Shreyas Kulkarni

Before V-Day weekend, Condom Alliance pushes for safe sex and consent in 'Kaun Dumb Hai' film

The advertiser is a collective of companies that market condoms, including Moods, Durex, Skore, KamaSutra, Mithun, Style, and Masti.

Are you dumb, or do you use a condom? This, my young readers, is the question you need to think over and answer. Moving along, “What’s in a name?” à la Shakespeare’s party joke.

All jokes aside, it’s a pertinent question. A two-and-a-half minute spot, titled 'Kaun Dumb Hai', on safe sex and condoms has just been released. The most interesting aspect of the ad is the distinct lack of brand name in it. Yes, it talk about condoms, but doesn’t mention any brand. Turns out that it’s by Condom Alliance.

Yes, you read it right. Founded in 2019, Condom Alliance has a ratified charter that is endorsed by India’s condom market leaders. These include the likes of DKT India (Zaroor), HLL Lifecare (Moods), Janani (Mithun, Style), Population Health Services India or PHSI (Thrill, Kamagni), PSI India (Masti), Reckitt Benckiser (Durex), Raymond Group (KamaSutra), TTK Healthcare (Skore), among others.

Ajay Rawal
Ajay Rawal

Condom Alliance’s aim, as per Ajay Rawal, its founding member, and general manager - marketing, Raymond Consumer Care, is to “enhance the penetration of condoms in India.”

The ad’s focus, we (afaqs!) understood, is to make the condom a cool and sexy thing among the youth, and also encourage safe sex.

We are a bit puzzled. From the times of PSI’s 'Balbir Pasha ko AIDS hoga kya' that urged safe sex, to the various ads by private condom players over the years, hasn’t the taboo mindset around the contraceptive changed? Unfortunately, it hasn’t.

It is still the same, barring metro cities or better localities in metros. Even today, (reportedly) 70 per cent of people still don’t ask for a condom by brand name. The word 'condom' is still a taboo in our country, mentions Rawal.

He says that the ad is based on a “consumer reality of deep inhibition in using a condom, or shame in carrying or purchasing a condom.”

Sudish Balan
Sudish Balan

Tonic Worldwide, a Mumbai-based digital-first creative agency, made the ad. As per Sudish Balan, its chief business officer (he also helms the agency’s creative offerings), the expectation from this specific campaign was to “increase the demand for condoms among the youth” and to “normalise the whole condom negotiation across gender and insist on its use at every sexual encounter.”

“This ad is for the youngsters making their sexual debut and for subsequent encounters too,” Balan says.

There is an interesting scene in the ad. The girl asks the guy to carry a condom. When she meets him later, she pulls away from a hug until he shows her proof that he’s carrying protection.

Women don’t seem to have much of a role in making the decision (of using condoms). Across India, it’s the men who make the choice. It’s a different thing in metro cities, but rarely do women get the opportunity to say “we won’t do it without a condom” or “condoms are important,” says Balan.

Speaking about the brief, he says that they did not want to come across as 'preachy' because the 18-24 year olds, the target audience for this campaign, would be put off.

Another striking aspect of the ad is its location. We could immediately make out that it’s a set. As per Balan, it’s all 'fantastical' – everything is beautiful, colourful and the places are nice. “We did it because it’s the kind of content the youth watches, be it on Instagram, YouTube, or other places.”

Right from the guy’s chances of a sexual encounter to the journey towards the girl’s home, we tried to “subtly inject the need of usage of protection, and that it is a smart and happy choice to make…”

While all this is quite interesting, for yours truly, it was the mime characters who took the cake. Turns out that they were not in the ad for a superficial reason. “These mimes are drilling down another aspect our country faces – silence around the usage of condoms,” reveals Balan.

He went on to say that they are like your conscience telling you to do it (use the condoms). Balan says that they made the ad fun and entertaining, and if it weren’t for them, one would just be seeing a guy’s journey.

“Using a condom is a cool quotient, a guy having a condom is a cool guy,” Balan signs off.

Expert opinion

The ad aims to make the condom a cool and sexy thing to have and also mentions the need for consent. Did it achieve what it intended to do? We asked Ruchita Zambre, group creative director, What's Your Problem for her take to these questions and on the ad. She replied:

Ruchita Zambre
Ruchita Zambre

"Firstly, the use of a song and dance or a musical does not make a conversation of “using protection” cool and sexy. This topic has been shushed as it’s been a taboo for years in our country. And the need for educating people about the use of a condom in the 2nd largest populated country in the world is quite evident and alarming. So why are we still shying away and treating it as a casual or cool or sexy conversation?"

"Secondly, as a woman, I think it’s a social responsibility of every man to use a condom whether he belongs to India or Bharat period. Why is it that a woman has to impart this knowledge or make the man realise the importance of using protection? Yes, making sure that her partner uses protection and does not proceed further without her consent is her right. But that’s only half the battle won."

"And lastly, as a creative, I think this narrative does not do any justice to the real objective that the brand intends to achieve. It’s too labouring as a script and trying too hard to appeal to the youth. As a viewer, I am also confused and unclear about the role of a clown (mime) in this whole narrative. And today’s generation completely switches off the minute they see anything preachy. So I think in no way this ad will connect with today’s youth of the country if that’s the objective."

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