The issue has now snowballed raising questions about the sensitivity of audiences and the quality of sex education in the country.
The information and broadcasting ministry’s ban on condom commercials hasn’t been received well. Is over-sexualising these ads digressing from the subject of practising safe sex?
The minute the information and broadcasting ministry issued an order on Monday banning the broadcast of condom commercials between 6 am to 10 pm, a wave of disagreement ran through the country. Stating that they had received complaints from the audience about these “indecent advertisements” being unfit for children, the ministry enforced a blanket ban on broadcasting condom commercials.
The issue has now snowballed raising questions about the sensitivity of audiences and the quality of sex education in the country. However, a lot of condom brands seem to have overlooked the safe sex brief in the first case. And there is one common denominator across all explanations – over-sexualisation.
Think of any condom ad, the idea remains the same — a sexily clad model (or a bold enough actress) and a shirtless masculine man readying themselves for the act with a sensuous background score for company. “For extra pleasure,” the commercial claims towards the end leaving your family in utter discomfort. And this hyper sexualisation seems to be a mistake on the part of condom companies.
“A lot of condom ads in the market revolve around hyper masculinity — they are very sexual in nature and is possibly an issue to television-watching audience,” says Gopal MS, creative director at an advertising firm.
It doesn’t help that condom ads leave very little room for imagination either. “There is a lot of sexually explicit content out there, not necessarily talking about safe sex. At the same time, I don’t think that a blanket ban on the product is welcome,” explains Dip Sengupta, who has spent a large chunk of his career in advertising.
Gopal goes on to admit that advertising condoms is tricky. “You have to appeal to an audience that is mostly sensitive, and you can’t always be too sure of your content,” he begins. “Condom ads soon started revolving around male performance in bed after they moved on from being public service announcements (read: Nirodh and Copper-T commercials). And while I have a personal problem with this show of hyper masculinity, it could also be an issue for others,” he further explains.
Brand strategist Harish Bijoor brings another possible explanation to the table. “The country has been suffering from genital shyness since forever. When we see products related to face, hair and chest, we are quick to devour them. But anything pertaining to the genitals (sanitary pads, hygiene products, and condoms), we are averse to,” he says. The situation doesn’t seem to have changed. Back in the 80s, Doordarshan had declared that sanitary pads are ‘unmentionables’ and refused to air the commercials before 10 pm.
Long before Sunny Leone and Ranveer Singh become brand ambassadors for condom-manufacturing companies (Manforce and Durex respectively), there was Pooja Bedi who featured in a condom ad way back in the ’90s. She says, “The more we create stigma around it by banning their depiction in mainstream media, the more we would perpetuate a regressive mindset towards women and relationships,” she says.
At the end of the day, one possible conclusion to the ban is the content rolled out by condom commercials. “The product is really relevant to the country’s population,” begins Harish citing forced abortions, spread of sexually transmitted diseases and birth control as the biggest reasons.
And one way to tackle this is for the government to roll out guidelines to discipline the content instead of banning it altogether. “And maybe the advertising industry could self-regulate at their end,” suggests Gopal.
– Inputs by Pratyush Patra