Now that condom TVCs have been banned from airing between 6 am and 10 pm, brands will start fighting for slots in the remaining air-time available or move their budgets to digital media. The reason for the ban is that the advertisements that are aired during that time slot are indecent for kids and might promote unhealthy sexual practices.
Let us consider an alternative situation - what if brands were asked to change their communication tonality instead?
Though condoms, as products, have the basic functionality of contraception, condom brands have found their unique space to communicate in - from talking about sensuality, fantasy, humour or innovativeness in bed. However, they have always been perceived as products aimed at a particular set of consumers. In an ideal scenario, the communication for condoms should be imparted among different sets of consumers - young, middle-aged and the older audiences. More so, they can be positioned as a 'family brand'.
At first, you might ask, will it be accepted by those who have a problem with condom ads in the first place? The problem is not with condoms but in the current imagery and tonality of some of the ads we see in this segment. By positioning the condom as a family brand, we can foster a behavioural change among Indian consumers about condoms. For the younger audience, it is something they need to be made aware of as a part of sexual awareness/education; after all, it's a product they will use when they grow up. For sexually active adults, it is something they need to be educated about to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2016, India had 2.1 million people living with HIV. Also, the many cases of unsafe abortions continue to be drastically high. In such a scenario, ending the stigma attached to using condoms needs to be worked upon. To achieve this we need to 'regularise' their usage which can be possible by making condoms similar to any other household, FMCG product like talcum powder or soap. Their usage can be made as simple as washing your hands to avoid infections or diseases in the future. Whenever I have visited department stores and come across the condom section, I wondered how people buy condoms in such an open venue, given the way in which one asks for it in a hushed tone at the local chemist.
Sanitary pads are another category which has always been the victim of 'sanskaar' and a subject of taboo; one that can't be openly discussed. But with campaigns like 'Touch the Pickle' and 'Sit Improper', there has been a change in the attitude towards sanitary pads. Even the upcoming biopic by Akshay Kumar (PadMan) encourages people to talk about it openly to avoid bigger problems.
Like using a Gillette razor for the first time gives teenagers the confidence of being a man, can the usage of condoms be treated with that kind of simplicity?
Advertising can play a larger role in creating a behavioural shift towards the usage of condoms in India. We can be a case study for the rest of the world in dealing with sex-related diseases and abortions. Who knows? We might even get back the 6 am to 10 pm air-time, considering the impact of communication and the need for sex education in India.
So much better than making another ad that shows a Bollywood actress plucking grapes while lying down on a couch!
(The author is account supervisor at Contract Advertising)