The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Ads cleansed in all fairness
- Commercials pulled off television after viewer objections

Mumbai, March 7: Mirror mirror on the wall, the Fair and Lovely ads have gone!

Hindustan Lever Limited has pulled out its frequently-aired ads of the fairness cream that show dark-skinned women suddenly discovering the cream, developing a peaches-and-cream complexion and achieving their lives’ goals.

A Lever spokesperson said the commercials had “run their course”, but added that viewers’ feedback mattered, too.

The withdrawal comes after protests from several women’s organisations, led by the All India Democratic Women’s Association, that these ads stigmatised dark skin and they should be taken off.

The ads were also on the government’s list of “objectionable” commercials.

One ad featured a dark-complexioned girl whose parents want her to get married. But her “kundali” matches only unprepossessing men until she discovers Fair and Lovely, which not only transforms her complexion, but also her personality.

The other had another dark girl whose father rues that she is not a son. “Kaash mera koi beta hota,” the father says. The girl discovers the fairness cream and again her personality is transformed, which helps her to get a job as an airhostess.

The Lever spokesperson said there was criticism of both ads. The first ad was said to have “colour-preference” while the second one suffered from “son-preference”, he said. There was objection to the use of the word “beta”, he said.

Women’s groups, like the Delhi-based Centre for Advocacy and Research, are happy that a company had bowed to social pressure.

“Every single ad for fairness creams that we have traced in the last two years has visually depicted dark complexion as a painful experience. Often the girl is shown as depressed, with low self-esteem and almost ostracised by the family,” says the centre, which researches gender and media-related issues and demanded the ads be taken off.

“Many find this sudden transformation of the protagonist using the beauty product in the ad into a ‘new self’ extremely disturbing. Young girls say that ads for fairness creams cause them serious anxieties,” it adds.

The information and broadcasting ministry recently appealed to advertisers on television to adhere to their code. There is a suggestion within the ministry also that commercials be vetted before they are aired.

The government list of objectionable ads also includes commercials on ACP Apple Juice Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai Campaign and VIP Jockey. Alcohol commercials are also mentioned for being surrogate ads.

Women’s groups have been lobbying for long against fairness ads. “For the last few years, we have been consistently impressing upon the industry that through the visual imagery in these fairness cream ads, they are stigmatising dark complexion unscrupulously,” says Akhila Sivadas of the Delhi centre.

But the ad industry defended fairness ads, saying they merely reflected social reality. Lever also said the ads did not show women in a poor light because it reflected real demand, though it’s ready to reconsider its own commercials in light of the response.

The centre also stressed that research shows fairness is not uppermost on the minds of women, though fairness creams and lotions constitute one of the biggest segments of the cosmetic market in the country, and it’s a fast-expanding one.

In a survey conducted by the centre and research agency Viewers’ Forum in Delhi, Lucknow and Ahmedabad on portrayal of women and men in advertising and the image of the self, the data showed up that women did not rate fairness as important as good facial features and figure.

Email This Page