We live in a feminism dominated media space, where even the smallest funny moment against women could be construed as misogyny. However, on the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable and also humourous to push advertisements where women are seen physically attacking men…..all in the name of ‘hyperbole and rhetoric’.
But thanks to many on ground men’s rights activists, the ad makers are facing a tough time now and it is difficult for them to get away casually by broadcasting such anti-male advertisements.
Pepperfry, online home shopping portal, recently came up with an Ad amidst lockdown, with a caption ‘Indoor Stories’. In the ad, the wife is seen chopping veggies in the kitchen, while the husband is stereotyped by sitting idle. The woman’s face is filled with rage to an extent that she chooses to throw knives at her husband. The man manages to save himself using a piece of furniture next to him and the Ad ends with “Happy Furniture to you”.
Several men’s rights activists called out this violent Ad and also suggested that the same promoted domestic violence against the husbands, even if it was meant to be in light humour. Amit Deshpande from the Vaastav Foundation took this forward and registered a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). Deshpande shared the advertisement with the relevant forum and demanded that the Ad be taken down, since it promoted violence against men.
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The complaint was considered by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at their meeting. The ASCI then approached the advertiser for their response in addressing the grievances of the complainants and forwarded the details of the complaints, verbatim, to the advertiser with a request to respond to the same. The advertiser was offered an opportunity for seeking an Informal Resolution (IR) and telecon with the ASCI Secretariat to seek further guidance, which they did not avail and requested for additional time to respond due to multiple complaints received. The deadlines stipulated by Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) procedure exist keeping in mind the immediate and widespread impact that advertisements have on the public.
The advertiser was informed that the nature of the complaints/objections raised being ‘non-technical’ in nature they were required to submit their response within the stipulated time. However, given the pandemic situation arisen due to COVID-19 and as a special gesture, the advertiser was granted an extension of additional four business days to the standard lead time of five business days to submit their reply.
Advertiser in their response stated that the advertisement creative is built on the playfulness between the spouses when one spouse is done with the chores and the other is still working. It depicts the current situation of lockdown and present issues in family, spouse in their daily life in a playful manner. There is no malafide intention to promote violence on any specific gender. Throwing of the knife ‘with precision’ and blocking it with a ‘fast reflex’ is to be interpreted as an over dramatisation of a wife expressing her displeasure and the husband keeping the peace by not retaliating.
The advertisement contains a cautionary disclaimer, “Performed under expert supervision. Do not imitate”, which is clearly visible during the performance of the Knife act. The impugned advertisement is uploaded only on YouTube and not on any other medium and can be viewed only by adults (18+). Advertiser referred to YouTube links as examples of few Pepperfry advertisements which have been heart warming and endearing. Advertiser further cited Courts judgments in the matter of `Marico Ltd. vs. Adani Wilmar Ltd. CS(OS) No.246/2013’ and `Dabur India Ltd. v. Colortek Meghalaya Pvt. Ltd’, wherein it was held that in determining the meaning of an advertisement, certain amount of hyperbole in advertising and marketing puffing, as an advertisement has to be seen from the eyes of an average consumer who is used to certain hyperbole and rhetoric.
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The advertiser further submitted that in case of unfavourable decision by the CCC, they should be given physical hearing to present their case. The ASCI Secretariat clarified that the CCC meeting protocol does not provide for personal representations by the parties (complainant and the advertiser). However, the parties can seek for an Independent Review in response to the CCC recommendations, which provides for such personal representation wherein both the parties are called for hearing.
The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that the act shown in the advertisement is a hyperbole and marketing puffing. The CCC was of the view that children (minors) actually could try doing the act in a household situation as shown, and if replicated in real life would be very unsafe causing them physical harm and injury. Furthermore, disclaimer shown during the performance of the Knife act was considered irrelevant in the context of the advertisement. The CCC observed that the advertiser is promoting their household products (Chopping Board, Knife Set, Sofa, Stool etc.) meant for certain chores whereas the advertisement depicts the product being used to cause harm to an individual, quite contrary to the product’s utility.
Based on this observation, the CCC concluded that the act of the `woman throwing a knife at her husband’ portrays a dangerous act and manifest a disregard for safety. Regardless of the disclaimer, this act is also likely to encourage minors to emulate such acts which could cause harm or injury. This complaint was UPHELD.
No Domestic Violence On Men
The CCC did not consider the other objections raised of the advertisement showing `domestic violence towards men, hatred against men` to be valid, as the husband is shown smiling. He is not shown to be scared or outraged by her act. This complaint was NOT UPHELD.
The CCC noted that the advertiser has removed all promotion / posts of the advertisement from their social media handles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram as well as age-gated the advertisement.
Amit Deshpande shared this information and quoted,
Pepperfry had shown an ad where a wife throws knives on her husband. We complained against it to the Advertising Standards Council of India, as it promoted Domestic Violence against men.
Advertiser responded to the complaint saying, they used hyperbole and marketing puffing as per judgements of `Marico Ltd. vs. Adani Wilmar Ltd. CS(OS) No.246/2013’ and `Dabur India Ltd. v. Colortek Meghalaya Pvt. Ltd’
ASCI rejected their explanation and UPHELD our complaint because minors could copy the act. They didn’t UPHOLD our grouse that it promotes violence against men, as the ad shows the man smiling. So this means we can have ads where the wife is being beaten to pulp, but smiles at the end.
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Nevertheless the ad has been taken down from all platforms by the advertiser, one more victory while we keep marching on. Pepperfry bhi gayo…Hope these setbacks will make advertisers more sensitive towards men’s issues in future.
Similar Anti-Male Ad was forced to be modified in May this year. An asian paints advertisement showing a wife slapping her husband was asked to be taken down, however, the ad maker eventually edited out the slap from the same. Watch video at the end of this article.
WATCH PEPPERFRY ANTI-MALE AD
WATCH ASIAN PAINTS ANTI-MALE AD
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