From Milind Soman's Tuff Shoes ad to Kohli's Fastrack one, ads that created controversy
H&M recently faced backlash for a racist advertisement.
International clothing brand H&M was accused of racism over an ad featuring a black child donning a sweatshirt with the words ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ etched on the front. While the company apologised for its oversight, over the years, many a creative director has burnt his/her fingers with bold — and sometimes offensive — work.
H&M was accused of racism over the ad.
Brand: Tuff Shoes (1995)
The controversy: Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre posing nude, wearing a pair of shoes and a python wrapped around their body, stirred controversy nationwide.
Nanji says: “It was quite a difficult time as I felt responsible for so many people — the photographer and models. Although the ad was accepted by the client and released, I felt a lot of pressure at the time as other people had to suffer because I had chosen a particular route. But the whole thing was unnecessary, as proved in court.
The irrational judgments made by the unsensitised public caused this to have a domino effect. I feel the best thing to do in this kind of situation is not hide. Face it head on and take responsibility so that you can sort it out.”
‘You owe it to them to apologise’
Brand: Ford Figo (2013)
The controversy: A cartoon showing three women tied in the boot of a vehicle driven by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Pawar says: “Mistakes happen. I think you should take it on your chin, apologise and since it was unintentional, try to explain your view point. But whenever someone gets hurt, you owe it to them to apologise. In the case of the Ford ads, the team that did it were not under my watch, but you have to take responsibility.
The controversy started abroad before it happened here. So, even if it is fine in your country, with social media etc, different people can get affected. In the end, you are responsible to your people and you have to save as many as you can. That’s your role as the captain of the ship.”
Brand: Fastrack (2011)
Agency: Lowe Lintas
The controversy: The ad showed Virat Kohli and actress Genelia D’Souza as a pilot and an air-hostess, getting close in the cockpit and jeopardising the lives of their passengers.
Iyer says: “There are times you feel your perspective is going to work with people and you don’t see it going down. You realise that the world we live in is quite polarised and there are many groups that just don’t get the thought you’re trying to share – and the message is usually not even meant for them. If an ad is deeply offensive to a group of people or community, then you should apologise. However, if you know you’re going to rake up controversy, and it goes by script, you should measure it and be careful. In the case of the Fastrack ad, it is an irreverent brand and the message was meant to be cheeky. You cannot please everyone all the time.”
‘Audience is king’
Brand: HSBC (early 2000s)
The controversy: The medical sector was upset over the portrayal of doctors.
Jaleel says: “We live in fast-paced and fast-changing times. Earlier, feedback was not so quick. You could make a remark at a party, which some may like and some won’t and you would maybe get a response or two the next day. Now, you make a remark and get a barrage of responses almost immediately.
Success is connecting and then converting people – so you have to be careful how you do it. You need to keep your creativity aligned with what is happening in the world. People want to do something new, brands want to do something new, but sometimes they go wrong with overdoing it.
Here you have two options: keep quiet or fight it out.
Sometime ago we had done a small campaign for a bank [HSBC] and it didn’t go down well with doctors.
We took it off and learnt from it. Your living, respect and work depend on it — old jungle saying, consumer is king also means, audience is king.”.