We asked a cross section of people, from adland to brand consulting to an NGO working on gender about the ban on the recent Layer’r Shot ad, which was pulled off air by the I&B Ministry ‘for promoting rape culture’.
We asked: Is it enough for the government to take them off air, to deter brands from putting out such ads? What more needs to be done?
Those who have seen the spots are angry and with good reason.
Ramesh Narayan, Founder, Canco Advertising, says, “I am really glad that ASCI and the Government of India acted swiftly and pulled the ad off media. However these are days of real-time media and the possibility of what I call ‘shoot and scoot’ advertisers should not be ruled out. The Government and ASCI should formulate a system where a repeat offender is penalised heavily. This could include a heavy monetary fine or an instruction to media to blacklist their advertising if it happens for a second time.”
Besides which, he underlines the need for industry associations to increase the number and scale of initiatives that make content creators more sensitive to gender nuances, and also make the general public and digital media more inclined to boycott such ‘misadventures’.
Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Independent Director, notes that the swift action of ASCI and the Government asking media to stop the Layer’r Shot ads should be commended.
“While it’s tempting to advocate censoring of ads, I think this would be counter productive. Public condemnation is a good start,” he adds.
On what more needs to be done, he says, “For one the brand should put out an unconditional apology – and give it sizeable visibility.”
Dr AL Sharada, Director at NGO Population First, whose flagship Laadli has been at the forefront of sensitising the advertising fraternity on gender portrayal, opines that a lot more needs to change.
“Creativity cannot be at the cost of social responsibility. We need a lot more internal controls to moderate the content. ASCI is already developing a scoring framework to ensure better representation of girls and women in ads. All ad agencies should be committed to that code and put in place internal mechanisms to ensure that the code is followed,” she says.
Dr Sharada concurs with Narayan that there is need for more gender sensitisation workshops for creative people and more women in creative teams.
“Corporates should look beyond profitability to promote a more gender equal world. Creating controversies to create visibility at the expense of the safety and security of girls and women is unpardonable. There should be some penalties on the corporate and advertising agency when something as gross as these ads are churned out for marketing a product,” she emphasises.
Taking the ad off air is clearly “Not enough” says brand expert Harish Bijoor, Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc..
“This is a clear ‘spit and run’ advertising strategy. Taking the ad off the air is not enough. If allowed, the brand benefits as the creative is already viral, and that’s the idea behind any spit and run advertising strategy. The best thing to do would be to ban the brand itself. Deregister the brand. If one wants to go one step further, to act as a deterrent to such rude, blatant and insensitive advertising and brand-sell approaches,” he advocates.
Subhash Kamath, Chairman, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), notes, “From a self-regulatory point of view, it was absolutely critical that the ad is pulled off without any delay, so that no further damage is done. This was successfully executed, in a speedy manner.”
On what more needs to be done, he adds, “People have been outraged and are angrily saying that the brand/company needs to be penalised. That is really up to the law to decide. It needs to be investigated thoroughly and what level of penalty needs to be imposed or not, will have to be decided by the law.”
ASCI on its part could comprehensively train the company’s marketing team on the Codes of self regulation, so that this doesn’t recur, says Kamath. Advertising’s self-regulatory body could also offer advertising advice for all future campaigns of the brand, so that it can point out potential problems or violations if any before they are produced, he adds.
Any legal action on the brand, as Kamath says, will have to come from the Government.
Layer’r Shot is produced by Ahmedabad-based Adjavis Venture Limited, established in 2013 by Devendra N Patel. Even before it could launch a range of products under the Layer’r Shot brand targeted at men, the company entered the fray with Layer’r Wottagirl, a body splash brand for women.
(Updated at 20:40 hrs on 6th June 2022 to accurately reflect the identity of one of the respondents.)