HE deodorant’s digital film takes a stand against objectifying women in commercials —something the deo category is accustomed to. But the attempt may just be too contrived
Campaign: HE Respect
Brand: HE deodorants
Agency: Orchard Advertising
The digital film, featuring stand-up comic and actor Vir Das, parodies commercials that objectify women. The film starts off with Das essaying a woman, trying to recreate a popular mango drink ad in a ‘sensual’ way. Das confesses to the setup being rather ‘odd’. He spoofs bike, soap, ice cream, and deodorant ads, talking about how they objectify women. He signs off making a point about HE deodorants trying to do the complete opposite — because a HE deodorant user is a ‘real’ man, and therefore, respects women.
Casting a well received stand-up comic such as Vir Das and expressly using the digital medium for this particular film takes care of the hard part for the brand and product in this case. Add to that a message that the audience can get behind and you have a piece of content that will spark conversations online, if nothing else. HE deodorants’ digital film has been conceptualised by Orchard Advertising (Leo Burnett Group). Raj Deepak Das, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett, says, “The brand stands for a different kind of man — the one who respects women. It is not a parody but a product (HE Respect) which has been created out of this idea. People want a message. They want the brand to be talking about what it stands for.”
The deodorant category, in recent times, is trying its best to appeal to its male consumer set without hard-selling the chick-magnet cliché. Advertising from Cinthol, Fogg and Nivea are cases in point. Emami’s efforts with HE in the past have towed the line of keeping the focus on what the male consumer can be, defining his personality via their products as opposed to telling them about the exaggerated effects of something as mundane as a deodorant.
Coming back to what Das mentioned, the film speaks about respecting women. But it doesn’t assure the consumer that that is going to be a consistent area of interest (if not addressed religiously) by the brand. Further, we see Vir Das literally speaking out the storyboard script to audiences, telling people outright what other ads do and what this one doesn’t. This goes against the principle of ‘show, don’t tell’ that advertising usually swears by. And with good reason.
Important to note that when you launch two films, one for the digital savvy audience featuring an irreverent stand-up comedian like Vir Das with a social media friendly title that reads, Every sexist commercial you’ve ever seen…, and simultaneously another ‘safe’ film for TV featuring its more ‘dependable’ ambassador Hrithik Roshan, it makes you wonder about the brand’s confidence in its consumer set, and whether there is a certain level of hypocrisy at play.
Dhunji Wadia, President, Rediffusion – Y&R
When you have a talented performer of the calibre of Vir Das, the possibilities are endless. Here he is doing what he usually does best — that is, taking the mickey out of what one sees in ads usually. And he does that with his style and panache, very much in line with the brand’s ethos. HE deodorant has always spoken the gentleman’s word whether with Hrithik or now with Vir Das. The new campaign is built around the ongoing theme — real men respect women. Good to see personal care brands moving out of the objectification of women space.
Pratap Bose, Chairman and co-founder, The Social Street
Super wise of the brand to get Vir
Das on board and do a spoof on all the categories which objectify women to
sell their products. The film featuring Das has gone down well with the audiences and worked well for the brand too as it has taken the moral high ground in the deodorant category which largely depends on the whole ‘attract the opposite sex’ mantra. A few like Nivea and Cinthol have moved away from it and focus on explaining the product and its benefits. Nonetheless, it would be great to see a Hindi version of the film as HSM is a huge belt for marketers.
Manish Bhatt, Founder director, Scarecrow Communications
It is just another advertising technique to draw attention to a brand. Guerilla advertising has been used by many to disrupt the market by saying “I’m not that.” As people get inquisitive, it works for the brand. Though some are done tastefully, others take a direct dig at competitors in the category. In my opinion, people and brands don’t need to compartmentalise things. If a brand really respects women then it shouldn’t be raising the topic unless, again, to create buzz. For instance, we did work wherein blind children were seen playing Holi. We did not compartmentalise them, but showed them as normal people enjoying the festival.
Nisha Singhania, Co-founder, Infectious
Usually, most grooming brands are about attracting the opposite sex. Post Axe, many brands tried to be a ‘me too’; however, only a few have succeeded. HE is probably trying to be contrary to the usual, but I wish the brand had done it more interestingly. I feel Vir Das is wasted in the ad. The brand should have used him for his humour. Also the ad tells us what HE is not about but it doesn’t tell us what HE is about. Not objectifying women cannot be the brand’s reason to exist. Women empowerment hopefully is not a trend and is here to stay. I think brands are today more evolved and are having a conversation on values and beliefs rather than just selling their products, which is a great sign.
Priti Nair, Director, Curry-Nation
I believe that the digital film was created to go viral. It is an okay ad, in my opinion. For a new deodorant in the category, yes the film will serve the purpose of creating conversations. However, I am not sure if it is the correct presentation for the brand. Many in the category and others too have moved away from objectifying women consciously and if not, there are many organisations and groups which will tell them it is not right. Today, objectification of women is negligible. The digital world lets you upload anything and create a buzz. This doesn’t stand true for the television world or the traditional media platforms. Even for HE, the TVC features its brand ambassador Hrithik Roshan and talks about the product.
— Compiled by Meghna Sharma