Axe set to fall on Axe commercial

By Justin Thomas , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | August 26, 2008
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has taken exception to the new Axe Dark Temptation ad and asked the ASCI to have it taken off air

Originally & #BANNER1 & # planned to showcase how a men's deodorant could have an irresistible effect on women, the Axe commercial for its chocolate fragrance range, Dark Temptation, is now having an adverse effect on the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Playing the moral police role to perfection, the I&B Ministry has asked the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to treat its missive as a complaint and to take further appropriate action as required.

ASCI secretary general Alan Collaco tells afaqs!, "We have received an official note from the ministry today and will be asking the advertiser - Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) - for its reply."

The I&B Ministry has asked the ASCI to ask the advertiser to refrain from airing the offending ad in the meantime. However, as of now, the ad is still being aired.

Collaco adds that once the reply is received, the issue will be taken up by the Consumer Complaints Council; a decision can be expected by late September. However, he admits that the ministry has overriding powers, so the final call lies with it.

An HUL spokesperson tells afaqs!, "We understand that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has referred the current Axe advertisement to the ASCI. We will represent our case as required by the ASCI and respect and abide by its decision on this matter as we have always done."

The Axe ad has been termed indecent, vulgar and repulsive by the I&B Ministry, which has also asked the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) to advise its members to discontinue airing it. IBF president Jawahar Goel says, "Our job is that of a post office and we have forwarded the ministry's directive to the broadcasters."

Incidentally, the Axe ad has won a Gold Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, 2008. It shows a man who has used Axe Dark Temptation turning into a chocolate man. Transformed thus, he is irresistible to women, who kiss, lick, bite and touch him everywhere he goes.

The HUL spokesperson explains, "The advertisement creatively expresses the launch of the new Axe fragrance. Our consumer research showed the advertisement was humorous and witty in expressing the new fragrance promise of being as irresistible as chocolate."

The research study, conducted by Unilever with Datosclaros, involved 3,571 women in 13 countries in the age group of 18-35 years. The aim was to test preferences and the relationship between women and chocolate. The campaign highlighted the results of the survey, which implied that women found chocolate irresistible.

This is not the first time deodorant ads have drawn criticism from the I&B Ministry. Earlier this year, the ministry had asked some music channels to apologise to viewers by running a scroll for three days after they aired a men's deodorant advertisement, which was also deemed indecent.

The ministry also went all out against underwear ads some time ago and prohibited all channels from airing a Lux Cozy undergarment ad. The Lux Cozy advertisement, which the ministry says showed "semi-clad male and female models and a dog", was found "indecent, vulgar and suggestive" and violative of Rule 7 (8) of the Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

The ministry has also advised "all channels to be more careful in future in selection of content of advertisements".