VIP row: Moral police get all gross-eyed

MUMBAI: It was a tiny little piece of cloth covering a male torso displayed on billboards in strategic locations in Mumbai. But it has raked up a storm (in a jockstarp cup?) in India's advertising capital. So much so that eight to 10 billboards carrying an ad displaying a hunk in all his "glory" in a VIP Frenchie underwear have been stripped fully from their locations.



It all started out when older folks in the middle class locality of Gamdevi in central Mumbai called up the local police station objecting to the four story tall billboard of the near naked male. An opinion which even advertising filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar shares adding that it was "gross."

However, no citizen was actually willing to go ahead and file a written complaint against the ad. Police inspector Dilip Dhane decided to become the main complainant to get the hoardings removed.

And of course the media chipped in by highlighting his efforts. Net result: Maxwell was forced to pull off the campaign. And the local police at the time of writing were waiting for the Maxwell Industries management to meet up with them and help them with further investigations.

Says Dhane: "We have tried contacting the Maxwell group and their distributors, who were responsible for this advertisement. So, far they have been not been available. However, they have been sent notice and told to report to the station with all their relevant papers by tonight. Then we will proceed with further investigation."

O&M chairman Piyush Pandey, whose agency created the ad has been taken aback by the brouhaha about the ad, especially considering the fact that the billboard had been on display for about two months. His bone of contention is that the ad is "not so offensive' and 'how else could an underwear ad be displayed creatively?'"

Adds Pandey: "I am surprised by the public approach, the newspapers have been carrying these ads as well and usually controversial subjects are attended to promptly by the public with letters to the press. I see nothing controversial in these ads. Since Maxwell has removed the ads I do not see anything more to it now. "

This is not the first time that consumers and consumer groups have reacted aversely to advertising which has been cheeky and risque. The MR Coffee and Tuff shoes ads came in for flak in the nineties. In the Tuffs case, copies of magazines carrying the ad of Madhu Sapre and Soman clad in nothing but Tuffs shoes and a python were burnt. And Soman and Sapre and even advertising agency Ambience Advertising executives had to constantly make treks to the police station.

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