISING agency for Bisleri Mineral Water (PARLE exports company) in India. It was released in the February 2001. This ad again is very controversial for its content and presentation.

In this advert a couple is camping in a jungle. They get sexually aroused and start indulging in the sexual activity. Suddenly the girl feels thirsty and demands for the water, the boy then runs for the water and gets one Bisleri mineral water bottle for her. The girl is then shown drinking the water in a very erotic way. And after that they continue their unfinished business. Bisleri Mineral Water was the market leader in the early 1990s. The brand started losing its share due to increased competition and the entry of the multinationals such as Coke and Pepsi into the market. Bisleri tried to regain its share by repositioning its brand by releasing the Play Safe adverts. Since then Bisleri started to regain its market share. And now Bisleri commands 60% of the Mineral water market in India.

CONCLUSION: We're surrounded by advertisements that desperately compete for our attention. Everywhere we look, we find ourselves inevitably drawn to images of scantily clad attractive men and women, emotional stereotypes or brand wars that are supposed to somehow inspire us to purchase their products. Sure, this attention-getting strategy is popular. But, is it effective? Remember, the golden words of David Ogilvy, the famous Ad Guru, " A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself." As marketers we must think not only in getting customers' attention for the short term, but also in building a brand reputation that will yield long- term results.

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