One of Patanjali’s most recent advertisements for its Saundarya line of skin care products is on the receiving end of flak on social media for suggesting that a “traditional” girl who uses Patanjali products has superior skin compared to the “bindass, wannabe-type” girl who uses chemical-laden products.
The advertisement, which is part of Patanjali’s array of television commercials for its products, was first launched in late December 2016. The ad was shared on Patanjali’s Facebook page on January 8, 2017. On Facebook, the ad has received more than 5,000 views while on Youtube it has garnered more than 2 lakh views. The ad is unlike other Patanjali ads, which are short 15-30 seconders, and list the benefits of the products without telling a story.
This controversial 55 second TVC features two sisters - Saundarya, a “traditional” girl and Aishwarya, a “bindass, wannabe-type” of girl. While Saundarya uses a Patanjali face wash, Aishwarya is shown sitting in front of a pile of skin-care products applying cream to her face. A voice-over then narrates that Saundarya’s face got brighter by the day while a shroud of dullness befell Aishwarya’s face (her face is riddled with dark spots and pimples).
The ad goes on to establish that Saundarya received more and more compliments while Aishwarya turned to more and more make-up to hide her blemished skin. Young boys and girls praise Saundarya for her beautiful skin while the same group of people ridicule and shame Aishwarya. Upset with the acne on her face, Aishwarya shuns all the products that the ad says are filled with chemicals. Saundarya then introduces Aishwarya to Patanjali’s Saundarya products that will help in “protecting the natural beauty of skin.”
The social media outrage over the ad is centered around its regressive nature that seems to look down upon women who are not traditional, and the claims that Patanjali products are natural and do not have any chemicals in them. One Youtube user commented on the ad: What a horrible and preachy and sexist ad. Patanjali, we don’t want khoobsurat skin puhleeeeeez. #wannabetypegirl.
The ad plays on the insecurities of women at a time when brands across markets are making attempts to create progressive ads that break gender and social stereotypes. A critical review of the ad was published on digital entertainment website Filter Copy on February 9, 2017. One of the top Facebook comments in response to that article said, “This is moral policing and making money out of insulting a woman's freedom of expression! And it's not even subtle, it's blatantly stupid, the way they've shown it. Who would be convinced by “unsanskaari-girl-shaming? Ridiculous.”
Patanjali has not responded to any of the criticism it is facing on social media channels.