Shibani Gharat

ASCI, a silent spectator in the BCCI-Sahara fight

BCCI raised objection to a TVC released by the Sahara Group for Q Shop and asked it to withdraw the ad. However, ASCI, the industry body which looks into objectionable content in an ad, wasn't consulted at all.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not only raised objection to the television commercial for Sahara's retail venture, Q Shop. It forced the company to withdraw the ad on August 23, within a week of its release.

ASCI, a silent spectator in the BCCI-Sahara fight
The TVC for Sahara Q Shop, which is being promoted as an 'adulteration-free' retail chain, showed Master-blaster Sachin Tendulkar holding a pot on his shoulder and performing the last rites while a family eats breakfast; Yuvraj Singh digging a grave while a school kid eats lunch from his tiffin box; and Virender Sehwag replacing a cradle with a hospital bed.

The ad also has a man posing as a medical practitioner, suggesting that purchasing grocery or some other products can cause various ailments.

What's interesting is that ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India), the industry body which looks into objectionable ads, has been a silent spectator in this whole episode.

Alan Colaco, secretary general, ASCI says that if BCCI had a problem with the ad, it should have taken it up with ASCI. "Its idea on the ad being in bad taste should have been discussed with ASCI. Any complaint pertaining to the ad should have been chartered through ASCI."

Highly placed sources at ASCI confirm that there has also been some complaint against the ad by a third party and the industry body is contemplating action against it.

However, BCCI did not get in touch with ASCI for this TVC, or officially raised doubts about its objectionable contents to the body.

As per media reports, BCCI unofficially approached Sahara to pull off the TVC, after some of the cricketers raised concerns over their portrayal in it during Wednesday's working committee meeting in Chennai. Apparently, the motivation for the action was BCCI's concern about the players' image. BCCI claims that the advertisement showcases players in morbid roles.

ASCI, a silent spectator in the BCCI-Sahara fight
When contacted, Ratnakar Shetty, head, operations, BCCI refused to comment on the issue, suggesting that there is absolutely no controversy in the matter.

When afaqs! probed further on why BCCI asked Sahara to pull the ad off air, Shetty recommended that it should speak to Sahara first and enquire who asked it to pull the ad off air. However, no official comment from Sahara could be obtained.

Many industry observers agreed that the ad was in bad taste but they raised the issue that BCCI was neither the client nor the agency to comment on this. "If it had problems with the ad, it should have raised the issue with the advertising industry's watchdog, ASCI," says a senior industry practitioner.

Apparently, the creative agency Rediffusion-Y&R started working on the campaign in July. Along with the TVC, outdoor, radio and print campaigns are currently being carried out across the country.

ASCI, a silent spectator in the BCCI-Sahara fight
However, cricketer-turned-adman Piyush Pandey is of the opinion that it was fair on BCCI's part to have approached and taken a stand on the ad and decide whether the ad was in good taste or bad as it involved the cricketers who are responsible towards BCCI.

Rediffusion-Y&R, when approached, refused to divulge any details in the wake of this controversy. However, in a press note received before this controversy erupted, it was revealed that with this campaign, Sahara aims to sensitise consumers to the problem of adulteration, and to shock them with its effects. The group apparently had the entire Indian cricket team at its disposal, and wanted to get away from the tried-and-tested way of using them.

But it is also important to note that the ad is taking a pot-shot at other FMCG brands when many of the cricketers used in the ad are themselves endorsing many FMCG brands - Pepsi being just one of them. The Indian skipper M S Dhoni, along with Bollywood actor Preity Zinta, already endorses Emami's edible oil brand 'Healthy and Tasty'. Future Group's toothpaste brand Sach is co-created with Tendulkar, who is also associated with Coke. Recently, Emami had also roped in Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag for two of its brands.

As per the press note, the Q Shop ad wanted to leverage cricketers' skill of being accomplished performers in front of the camera. The whole look and sound design was deliberately made dark and disturbing, with an ending that's almost a call to arms.

Well, Sahara clearly got what it wanted out of the film - love it or hate it, one had to sit up and notice it!

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