Restricting condom ads to ‘adult viewing slot’ is like putting India in dark ages in era of global progressiveness

Following a ‘flood of complaints’, MIB has requested to pull off condom ads during the day and air them only from 11pm to 5am. This has garnered collective industry criticism

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Updated: Oct 6, 2015 8:44 AM
Restricting condom ads to ‘adult viewing slot’ is like putting India in dark ages in era of global progressiveness

According to the recent development, The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has requested to pull off condom ads during the day and keep them for the adult viewing slot (11pm to 5am). Reportedly, this step comes as a result of the ‘flood of complaints’, which they have been receiving from several women’s organisation, moral policing groups, politicians, parents and lawyers that the ads are ‘spoiling the kids’ and have ‘given rise to free sex’ in the country.

Reports suggest that, there were requests to ban the condom ads completely, but since banning won’t be possible, the Ministry is mulling over the idea to restrict the timings of the ads. Now if MIB decides to restrict the ads, letters will be sent to all TV channels registered with the body to stick to the new norm and show the condom ads only during adult hours.

As per the Broadcast regulations, Indian TV content is classified as General (G) and Restricted (R) viewing. While general content is suitable for viewing for all age groups, restricted content is not intended for young viewers and can only be telecast between 11 pm to 5 am. There have been accusations and complaints that earlier the condom ads were depicted as a contraceptive method and as a way of family planning, but today they are shown as pleasure-enhancers.

Last month, controversy sparked off after there were reports that one of the CPI leaders, Atul Anjan, at a public rally passed a comment that ‘Sunny Leone’s Manforce condom ad is not preventing AIDS, but it is ‘promoting rape’. He demanded an immediate ban on the condom ads because it was sheer ‘disgusting’ and ‘dirty’.

We spoke to spoke to a few well-known names from the advertising field asking their views on the entire development.

Sunil Lulla, Chairman and Managing Director, Grey Group India:

There are adequate guidelines in place, which do not require intervention- Both from a Cable Act perspective, ASCI and the TV industry. While a section of society may have voiced a different view, consistency of maintaining these guidelines is key to ensuring marketers can continue to have full faith in the prevailing rules and guidelines.

Importantly, contraception is important to curb India’s rampantly growing population, besides prevention against transmission of diseases. It’s high time we accepted that Sex is a bodily function. We need to learn to love our needs and not abhor them.

KV Sridhar aka Pops, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient Nitro:

This reminds me of the sanitary napkin ads, which were not allowed during the day time twenty years back. Today we have progressed and they are allowed anytime. By allowing condom ads to be slotted only during the 11pm-5am slot, is extremely regressive. We can’t afford to go back in history for the sake of good health and progress of our nation. Why should anybody be ashamed of sex? How will we tackle the biggest menace- HIV then?

There are bodies like ASCI-who can take action against a particular ad if it is obscene, but you can’t ban the entire slot. The intelligence lies in not hiding things from your child, but instead having an open conversation with them. One of the greatest problems faced by a young girl today is teenage pregnancy. The reason is even if urban girls are aware of the issue, but they can’t openly discuss it with anyone else. Secondly, rural women, get married at the age of 14 years, and then they are expected to have children immediately. Proper education on sex should percolate to these set of girls, because it is extremely dangerous to their health. It is a very sad situation, on one hand, we are moving ahead and on the other hand, there are people trying to pull us down.

Bobby Pawar, Managing Director, Chief Creative officer, Publicis South Asia:

Advertising actually plays a very small role in influencing the culture. So what sense does banning condom ads during the day make? Schools must have compulsory sex education, and then probably things like rapes can be curbed. Having a knowledgeable child is far better than having an ignorant one. What morality are we talking about, if India is one of the countries with the highest numbers of rapes being reported?

Santosh Padhi, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India:

It is not fair and had this thing been implemented 30 years back, then probably it would have been of some sense. But today we are a lot more open about certain things taking place around us. If my kids can get affected by condom ads, then what about the ridiculous footages shown on news channels and vulgarity in movies? They are worse than condom ads.

We do have ASCI and they have been doing tremendous amount of good work in the last two years.  If there is something which doesn’t come under their guidelines, then they can totally take action against it. But how can you come up with the idea of banning it altogether? I feel the entire advertising body, should come together and oppose such a step. We are a glamorous body; therefore, we attract a lot of attention. But we know our work well and we are not creative just for the sake of being so.

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Executive Creative Director, South Asia, Ogilvy & Mather:

There is a lack of sex education in India. Neither in school nor college are kids properly taught about birth control. It’s not that all young people abstain from sex. There are those who use the morning-after pill or even abortion as a regular form of birth control and not as any emergency measure. This stems from ignorance and has a terrible impact on public health. Instead of sweeping things under the carpet, things should be openly discussed. In that context, a step like restricting condom ads to the 11pm-5am slot actually pushes society further back into darkness.

Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous:

Rather than telling people and making others aware of safe sex, a step like this is surely shifting us back to the 70s and 80s. Today there are hundred things disposable at your hands, if one requires information as well as titillation. So restricting the condom ad timings, doesn’t make any sense for sure. Bodies like ASCI have enough guidelines for the advertisers- and if any one doesn’t abide by it, then requisite steps are taken against the company. But by dictating the slot of the condom ads to be aired is extremely regressive.

Saurabh Dasgupta, Executive Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide:

If you think, by banning condom commercials, you can block information or stop the youngsters from experimenting with SEX- the government is sadly mistaken. Today there are multiple sources of getting information. Given the age and the day, when you have free access to all kinds of information, when there is free flow of the internet, with smartphones in every pocket- how can you stop the youngsters from experimenting or getting curious about the forbidden three letter word? Banning commercials is a very short sighted and a myopic view of looking things. Protection on the other hand, will save a lot of unwanted pregnancies and families from embarrassment. It will also curb the transmission of deadly sexually transmitted diseases.

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