Rashmi Menon

Round Three in the War of the Germs

The latest in the disinfectant saga is a TV commercial from HUL's dishwash liquid brand Vim which makes a barely veiled attack on Dettol antiseptic liquid.

The feud between the two multinational brands, which began in the dishwash liquid category, has come full circle. After attacks in print media, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has translated the Vim print ad on television.

Earlier this week, afaqs! had reported how HUL's Lifebuoy soap had hit out at Reckitt Benckiser's (RB) Dettol antiseptic liquid, thereby taking the fight across categories: from kitchen dishwasher liquid to soap and antiseptic. Now, the sparring has gone back to television, the medium on which Dettol had first attacked Vim a few weeks ago.

While HUL has played safe by hiding the name of the antiseptic in the latest TVC, anybody familiar with the recent history will assume that the target of attack is Dettol. In any case, Dettol is nearly generic to the antiseptic category. The message is clear: Vim's liquid dishwasher not only removes grease from the vessels but also sanitises them from germs.

Round Three in the War of the Germs
In the TVC, television actress and Vim's brand ambassador Sakshi Tanwar is seen removing an antiseptic bottle from the reach of a little girl. While putting it back in the cupboard, she says, "Antiseptic bachon se door rakhte hai, toh phir unke khane ke bartano ko kisi antiseptic se kaise dhoun?" (Antiseptic is kept away from children; so why would I wash the vessels they eat from with an antispetic?) She then goes on to show how she trusts Vim's lemony power to not only remove the grease on a plate but also eliminate the germs. As proof, she puts some pasta on the washed dish and gives some to the child.

Both brands have been emphasising that they are harsher on germs than the other. First Dettol kitchen dishwasher liquid made this point in its launch commercial vis a vis Vim liquid. Vim responded within days with a large first page ad in Sunday Times which asked consumers what they would trust to clean utensils: a harsh antiseptic or the power of 100 lemons (in other words, Vim). Meanwhile, HUL also got a court order which asked RB to modify its TVC.

Then, just last Sunday, HUL fired another broadside in print at Dettol: this time the target was the antiseptic and the assault was by Lifebuoy soap. It said that Lifebuoy soap was more effective at keeping germs away while bathing than Dettol antiseptic when used with the recommended dosage. The ad was purportedly in public interest.

After the latest TVC, the ball is back in Reckitt Benckiser's court and it is intriguing to imagine how hard it will hit it - and where.

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