Scent of a Scandal

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SummaryPicture this: A bare-chested Salman Khan doing an Isaaiah Mustafa for an Indian deodorant brand. Even as he says ‘Hello ladies’ in the commercial, the women swoon. And the men make a beeline for the deo.

Picture this: A bare-chested Salman Khan doing an Isaaiah Mustafa for an Indian deodorant brand. Even as he says ‘Hello ladies’ in the commercial, the women swoon. And the men make a beeline for the deo.

Weiden+Kennedy’s commercial for Old Spice body wash featured Mustafa in a towel lampooning the macho image of the brand. That over-the top, extremely hilarious ad with its tongue-in-cheek monologue clocked more than 94 million hits on YouTube, 630,0000 Facebook fans, and an estimated 1 billion aggregate impressions in just one week. ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ Old Spice campaign went on to win the Film Lions Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010. Will we see that kind of smart advertising in India where the message is subtle but hits home?

Hen the ministry of information and broadcasting last month ordered television broadcasters not to broadcast seven “overtly sexual” deodorant ads including that of Addiction Deo, Set Wet Zatak, Wild Stone, Denver, Axe and asked the advertising watchdog, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), to go after these brands for their “indecent, vulgar and suggestive” ads which it said portrayed women as “lustily hankering after men under the influence of such deodorants”, it may have been dismissed as another prudish act of the government. But in the last few years, there has been a spate of suggestive TV commercials for men’s deodorant brands. Each of them have crafted their messages around one theme – spray the deo to catch the attention of the opposite sex. But then they all went overboard with steamy scenes and double entendres.

As ASCI’s secretary general Alan Collaco says, “There is a thin line between indecent and aesthetically done ads and the problem comes when brands are unable to differentiate.”

It all started with an Axe ad in 1999. That ad showed women attracted to men who used the deodorant. The success of that campaign saw many more me-too ads from other brands, each becoming bolder than the other. Using sexual innuendoes in advertising for deodorants for men was here to stay.

Branding in the sensorial category is always a challenge. “For deodorants, there are two ways of advertising. You can either use smell to create attraction or use it for depicting repulsion. So far, marketers have chosen the first option by displaying how scent attracts dramatically,” says Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults. Bijoor says though the deo category is nascent in

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