released Amul Macho TVC - 'Crafted for Fantasies' - is in for a reality check. The commercial, created by the Pushpinder Singh-owned Saints & Warriors, first hit television screens in the first week of April, and has raised quite a few eyebrows since then. So much so that the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) received a complaint last week, which terms the ad 'indecent' and 'obscene'.
If the complaint is upheld, then the ad violates Chapter 2 of the ASCI code. To cite the code, it is important to "ensure that advertisements are not offensive to generally accepted standards of public decency. Advertisements should contain nothing indecent, vulgar or repulsive which is likely, in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave or widespread offence".
"The ASCI has sent a letter to the advertiser about the complaint, after which 15 days will be given to the party to revert to us with their explanations," says the ASCI secretariat. Following that, the matter will be put before the ASCI committee, which will then come to a consensus on what action should be taken. The recommendation will then be sent to the concerned parties.
Regardless of their stares, the woman opens up her bundle of clothes and pulls out the first garment - Amul Macho underwear belonging to her husband. She then starts brushing it, and through her expressions, it is clear that she fancies that the man is still wearing it. The women surrounding her are also taken in by her fantasy, so much so that when she raises a bat-like object (used to thrash the dirt out of clothes), the women actually wince at the thought of the 'man' being thrashed like that. The ad ends with the young woman stretching the underwear in her hands, while the super and voiceover conclude, 'Amul Macho. Crafted for Fantasies'.
Explains Pushpinder Singh, founder, Saints & Warriors, "The temptation to be mediocre and obvious is always there in underwear advertising. It's very easy to show skimpily clad women or have shots of men wearing innerwear. But we chose to be clutter breaking." What Saints & Warriors attempted to do, he says, is to make the underwear a surrogate for male sexuality. "I think the ad is naughty, not vulgar," he clarifies, "but people are free to believe what they think." Furthermore, he says that, in general, people find underwear ads offensive, so perhaps this case is no different.
In a recent poll conducted by CNBC-TV18, 49 per cent of those who participated felt that the ad was enjoyable and not obscene, while the rest felt it was vulgar. But Singh, or Pushpi as he is referred to, is nonchalant. "Around 5,000 people took part in that poll, so 49 per cent - virtually an equal amount of people - is a large segment for us, who understood and appreciated the thought behind the ad," he says.
Commenting on the whole issue, Sandeep Sakseria, director, Amul Innerwear, adds that the commercial has already won a bronze at the recently concluded Calcutta Ad Club awards. "If the eminent jury finds the ad worthy of an award, I'm sure the ad isn't offensive in any way," Sakseria says. On the question of the ad being derogatory to women, Sakseria is candid: "If men can fantasise about women, why can't women do the same?" Furthermore, he claims that sales have grown by 35 per cent since the release of the commercial.
For the record, the ad has obtained censor board approval to be screened in cinema halls across India, and will soon be seen on the silver screen as well. But if the ASCI directive demands the ad be withdrawn or modified, a fantasy will be shattered for the executives at Amul Macho.
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