Male deo category communication evolves languidly from selling seduction to breaking clutter

Even as the tried and tested formula of making 'women go weak in the knees' remains the staple communication for male deo category, brands like Park Avenue, Envy 1000 and others attempt to innovatively highlight different aspects of the product

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Updated: Aug 31, 2015 7:50 AM
Male deo category communication evolves languidly from selling seduction to breaking clutter

When it comes to deodorant advertising, most brands have chosen the path of clichés, of women swooning over men who use the deodorant. But recently released Park Avenue’s TVC featuring its new range of deodorants with Farhan Akhtar, breaks the monotony. The ad conceptualised by Publicis instead focuses on the benefit of the product, which is to give freshness and ensuring long lasting fragrance. Bobby Pawar, Managing Director, CCO, Publicis South Asia, highlighted that over a period of time, Park Avenue has managed to build itself as a brand and their ads have also reflected the change. “We have been swimming against the current. While others continue to show ‘hot females’, we realised that it is an exaggeration of the truth and there is another story to be told. This time around, we had a story to tell and we concentrated on that. We worked on the insight that towards the evening, when the effect of the deodorant wanes, you start feeling stale and low in energy and that is how we coined the term ‘Shaam Ka Budhapa’,” he said.

In the month of May this year, Deodorant brand Envy 1000 launched its new ad campaign with brand ambassador Irrfan Khan, which also spoke about the deodorant brand’s long-lasting durability. The film, conceptualised by Shop Advertising, features the actor in a fantasy setting where skimpily-dressed angels are hovering around him. Taking a dig at other deodorant ads in the market, Khan falls back to reality and comments that other brands show what far from reality in order to sell.

Park Avenue:

Envy 1000:

Even though few of the brands in this category are trying to make a change in their communication, but in general, ads in the male deodorant category have always raised an eyebrow because of their ‘overtly sexual’ content. Taking a cue from the Axe ads, which showed women overcome by desire after inhaling the product, other brands have also followed the same path. In the light of which, it has projected women in a very demeaning manner to the extent of showing her unbuttoning the blouse and not being able to resist herself. Infact in 2011, according to reports, the Information Ministry in a statement had asked the Indian channels not to broadcast deodorant commercials, suggesting them to be vulgar, indecent and suggestive. It highlighted that the ads brim with messages aimed at tickling the libidinous male instincts and portrayal of women as lustily hankering after men. The Ministry even asked Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to ensure that the adverts were either modified or taken off air within five days.

Things haven’t changed much ever since then, because we still continue to see clichéd ads being dished out from players in the category. Wild Stone is as steamy as it was, be it Diya Mirza coming out after a shower, getting dressed, fully aware that she is being watched by a man next door. Or actress Tapsee Pannu while flying kites gets ‘turned on’ or Huma Qureshi unable to resist herself their men apply the deodorant. ITC’s Engage Deodorant- introduced India’s first range of couple deodorants, through a sensuous dance move performed right in public. All these examples, brings us to the point that the category is heavily dependent on ‘seduction’ as a result of which; we haven’t seen much from it.

Diya Mirza:

Tapsee Pannu:

Huma Qureshi:

Will this category ever move beyond selling ‘seduction’?

Pawar opined that, “The problem with the deodorant category is that, there has been no real innovation, except for the different fragrances it has. So the scope for experimenting with narration has been very less. However, when Axe came into the market and their sensual advertisements did well, the other brands wanted to do the same thing and play around with the Indian sensuality. I like the Old Spice Deodorant ads, with Terry Crews in red speedos, even though it talks about getting female attraction, but the execution is very different.”

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Bang In the Middle pointed out, “When you create a category as the founder you get certain generic benefits. For e.g. when Lifebuoy came into the market, it positioned itself as a ‘healthy wash’ product-then the category got divided into men and women and other benefits were highlighted- like the soap for the oily skin/dry skin/after workout soap and it went on. It was like, how to take one thing and talk about it in different ways. Similarly, you use deodorants, in order to counter body odour, feel fresh and attract women. Men do use deodorants to flaunt their manliness and Axe has played into this insight and has been successful. There are others, who have also come out with other talking points- like Gas & No Gas, etc. Advertising is all about aspirations and the wants from deodorant is to smell good and attract the opposite sex. Having said that, one can execute it differently and it totally depends on what your story is, how creative you can be with it and also on what the client wants from you.”

Echoing similar thoughts, Chraneeta Mann, Co-founder, The Mob cited, “I would say that the male deodorant category has evolved a notch over the years. Though one will always have the classic seduction formula commercials with skimpily clad women, I would say that Park Avenue over the recent years has made an effort to move past that and look at communication that is a little more evolved. Of course if you really look at the spectrum of advertising in that category, I feel we still have a long way to go before we create something ‘real’ and ‘tangible’ like the Dove Men + Care communication. This kind of communication repositions work in that category as deodorant being more than just a sexual calling card. Real strength of men gets identified by their caring side, and showing them as Dads and perhaps not the fittest coolest looking dads is quintessentially Dove, and so relatable. Having said that, at a mass level, sex sells, so I wouldn't say we'll ever really see the end of skimpily clad women’s been the historic formula in this category, and there are enough deodorant brands who would not really want to vacate that space anytime soon.”

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, South Asia elaborated, “I think that every deodorant client believes that they have to follow certain 'category codes'. It's rubbish of course. But there you go. Over the years, the ads have gone from showing scantily clad women to scantily clad men. Not much of an evolution! I have a brilliant campaign idea for a deodorant. I will sell it to that one enlightened client who wants to really stand out and get noticed.”

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