Why exactly was it trolled?
15 years back, if people thought an advertisement was silly, the maximum damage they could do with their personal opinion was - tell a few friends and share a few eye rolls and laughs. Cut to the present, today, if a person thinks an ad is nonsensical, they can actually create a ripple effect on social media. All one has to do is post their opinion on the web and wait for people to agree. In most cases, a few friends and social media acquaintances might agree, while other might not. In a day or so everyone involved will find something new to opine on.
Or... their tweet/post may lead to a barrage of reactions and the ad in question may suddenly become something everyone just has to have a take on. Something similar happened to The Himalaya Drug Company, when an ad for its anti-pimple neem face wash for men was trolled by netizens. In the video, Indian cricketers Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant try to rap about decimating a pimple before stepping out for the night. Granted, it's an unremarkable ad, but did it deserve to be trolled the way was?
The bashing took on a life of its own with people going so far as to demand banning Kohli and Pant from doing ads for a year. While some thought it was an anachronism - 'It looks like a '90s ad', they said, others felt it was an over-simplified script - ("that pimple's gotta go....") - while still others thought it was plain silly and that the makers of the ad under-utilised both Kolhi's stardom and their own creativity. Some even called it regressive - the whole 'why can't a guy step out for a date with a pimple on his face?' argument. Soon, the trolling turned social media into an echo chamber of sorts where the ad became the butt of many a nasty joke.
Even English cricketer Stuart Broad and Australian batsman Brad Hodge took a dig each at Kohli -
While this is obviously a nightmare for the brand team, is there a silver lining? At least it's being discussed, one might reason.
The brand, without making an effort to battle online trolling, chooses to look at the brighter side instead.
Ashwani Gandhi, associate general manager, consumer products division, The Himalaya Drug Company, states, "The campaign 'Looking Good...And Loving it' is a great success and has resonated very well with target consumers. The fact that the video has garnered 2.8 million views with 172K engagement across digital platforms within five days and is getting traction globally, is testament of how well the campaign has fared."
Sunita Murthi, co-founder, Chapter Five Brand Solutions, has this to say, "The campaign is almost like a celebration of men and the way they feel today. But pimples do come in the way of them looking their best. We wanted to communicate it in a light-hearted, energetic manner."
She adds, "'Connect with the young men of India' - that's all there is to this campaign. Pimples are not an interesting topic for men, but it is a point of concern for them. This campaign merely points out, that it's important to get rid of pimples before one steps out and gives an easy solution for the problem."
We spoke to a few advertising professionals about the ad and its digital fate.
Pravin Sutar, executive creative director, Dentsu Webchutney, feels skin and skin colour, globally, have become 'sensitive' and commonly targeted topics. Consequently, the skin care category has become a 'delicate' one. "In this ad what comes out strongly is - a man who has a pimple cannot step out of the house and be a cool dude. That's rubbish. Moreover, the message is being delivered by none other than India's favourite cricketing hero, Virat Kohli. All this is enough to garner negative reviews on social media," he says.
About the trolling, Sutar states, "I do feel it is a little unfair to the brand because there are other fairness cream brands which are still passing on the 'being fair makes you handsome and confident' message. I am surprised no one is pouncing on them...," adding about the segment, "... I strongly feel skin care brands should stop taking this shaming route."
Chetan Mane, VP - business and strategy at Whyness Worldwide, says, "... this ad is just being singled out because it has celebrities. Once an ad starts getting bashed, people feel pressured to join the conversation and lose objectivity on the subject,"
He is certain this conversation will die down in a couple of days, by which time the ad would have done its job of making the product visible and communicating the core product promise.
Carlton D'Silva, CEO and chief creative officer, Hungama Digital Services, on the other hand, is appalled at the way Kohli has been cast. "I don't think it's being bashed unfairly, as today's customer base is much more informed and such advertising just doesn't cut it. I feel they will need to start from scratch if they need to make any sort of impact," he opines.
Pallavi Kamath, senior manager, strategy, Digitas says, "It's easy to see why Himalaya brought Kohli on board to endorse their men's face wash - he is idolised by the brand's target audience,
The ad stays true to many of the category’s communication codes: celebrity faces, the pimple problem and an effective solution, the helpful bro, and the hero ingredient. The creative execution attempts to tap into the rap trend, but the manifestation could have had more style and zing.
Creative Director: Sunita Murthy
Agency: Chapter 5
Production house: Full Circle
Director: Lloyad Baptista