Thursday, 11 September 2008

Axe Chocolate and Amul MAcho

Axe Chocolate and Amul Macho- the ad message and media choice in an advertising campaign must be coherant with the target audience.

I came across an article on the Indian government having banned the Axe deodorant advertisement recently. (Link to the ad below)

It set me thinking on these “naughty/ spice” ads and how they managed to find themselves onto the Indian TV networks.

Personally I like the Axe ad a lot.

There are a number of advertisements that could be classified as “suggestive” on TV today. The Axe ad has been created and produced in a Western society. Women ogling at men isn’t such a new concept. The ad is a play on the irresistibility of chocolate.

Transferring this to India (as was the case with all other Axe ads) is interesting. In as much as the advertisement subscribes to the dominant male role, it seems acceptable to the consumer. Where is heads into new territories, of the female being dominant and expressive, it seems there is a concern. The government finds it “indecent, vulgar and repulsive”.

I don’t get it.

And therein lies the problem. The advertisement is created for a consumer who spends Rs 150 on his personal hygiene. This represents perhaps the top 5% of Indian consumers. This section of the population is expected to be aware of body odor and its impact on attracting members of the opposite sex. This segment would be expected to be open to “global” (Western) attitudes- and the concept of male-female equality. To this segment, the woman biting the bottom of a “chocolate man” is completely in line with the promise of this product in its ability to attract women.

But by showing this concept on a mass medium such as TV, you are exposing a concept to the other 90% of the population which may not have come around to this point of view. It is likely to cause debate. In this case, the government decided to be “big brother” and call off the advertisement within the preview of the Information and Broadcasting ministry.

I don’t have a point of view on whether this is right or wrong. I think it is not unexpected. There is a lesson for all advertisers here.

The discussion in the same write up then went on to refer to an underwear ad banned in 2007. (Amul macho- see below).

Firstly, I find the advertisement ridiculous. That’s me. But a company and an advertising agency thought it could differentiate the product.

Women expressing sexuality/ sexual preferences is a very nascent idea in India. It’s the “top 5% of the market versus the other 95% “debate. The top 5% - western influenced- creates this advertisement and then broadcasts it to the other 95%. Certainly, a reaction is to be expected.

Again, I am not debating the reaction. I think it should be expected.

The debate is more on who validated the mass media broadcast? These are ads suited to the internet- youtube- and the audience that spends time there.

For Axe, this would align the target audience and the brand message.

For the underwear, this is not good enough. The “underwear” ad is being targeted at a mass market. So it needs to be on TV. But not to have the sensitivity to the value systems of the “mass” has definitely wasted time and money for the company.

Sure, we are moving towards “kissing” in films, boys and girls dating and trying to attract each other…and that’s good. But women expressing sexuality has not yet become a “mass” phenomenon and I don’t think an underwear advertisement should try and drive the debate.

I thought a learnt a lot comparing these two ads…and thinking about why they were banned. On a mass market medium, respecting the mass’s value systems is key. If you want to change them, you still need to begin at the starting point. Not at the finish line.

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