What comes to mind when one reads 'Manforce Condoms'? Apart from 'other' things, chances are you are thinking about Sunny Leone and the endless controversies that go hand-in-hand with the brand's sensual ad films. However, in its recent digital video, Manforce Condoms looks beyond Leone and is telling couples to #ShutThePhoneUp.
Rajeev Juneja, chief executive officer, Mankind Pharma, tells us that the company's communication across various platforms has been synchronised to promote safety. He says, "the regular tagline followed has been 'Play Safe, Stay Safe' focusing on the various prevalent issues of STDs and why the use of a condom is important. As an extension to the said campaigns, we have launched our new campaign "#ShutThePhoneUp", a concept which is widely prevalent but has never been spoken about on a larger platform. 19% of couples indulge in filming their intimate moments making this a huge number as per the India Today Sex Survey 2017. As a responsible Brand, our intentions are clear, not to leave a single stone unturned when it comes to promoting safe sex."
Speaking about the brief provided by the brand, Akashneel Dasgupta, senior vice-president and executive creative director, ADK Fortune, says, "The brief was to generate conversations around the brand in the realm of 'safe sex' which is basic for a condom. But the agency felt that a condom preventing AIDS and STDs is a thirty-year-old space. Anything and everything has been done around that space by various brands. That's when we started contemplating on how we could redefine what 'unsafe' sex in today's society is. We were lucky to chance upon the India Today Sex Survey data and were alarmed with the figures. We researched further and also discovered that what sells in porn today is voyeurism. We connected the dots and imagined a situation where something unfortunate as this happens to a couple when they least expect it."
Leone has been the brand's face for quite some time and arguably a major reason for the company's high sales turnover. So, why was she omitted from this video? Wouldn't the message have been better articulated if Leone, who otherwise swirls and seduces in the brand's ads, educated viewers about the risks involved in filming such intimate acts? Juneja explains, "Leone has and continues to be an integral part of Manforce Condoms' promotions. With the connection of Leone and this video, the messaging through this campaign would be diluted as it would divert towards the sensuality factor. We wanted a strong message to seep in amongst the audience wherein they can visualize themselves in the actors' shoes."
The video marks a paradigm shift in the way Manforce has been advertising in the past. "A mere preachy message or fun-liners would not have done justice to such a strong concept. Therefore, it was a conscious decision to make this video with realistic actors and to hit the right chord with our consumers, unlike the usual commercials for Manforce," informs Juneja.
Speaking about ad execution, Dasgupta shares with us that the toughest part was casting and scouting for locations. He says, "We met more than 200-300 people across 3-4 cities to find the couple. This video was shot at the Sula Vineyard Resort in Nasik, after rejecting some 50 odd locations. The location was a cast in itself as it had to provide a romantic yet eerie feeling." The three-and-a-half-minute long video is only meant for digital viewing.
But does the ad climax to a thrilling view?
Years ago, rival condom brand Durex, informed us - your phone can give you pleasure in the bedroom, once you switch it off! We asked our experts if they found a common ground between the two campaigns. Saurabh Uboweja, international brand expert and chief executive officer, Brands of Desire, tells us that even though both ad campaigns have smartphones central to the plot, the film from Manforce is highlighting a totally distinct social issue from that of Durex. He adds, "... the viewers and markets are quite distinct for the campaigns. The Durex film is targeted more towards international viewers and many Indians may not even have seen it. I think it will benefit the brand image of Manforce as a brand that is able to think beyond the product and the usual mediocrity of using the standard sexually oriented templates used to promote condom brands."
Madhura Haldipur, creative lead, copy, DigitasLBi, labels this ad as a 'Public Service Announcement' (PSA). She says, "... this is clearly meant to be a PSA for the audience, which makes the message more important than the messenger. For me, the point of any good PSA is to not appear to be self-serving while making sure users don't question its relevance to the brand. Which, I think, Manforce has done satisfactorily. Whether the audience remembers it as a Manforce ad doesn't so much depend on how competitive the market is, but what the other brands are doing in this space of social awareness. I was quite surprised by how the ad affected me. It had a good beginning, middle and end, crunched into a neat and useful message for consumers."
Uboweja however notes, "It is executed well and highlights a pertinent issue that needs attention. The last part of the film is eerie enough to make people take notice."
A quick look at some of the controversial ad films released by the brand in the past:
CEO: Rajeev Juneja
Brand Team: Joy Chatterjee, Eshita Goswami
Agency: ADK Fortune
Managing Partner: Subroto Pradhan
SR V.P. & ECD: Akashneel Dasgupta
AVP & Sr. C. D.: Tamanna Virmani
Story and Screenplay: Akashneel Dasgupta
Account Management: Kunal Sharma, Vishnu Narain Lal, Asmita Goswami
Production House: Absolute Productions
Director: Manoj Pillai
Producers: Puneet Bhatia, Prafull Sharma