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Latest Manforce billboards spark outrage in Gujarat: Why are we still uncomfortable with the 3 letter word?

21, September, 2017

Bureau, New Delhi

Just how pragmatic is responsible advertising? CAIT and Gujaratis think that the contraceptive brand and Sunny Leone have committed a heinous crime; do you too?

Manforce, the pharmaceutical giant Mankind Pharma's OTC segment is in hot water post the latest billboards it has erected across Gujarat, amidst the onset of the Navratri festival.

The Outdoor advertisement features its celebrity brand ambassador Sunny Leone, and is bedecked with festive graphics, saying: 'Aa Navratriye ramo, paraantu prem thi' (Play this Navratri but with love).

The outrage over has climbed its way till Confederation of  All India Traders (CAIT), reaching all the way to the Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan, who calls the advertisement a "clear irresponsible and immature attempt to boost sales by putting all our cultural value system at stake". CAIT national secretary general Praveen Khandelwal, alleged in the letter that the advertisement was encouraging the younger lot to use its condoms in the name of the religious festival. However, he admitted that the advertisement is not objectionable on the face of it. "They have not used the word 'condom' on their banner. But their intention is very clear due to the combination of words like 'play', 'love' and 'Navratri' are coined above the large logo of Manforce." Khandelwal further alleged the role of Sunny Leone to have been most irresponsible. "In the lust for earning huge money, these brand ambassadors can go to any level irrespective of an occasion being pious and religious," he added.

CAIT has demanded of the ministry to take immediate cognisance of the advertisement, ban it and take appropriate action against Manforce and Sunny Leone.

Do you agree? Does the billboard look provocative and vulgar enough to generate this storm? Do you think Manforce has employed a cheap tactic to boost its sales?

Hold those thoughts and read their defence:

Navratri indeed is a religious and cultural festival. However, in Gujarat it is also known for a spurt in physical relationships during the Garba festival.

Reports state that the late 1990s observe that there was a significant rise in the number of abortions two months after the Garba festival when young couples would stay outdoors till late in the nights. Former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel had made a candid confession in 1999 as the state education minister, expressing concern over the phenomenon in the past few years, at a workshop of Gujarat State Social Welfare Board Advisory. Terming the phenomenon as unfortunate, she called for curbing the evil. Her concern was corroborated then by gynaecologists and sexologists across Gujarat who admitted that the number abortions soon after Navratri had risen since the mid-1990s.

Ahmedabad-based sexologist Dr Paras Shah maintains that the number of abortions has drastically decreased in the last few years. The two factors being according to him being: youngsters becoming more educated and conscious about sex and contraceptive, and secondly, they get more opportunities throughout the year, unlike previously when the freedom to mingle with the opposite sex was restricted only to the festival.

However, Shah agrees that the cases of abortions rise during Navratri by about 10 per cent even now in smaller towns and villages.

Some medical professionals conduct sex workshops right before the festival to educate the youth. Another bizarre claim by the report that the is that parents in Gujarat often hire small-time detectives to snoop on their children during Navratri!

Thus, with even the government making an effort to educate people and encourage them to use contraceptives, and the alleged data on Gujarat's rise in amorous relationships during Navratri, Manforce and Sunny Leone may only be lending a helping hand.

Therefore, to seek a ban on an advertisement that is not defamatory and simply speaks the truth and cashes in on the dynamics, is extreme.

The OOH industry isn't simply here to stay for the sake of profit; the true beauty in its influence lies in its encouragement of society into robust socio-economic development.

Tags :  Billboards Manforce OOH Advertising Outdoor Gujarat Controversy Ahmedabad

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