SRK and a storm in the bath tub

Written by Geeta Rao | Updated: Oct 13 2005, 05:30am hrs
Much has been written and said about the current Lux commercial. The media hype must have HLL and its agency JWT laughing all the way to the bank as they calculate the million dollar worth of free publicity their ad has garnered. The ad in question has Shah Rukh Khan strutting his stuff coyly and discreetly in a bathtub strewn with rose petals as some of Indias most beautiful and glamorous women look indulgently at him ... a la Krishna and the gopis.

Just another ad one would have assumed enlivened with Khan hamming the line Lux meri khoobsoorti ka raaz hai... tongue-in-cheek and full of himself. Every mans fantasy one would assume. But not quite. King Khan or Queen Khan fumes a blogger on an advertising website. A woman I think. Is this the new metrosexuality ask earnest media commentators. Why is Lux changing to a brand for men ask irate male consumers

I like Shah Rukh Khan because he is the only hero who looks as if he enjoys doing ads and being from advertising I think that is a good thing. The commercial in question has gotten more than it deserves. It is not a great commercial. Come to think of it, it is not a good commercial either. The art direction and the setting are cliched. Seventy-five years later get a more interesting bath tub at least!

I am not even sure the idea is original. Paul Newman did a Lux commercial internationally; but I havent seen it so I cant compare the two. Because there is no high point in the script, the casting of Khan is really what works for the ad. In a convoluted sort of a way since men seem to be threatened by the ad and women dont seem to want to yield their beauty secrets to a man.

I dont think the word metrosexual, much ban-died about in media featured in the planners brief either. On the other hand, maybe metrosexuality is a good thing. We dont want girlie-boys but imagine a hairy-chested hero in a bath tub with roses. Eeek!

There have been brands that have made the gender shift in the past but they were consciously trying to. Marlboro was a womens brand and was considered totally effeminate because it had a filter tip. It even changed the colour of the filter to red to prevent women being self conscious about leaving lipstick stains on the tip.

All that changed when filters became acceptable on mens cigarettes and Marlboro saw the enormous potential in the male market. Virility without vulgarity was the clear-cut brief to the agency and the change worked. Marlboro country became the fantasyland where men who wanted to be macho could retreat to in a haze of smoke whenever they wanted.

Harley Davidson, on the other hand, threatened by sleeker Japanese bikes, tried to position Harley for women bikers but the loyal male consumers rejected the campaign. They wanted their Harley big, macho and male.

Lux, on the other hand, seems rather confused. I am surprised women have not raised their voices on this obvious pandering to male appreciation. Lux has always been a brand where the woman is starGoddess. It is a fantasy that women have liked. We are in the business of fantasy.

This fawning over a male Bollywood icon by established female Bollywood icons is a shift that has taken away some of the fantasy. For men and women. Men can no longer lust for their favorite stars because Shah Rukh got there first. And women can no longer fantasise that they are the Goddess star when the attention is on Shah Rukh. And if bigger female stars have been reduced to props then they dont stand a chance.

If this was meant to be a spoof and a tongue-in-cheek take, the director simply did not hold it well enough. That is the real issue with Lux, metrosexuality and androgyny be damned.

The author is CEO, Paradigm Shift, and creative advisor, Saatchi & Saatchi