Monojit Lahiri investigates some thing that is grabbing public attention – the curious case of... Vagina Whitener
For some time now, concerned consumers and ad-watchers have been getting increasingly worried about the frat crossing boundaries and hitting erogenous zones where even angels (should, but no longer?) fear to tread! Holding up the Lux Cozy and Amul Macho ads as earlier examples apart from the tons of sexist deodorant ads and of course the scores of whitening creams, they continue to remain anxious, often protesting vehemently against the way the Persuasion Industry is trying to seduce the impressionable, unguarded and aspirational sections of our mahaan Bharat into promising them a more fulfilling, confident and rewarding life if they embrace the products advertised. In its effort to keep pace with India’s ever changing profile and fashionable definition of an ancient civilisation, which is also a young and modern nation, are the ad guys getting a bit too carried away and overdoing it by adventurously crossing the Lakshman Rekha and touching areas best left untouched? Or are we, due to traditional conditioning, being a little too touchy and forgetting that this is year 2012, and the blitz and exposure of new-age media to a techno-savvy youngistan renders this a non-issue?

A new TVC along the skin-lightening-product segment for a product called Clean & Dry Intimate Wash even promises Indian women protection, freshness (and most importantly) fairness “down there”! The commercial shows a young couple relaxing in their house. The man is shown reading a newspaper while the attractive wife – or whoever! – pouts, unhappy at being ignored. Reason? Her dark-coloured privates! Providence steps in, in the form of Clean & Dry Intimate Wash, ostensibly whitening the parts that seemed to have earlier cast a shadow over the guy’s inner view of the young lady and bingo, suddenly aal izz well! Pout disappears, break-up averted, newspaper flung aside to (undoubtedly) explore and enjoy some real whitening-strikes moments!

There’re too many questions that hit one when such an advertising hits the ceiling. Where do we stand on such in-the-face ads? Isn’t there an LoC that the product’s positioning is crossing? But then, how is such a product expected to be launched or marketed? One possibly cannot expect a simple word-of-mouth campaign, can one? And if the product is legal, then why have any hassles on the marketing of such a product? Are we going through the same wave of astonishment that one saw years ago when condoms were marketed in a savvy manner by Kamasutra as opposed to the politically correct yet moribund manner in which Nirodh was advertised?

When invited to comment, political journalist Mahua Chatterjee admits she’s tempted “to laugh hysterically so that she may not weep!” She soon gets serious and unleashes a series of posers. “Who are these guys creating these ads or manufacturing these products? Clearly a lot of us are totally disconnected from their radar! Is this their professional version of marketing which decrees: find a gap and fill it? In their drive to sell a product, is nothing sacred, safe or out of bounds? In the crazed rush to grab eyeballs, is titillation of any kind permissible? What about social responsibility, good taste, style & class?” questions Mahua. Then, tongue-in-cheek, the journo enquires why despite a zillion face-whitening products for men “nothing like Intimate Wash has been dedicated to their, er, penile space?”
Actress Moon Moon Sen, after a hearty laugh, offers discrete perspectives. “Sometimes, some ads – even if uncomfortable – are necessary. We live in a society where women (mothers & daughters) don’t always know about a lot of stuff, and doctors or professionals who do, hesitate to communicate these facts, due to mental conditioning, rendering them taboo. Unfortunately, many of these are necessary for a woman’s well-being. However, a vaginal whitening cream doesn’t remotely come in that category and does strain the imagination! A douche or cream for infection is understandable but...”

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In India’s Ad History, how many Businesses and start-ups have been powered by Women Bosses? and how have They Fared? 4Ps B&M’s Consulting Editor Monojit Lahiri does a speed-profile Snapshot of a handful of such Women and Focuses on the latest edition of a firm called Curry-Nation headed by The Ubiquitous priti nair to prove The Obvious!
Let’s face it guys, it really is a man’s world. And although women are just as smart and effective – and proving this conjecture true everyday across diverse male-dominated domains – it’s still, mostly, men who call the shots. Sad (or not!), it is but true. Otherwise, wouldn’t there be at least a handful of the gentler sex heading some of the top 20 ad agencies? Mercifully, there have been some glorious – brave, gifted, dynamic, fearless – exceptions who have cut loose to script their very own success stories.

Sure, there was the gorgeous Nargis Wadia in the late sixties and seventies, but it was Elsie Nanji (the founding partner of Ambience, rated as one of the hottest creative shops in its very first year of existence!) who set the ball rolling around two decades ago. Trained by the redoubtable Mohammed (Enterprise) Khan, Nanji has been a multiple-award winner at most of the revered shows, both at home and abroad. Presently, she is a Managing Partner of a design cell of Publicis Worldwide, Red Lion and today has established it to be one of the top five design brand outfits in the country!

Next up is Preeti Vyas, Chairperson of Vyas Gianetti Creative (VGC). Widely hailed as one of the country’s foremost creative minds, Vyas launched VGC in 1997 with the single-minded focus of transforming a sluggish market into an exciting aesthetic space through “strategic design and communication solutions”. Ranked among India’s greatest brand builders, with branches at New Delhi and Bengaluru, VGC continues to demonstrate amazing entrepreneurial chutzpah and be a true game-changer for their clients.

And so on to Priti Nair! Short, dusky, flashing cute dimples and distracting nose-ring, don’t ever begin to be deceived by the looks of this tough, feisty, fearless, gifted, much-awarded and acclaimed professional powered with creative artillery and ammunition designed to blow you away! Priti’s entrepreneurial venture, Curry Nation, has literally spiced up the ad-nation since its launch. But was it the woman in her which led on to her firm being called what it is?

The dimpled smile appears along with her very special take: “Weird as it may sound, it has to do with my passionate patriotism and passion for food! We are a multi-layered and multi-textured entity, as a nation. Same with our food. So, shouldn’t that, seamlessly, translate into our advertising DNA? Hence, the name!” Priti apparently wasn’t too worried about breaking away from a hi-profile designation in a globally respected agency (Managing Partner, BBH) – and that was because “after two decades in the business, I think I had done time and owed it to myself to do the kind of work I wanted to do, the kind of people I wanted to team up with, the kind of clients and brands I wanted to associate with, the size and direction I wanted to go with – on my own terms.”

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An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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