Are deodorant brands going overboard with sensuality?

By Nandana Das , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 06, 2011
Recent deo ads have raised eyebrows with their in-the-face suggestiveness that, many feel, borders on the crude. Are these brands overdoing it?

Anand Halve, brand consultant and founder, Chlorophyll

A deodorant does not fight flatulence or help you play the piano better. It has one simple purpose -- to attract the opposite sex. So, sensuality is an essential ingredient in advertising deodorants. But, the unpardonable crime is that most of the advertising is in bad taste.

Sensuality can be wonderful. Consider this excerpt from a book -- 'Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue." Guess which book this is? The Bible!

Noted critic Pauline Kael called the movie 'A Clockwork Orange', pornographic. But, it was critically well-received. One man's sensuality may be another's art.

Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry Nation

Yes, especially the male ones. The pitch has started moving from sensual to sleazy.

If one handles sexuality or sensuality a little tastefully, it is fine. But, too many brands are doing random sexual behaviour with no logic or reasoning. They just throw in a man and a woman and that's it. Some brands still manage to keep the balance going.

Axe takes the tongue-in-cheek approach to sexuality. They are still kind of holding on to it, but some of the stuff does tend to go the other way. Wild Stone, on the other hand, has taken an interesting take on feminine attraction to stand apart -- 'The older woman'. I think they manage the pitch in this dangerously-risky territory quite nicely.

The newer lot has gone a bit overboard. I don't think this kind of 'let's throw in some sex' works for the target audience. It's important that commercials are interesting and likeable. These are not even that.

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, Ogilvy

I do not approach this from a moralistic standpoint, but a practical one. When multiple deo brands start creating the same genre of advertising, it becomes difficult to tell them apart.

Axe deo has done sensuality really well, with the angle that ordinary guys become irresistible when they spray on some Axe. Women's deo brand, Impulse, made the iconic 'Art Class' ad: A nude male model who is posing for the art students is aroused by a woman painter fragrance. The tagline is 'Men can't help acting on Impulse.'

One can't get better ads like this in the sensuality genre, so it's better to look for a fresher approach. How about a negative track -- where evil people put body odour to bad use until deo saves the day?

Anchal Jain, head, brand partnership, Future Brands

No, I do not think that deodorant brands are going overboard with sensuality.

Many iconic fragrance brands worldwide are built on the space of sensuality. Brands just need to be always that much more careful when they are working in areas where the allusion to sex creeps in unbidden. Sex is an essential part of our lives and there is actually no point repressing it. But, one needs to address that in a manner which is in good taste.

Instead of moral policing and schooling, it is more about the desire to do things more aesthetically. And, subjects like sensuality, particularly, need sophistication and maturity. At the end of the day, it is like any other category and only a few brands manage to do good work.

Note: Future Brands handles the branding of Wild Stone deodorant.

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