"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?"
The mirror is puzzled. "Well, it depends on which fairness cream you use - Fair & Lovely or Fairever or FairGlow or Naturally Fair…"
Phew! The list seems increasing with every passing day.
With so many fairness cream brands desperately fighting for consumer mindspace, marketers are hard put to find new ways of selling fairness cream brands.
Take the recent Fairever commercial. The storyline steers an interesting path. The 60-second ad film opens with the shot of a fair, young lady walking past a railway track. As she gets on to a bullock cart, the story moves into flashback. The same girl is shown as a school kid - interestingly, much darker than she is now - trying to pass on a bottle of water to a woman wreathing in labour pain. She looks helpless at not being able to do much and boards her school bus. Her attention is drawn by the empty Fairever pack she uses as a bookmark. The pack reads 'Takdeer Badalte Der Nahin Lagti' (it does not take time for one's destiny to change).
That's the turning point of her life. The film continues in flashback showing how she finally becomes a doctor and decides to work in a village rather than going to the US. Interestingly, she becomes fairer as she gets closer to her goal in life.
Cut to the present. The girl, who's a doctor now, receives a hearty welcome from a bunch of villagers. As her Fairever pack slips out of her bag, a little girl hands it to her and asks, "Aap pari hain kya?" Our lady replies "Shayed". The film ends with the sign-off line "Takdeer Badalte Der Nahin Lagti".
On the face of it, this ad is a nice respite from the run-of-the-mill fairness cream ads. It bypasses the most common routes (male attention and brighter marriage prospects) and concentrates on the aspiration of a middle-class girl. "The ad focuses on a character and her achievement. The Fairever girl is an evolved individual. She is independent, ambitious and empathising," says Venu Gopal Nair, senior creative director, Fountainhead, Chennai, the agency on the Fairever account.
L Panda, product executive, Fairever, CavinKare, says the ad takes the most logical route to connect with its target. "Fairever targets the woman of today - who believes in herself. She does not consider herself a liability; but wants to go ahead and fulfill her dreams. In this advertisement, the girl is in charge of her own destiny." Adds Nair, "The crux of the communication is: 'If you want to buy into achievement, buy into us."
To many the idea of relating achievement with fairness seems a bit out of context. While Sumit Banerji, creative supervisor, Bates India, finds the idea of marrying fairness with achievement quite interesting, Nima Namchu, creative director, Capital Advertising, finds it farfetched. "I do not know what the brief was for the ad, but I find the promise of a fairness cream changing one's life a little too farfetched. Had it been a soft drink, I could still draw that association."
Fountainhead's Nair has his defenses ready. "Fairness and achievement are running on parallel lines. It's about this individual who wants to achieve something in life, and, wants to be fair too. All we are doing is reassuring the consumer that we are with her." Panda takes recourse to CavinKare's research to prove his point. "The advertisement has just been released and our in-house research among the target consumers suggests a definite link between brand and the communication."
All said, the ad evokes a definite feeling of déjà vu. Nandu Narasimhan, associate vice-president, creative, Contract, Delhi, says it reminds him of the latest Fair & Lovely (a Hindustan Lever brand) commercial (by Lowe, Mumbai). "I wonder how the product can be a catalyst to achievement. The ad seems like a strange rehash of the Fair & Lovely ad." "Not at all!" protests Nair. "The Fair & Lovely 'air-hostess' commercial actually expands on Fairever's proposition -'Takdeer Badalte Der Nahin Lagti'."
Talking about product proposition, the ad doesn't talk about the product benefits at all. Narasimhan feels this might defeat the very purpose of the ad. "Like a toothpaste, a fairness cream is a problem-solving product. The storyline must talk about the product's benefits. Oblique references would have worked if Fairever was a well-established brand like Fair & Lovely. If I was working on the account and knew that Fairever is up against Fair & Lovely, I would not have taken this risk."
Sandeep K R, account executive, Fountainhead, Chennai, explains why the agency decided against treading the beaten track. "All previous ads of Fairever (the fortune-teller and the twins ad) talked about the product's main ingredient - saffron. This time, the agency skipped the saffron bit and chose to celebrate womanhood."
If the objective was to celebrate womanhood, why then is it perpetuating the myth that fair is beautiful ("Aap pari hain kya?")? Pat comes Nair's reply, "The ad merely holds up a mirror to the society." The market scenario seems to side with Nair. While the total size of the skincare market is estimated at Rs 15,00 crore, around 60 per cent of it is held by fairness creams. Fair & Lovely leads the Rs 700-800-crore fairness cream market with 82 per cent share. Fairever has 13 per cent. Nair is quick to point out that before Fairever was launched, Fair & Lovely commanded a market share of 95 per cent.
Namchu is not impressed by numbers. "An insensitive brand proposition, I would say. As if being dark is something to be ashamed of." CavinKare's Panda does not see morality as an issue here. "The desire to look good and feel confident is strong even among the women of today."
Indeed, Nair's rejoinder rounds off the debate pretty well. "Marketers have just made business opportunities out of human frailties. That is why today we have anti-wrinkle creams, age-defying creams and baldness prevention methods. And they all sell well." Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!
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