Shreyas Kulkarni

"Naughty, not sleazy" is SKORE's brief to Isobar, as the company diversifies beyond condoms

Is there a viable market for products like vibrating rings and flavoured lubes in India? The makers of these ads believe so.

In India, the concept of sex for the sake of pleasure and pleasure alone, has entered the conversation in advertising and popular culture, but is yet to penetrate the mass market... no pun intended. The conversation around safe sex, population control and condom advertising began decades ago.

We’ve seen successive governments and private companies, for decades, urge people to indulge in responsible lovemaking, from Balbir Pasha to Sunny Leone and more; use protection they said. Many did. But, barring a stray ad here and there (Durex, Kamasutra come to mind here) few contraceptive brands talked about pleasure for its own sake.

How could they? We still look over our shoulders before buying a condom at the pharmacy; what if our parents’ friends or neighbours caught us or that the guy standing next to us casts that infamous ‘judgy’ eye? The makers of the movie ‘Helmet’ marketed this very phenomenon to promote it.

Millions of us are yet to recover from the trauma of seeing Jack and Rose make out in the ‘Titanic’ with family. May the Lord forgive us if we saw the Game of Thrones together.

It is clear that India and pleasurable lovemaking are not compatible, at least not in mainstream media. What is also clear is the fact that because of the societal strangulation around erotica, being responsible, and pleasure, we look up to uninformed friends and seniors from school, shady magazines, and porn websites for knowledge.

As per Pornhub, a leading pornographic website, Indians were the third-largest consumers of pornography in 2018 after the United States and the United Kingdom.

It is not the best way to go about learning all there is about lovemaking but what can young people do when there is so much taboo around it? This state has also led to near-zero knowledge of pleasure and wellness products among the populace.

Countless people were first introduced to a remote-controlled vibrator courtesy of Netflix’s 2018 anthology ‘Lust Stories’. And post that, it was SKORE, a couple of weeks ago in November ‘21, that released ads for vibrating rings and flavoured lubes.

We (afaqs!) wondered if the increase in lovemaking and condom sales last year during lockdown(s), gave rise to this campaign. Turns out, it did not. The brand, which debuted in 2013, wanted to help couples ace the game of love.

Soon after, “we started working on the next range of pleasure products after condoms because you need them when you wish to ace the game of love,” says Vishal Vyas, head of marketing, TTK Healthcare (SKORE’s parent company).

He tore apart our assumption of a spike in condom sales last year during the lockdown(s). The sales had shrunk in the last two years and if you compare year on year, “it reduced by 15 per cent but in the last three months, the whole category has seen good traction.”

Vishal Vyas
Vishal Vyas

Vyas says SKORE is the third biggest brand in this category and will soon stand second. Two of the other popular players are Durex that is known for its social media game and Manforce Condoms and its ads featuring Sunny Leone. SKORE, though its rings and lubes, has found a brilliant way to stand out from the rest.

“Our approach from the start has been to differentiate in terms of advertising and products,” remarks Vyas. He refers to his brand’s industry-first cool condoms and condom disposal bag as evidence.

The two ads are aimed at young couples. But where do they come from? Is it wrong to assume SKORE’s target group (TG) for these products hail from India’s urban cities?

Not so much. Vyas tells us SKORE, when it launched, decided to target young couples because other brands were aiming at mature consumers. That philosophy remains intact even today. “It's not so urban though urban young couples drive the change in the sexual landscape, they're our primary TG and it will percolate down the line.”

If young couples are SKORE’s TG for the rings and the lubes, they can’t be different from the TG of the brand’s condoms? The head of marketing mentions a National Planning Health Survey which said condom penetration in India is 5 per cent. “95 per cent couples aren't wearing any condoms, there is an untapped segment of 95 per cent so when we talk about pleasure products, the condom buying audience as well as those who're not into condoms but are into lovemaking... they're also our TG.”

And we’re confident most of this 95 per cent will look to e-commerce websites to buy the rings and lubes and condoms because it’s a herculean task to buy them at a retail outlet. Vyas agrees and tells us it is not only e-commerce websites but SKORE’s own website where one can buy its products and that “last month to this month, we have grown 100 per cent.”

Coming back to the ads, I had to watch them wearing headphones on my laptop lest my parents wonder what I am up to. It is clear TV won’t feature heavily in SKORE’s media plan. The challenge of asking India to indulge in safe sex was hard enough, to teach them about pleasure and its diverse offerings will be harder.

And to start smoothly, digital is a better medium than TV; there's an increased likelihood of people switching the channel or looking the other way because someone else is watching with them and it makes everyone uncomfortable.

For aeons, condom commercials on TV made us feel this way but the new ads from SKORE were not titillating as one has come to expect from the category.

“The brief was to not make it look like a sleazy sex product but to make it naughtier,” reveals Aalap Desai, national creative director, Isobar, the dentsu agency that made the ads. “We took the after-effects of using the products so that helps us cut the sleaze down quite a lot.”

Aalap Desai
Aalap Desai

It is challenging to create naughty ads and, at the same time, not toe the line to sleazy because the line is thin. Desai tells us team that worked on this campaign is made up of people between the ages of 25-35 and so they are the best people to work on it.

“If you are older, the code (usual condom ads) is built in you… this team hates that kind of advertising and when they're thinking of ideas, they are consciously trying not to present such things to me and the client in the meeting.”

And because the client's conscious effort is to do something cheekier and cleaner, "it's easier for the creative team to come to the point where the films are.”

Never did I believe I'd see ads for vibrating rings and flavoured lubes. But, here we are. SKORE is looking to expose an entire generation and beyond to naughtiness and pleasure; it’s time people embraced its virtues than focused on its sins.

Campaign Credits:

Client: SKORE, TTK Healthcare Ltd

Films: 2

Creative Agency & Production: Dentsu Isobar & Take Two Productions

Ad Director: Mukesh Sehgal

Creative Director / Copy Writer: Aalap Desai

Account Management: Rumi Behramkamdin

Media Agency: Dentsu Isobar

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