Sprays of Disgust

Are some ads for deodorant sprays socially, ethically and morally acceptable?

Can the CEOs of the companies imagine their wives, daughters or siblings getting lured by “one of their millions of happy customers” using their brands of bodysprays?

Hey GUYS ! so, you are brimming with that ‘lusty macho’ feel as you just sprayed that disgusting deodorant on you and are all set to attract the girls, uh… ?   

Then BE PREPARED to see your neighbour wishing to do the same to your sisters… 


Once I was in TATA House, Mumbai, to meet a senior executive of a group company. When he briefed about the group, he was proud of its corporate values of not being involved in any businesses – alcohol and tobacco – that JRD Tata considered morally and ethically questionable.

However, only few companies hold their values high and do not yield to the pressures of the cut-throat competitive market place in order to gain market share and profits. Some of the Corporate leaders often make rhetoric mentions in their interviews about values, moral responsibility and ethics but their speeches just remain filled with glamorous jargons and they deliberately choose to be oblivious of what their companies actually do in the marketplace.

I never use any deodorants or bodysprays but that does not stop me from writing about them from the perspectives of a moral and responsible human, who is concerned about the sickening portrayal of women in many ads for deodorant sprays. I am sure I belong to a category of aliens who will not compromise on values. 

To me, as a student who chose to study advertising out of sheer passion and an avid observer who is much concerned about social issues including the treatment & respect for women, the onslaught on the dignity of women in the name of creative dramatization in the ads for the body sprays seems nothing but absolutely disgusting and potentially dangerous in influencing the young Indians

Sexual appeal is very powerful in advertising globally but it should be acceptable socially, depending on the culture of every country. However, I still struggle to understand what is driving the creative minds behind these ads to use the idea of showing women getting lured to someone by who uses a bodyspray.

So, these commercials teach us that the bodysprays help get the women laid, right?

These ads for bodysprays neither focus on the attributes (quantity, longevity of the effect or price) nor the benefits (masking the bad odour). But going overboard to this extent is, in my humble opinion, absolutely disgusting and very dangerous for the upcoming generations.

What we see and hear shape our perception about our world, society and interpersonal relationships. Will these kind of ads that promote sexuality blatantly and wrong perceptions on women, help today’s youth to become better individuals?

Even if one boy out of the several hundred millions, is influenced to think about luring a girl by using a bodyspray, he potentially becomes a bad influence for his peers in his school or college and may possibly become another BOKO HARAM. If this is the image on women purported in the mainstream media, I fear how can we educate and raise our younger generation to show respect and dignity for women?

I request these (m)ad men to think about the young adults and teenagers in their family on how would they perceive these ads and what is the key message that stands out.

This might sound rude and unparliamentary. But I would like to pose a question that will reflect the gravity & seriousness of the issue.

“Will the CEOs of the companies that manufacture these bodysprays imagine for a second about someone who uses their brand of bodysprays luring the women in their family – their wives, daughters and siblings?”

I dare to ask the same question to the so-called creative heads of the ad agencies that proposed this “super-awesome idea”, the product champions in the companies in charge of the product category, the TV channels that on one side airing the gory gang rape stories and on the other these morally-disgusting ads just for the sake of earning money.

Now let us look at the “Demand” side. Hey GUYS ! so you are brimming with that ‘lusty macho’ feel by smearing your already stinking bodies with that stinking sprays and salivating on the scene of girls falling all over on you, uh… ?

Then BE PREPARED to see your neighbour do the same for your sisters as the other guy has all the rights in the world to do do what you can. 

It is indeed good to see the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) swinging into action to uphold the industry’s reputation http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=Q0FQLzIwMTEvMDUvMjcjQXIwNDMwMA==&Mode=HTML

As we painfully watch the news about the gangrapes in the country, how many of the so-called self appointed guardians of our culture raised their voices against these cheap and insensible depiction of women in these ads?

I seriously wonder why the women rights groups, political parties, social activists or the judiciary did not raise any objections strong enough to force the withdrawal of the ads.

My objection is not about the products or brands per se but the underlying idea to promote them. One cannot deny that there could be at least hundred other good ideas and there is no dearth of creative talent in the Indian ad industry.

The agencies are not the only ones to be blamed as they work on what their client accepts. So, companies that own these brand  and those leaders who give rhetoric interviews about business ethics and values must have refused to accept these kinds of cheap tactics.

Instead, it just spread like cancer that a company first started with the idea of a bodyspray helping a guy to seduce a girl and then every brand followed suit with their own perverted versions of seducing women – even from different planets.

I wonder with my limited knowledge on advertising, are there no other better ways of conveying the same message with same intensity and impact but more subtly? If the answer is yes, then any change is welcome.

I am of the strong opinion that the war for profits and market share is just getting intense and the companies are looking at all possible ways including advertising to woo their target audiences particularly the youth who are at an important but highly vulnerable stage of their lives. Given the proliferation of media – TV, radio, social networking platforms on the internet and the mobiles – the youngsters are being bombed with information which shape the way they think, work, live and grow.

It is very disturbing to imagine how these sorts of depictions of women will influence their perceptions of ethics and values. 

The compassionate souls who protest on the streets and those who pray from deep in their hearts for the victims of gangrapes call for stricter laws and severe punishments for those who indulge in violating women’s rights.

But in my opinion, the change needs to happen much deeper inside everyone’s heart where the respect for the opposite sex needs to be engraved and it must be passed on to our future generations.

At a time when we are witnessing progress in the status of women in India particularly in literacy rates, workforce participation and intellectual contribution to the growth of the country, these kinds of ugly portrayals of women simply as “things” that can be enticed, attracted and seduced by using fairness creams, lotions and sprays, do not seem acceptable at all.