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It's very disappointing that this wasn't caught before going live: ASCI CEO on suspended Layer'r Shot's ad

Everyone in the ecosystem- from advertiser, agency to endorser have a role to play, says Kapoor.

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Mumbai: Deodorant ads have not exactly been known to propagate gender sensitivity values. However, two recent controversial advertisements from deo brand Layer'r Shot probably take the cake in offending gender sensibilities. The latest ad film from the brand raised a stink on social media with several netizens flagging the commercials, accusing them of promoting rape culture, trivialising sexual violence against women, and being plain creepy. So much so that even the MIB (ministry of information and broadcasting) sat up and took notice.

The ministry on Saturday wrote to social media platforms, Twitter and YouTube to remove the offending video commercials of the deo brand for their alleged obscene content.

The move came after the advertising self-regulatory body, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found the ads to be in serious breach of its code and against the public interest, and ordered its suspension.

Following the ministry’s action, the channel Sony ten 1, which originally aired the ad during a sports telecast, has pulled it down.

Coming right on the back of the Asci updating its code to prevent new areas of possible discrimination or derision, the council was alerted to the offending ad for the deodorant product on the morning of 3 June 2022, ASCI CEO & secretary general Manisha Kapoor told IndianTelevision.com. After seeing the ad, which was in serious violation of Chapter II of the ASCI code against offensive advertising, the council immediately invoked a special process called “Suspended Pending Investigation (SPI)”.

On the same day, the industry body informed the advertiser of the decision to suspend the advertising and invited the advertiser's response, which would be tabled before the Consumer Complaints Council in the coming days, Kapoor added.

The SPI, Kapoor informed, is invoked, in exceptional circumstances, when it appears prima facie that an advertisement is in serious breach of the ASCI code and its continued transmission on any medium causes public harm, injury, or its continuation is against the public interest. In which case, the company would, pending investigation, forthwith direct the advertiser/the advertising agency/the media buying agency and the media concerned to suspend the advertisement with immediate effect.

The first of the ads features a couple getting intimate in a bedroom. Four of the guy's friends barge into the room, sneer at the couple and ask a seemingly loaded and crude question. After a few moments of suspense, wherein the girl is seen visibly getting alarmed at what the guys’ true intentions are, the ad reveals that the friends were simply asking if they can use the Shot deo kept in the room!

Layer’r shot deo ad #1

The second ad plays out along similar lines, where the four men are showcased indulging in an animated conversation at a supermarket. A woman is shown in the forefront, while they discuss who will take the "shot" since there are four of them and just one of “it”. Again, the ad plays on the fear factor of the woman, as she looks back in alarm at the four men, only to find that they are talking about the single bottle of the Shot deo left in the store, while the ad makes it look as if they are talking about her.

Layer’r shot deo ad #2

Needless to add, such casual propagation of sexual violence is alarming and completely unacceptable in a country like ours, which's already reeling under the problem, as was pointed out by several netizens.

Does the ad industry watchdog need to be more proactive in weeding out such ‘bad apples’ before they hit our screens, we ask Kapoor.

She responds that everyone in the ecosystem has a role to play, including the advertiser, agency, production partners, and endorsers. "An ad goes through many layers of discussions and approvals, and it is very disappointing that such ads were not weeded out," Kapoor said.

Adding that ASCI takes action on already-released ads, she points out, “We do offer a pre-production advisory service which responsible advertisers can use in order to ensure that their ad does not have objectionable or misleading content. Due diligence done can prevent this sort of incident from being repeated.”

Kapoor also noted that the channel has stopped airing the ad after the intervention of ASCI and the MIB. “We expect the ad being played on YouTube to be pulled down shortly.”

Layer'r Shot's mother company Adjavis Venture was incorporated in 2013. Its current portfolio includes body deodorants, body spray and perfumes.

The same brand had released a ‘woke’ commercial in 2018, featuring actor Varun Dhawan. Which is in stark contrast to, and seems to go completely against the grain of its own messaging propagated by its recent ads. The slogan for the earlier ad went (believe it or not!): ‘Gandi soch ki badbu no more, soch ho khushbudar’ in regards to misogynistic, petty and shallow thoughts of people. The creative was credited to Triton Communications agency.

Watch the 2018 Varun Dhawan ad here:

The latest set of offending ads, however, are not conceptualised by Triton, Kapoor clarified. “To the best of our knowledge this is an in-house ad,” she added.

Well, going from its latest creatives, it looks like the brand could do with a dose of its own product for some “khushbudaar soch”, even as it is in dire need of some fresh ideas to remove the stink kicked up by its recent ads.

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