Responding to the massive backlash on social media platforms such as Twitter, fashion brand Jack&Jones apologised for a sexist ad featuring actor Ranveer Singh carrying a woman slung over his shoulder to the attempted cheeky line ‘Don’t Hold Back. Take your work home’. They even recalled the ad, reportedly taking down the 12 billboards that had been put up.
This is just another in a long line of sexist ads that seem to pass through the various quality check processes that such global brands have in place. The obvious objectification of women in this ad is unmistakable. The reference to the laughing female model tossed over Singh’s shoulder as work and the sexual entendres are again obvious. Then, why and how does such an ad get approval for being rolled out?
How could the countless people (and one is being hopeful that gender equality existed) charged with assessing the various sensibilities of the ad miss this offensive tone? Just earlier this year, food chain Nando’s got into similar trouble for a newspaper ad that compared chicken with women. An ad that ended with the line, “enjoying any Nando’s meal with your hands is always recommended”. Even then, the episode ended with the brand apologising and recalling the ad.
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Then there was the Fastrack advert with the #BackToCheating tag line (from the Back to College campaign), which showed a boy visibly cheating on his girlfriend; it similarly raised a lot of dust in the social media space. Ola Cabs too had an ad stereotyping women, which it took down because they understood that it “ended up hurting some sentiments”.
The global ad space is full of such ads being produced and then being taken down when people volubly protest. Is it that the companies hope their ad will fly and are willing to take the chance of ‘ruffling some feathers’? Even the apology issued many times, including the one by Jack&Jones fail to sound genuine. As they issued a retraction on Twitter, they managed to plug their campaign tag line. “Regret that one of our billboards has caused distress, we did not intend to offend anyone. #NOTHOLDINGBACK and withdrawing it immediately” they’d tweeted.
— Sej (@sejal_p) November 23, 2016
Many have called them out, and even questioned if well-known actor Siddarth had not raised the issue on Twitter, would the Danish brand have bothered to take down the ad? The celebrity IN the ad, Ranveer Singh, is yet to issue a public statement. Sure, he’s busy with the promotions of his upcoming film Befikre, which falls beautifully in line with the ad’s tag line, but does that excuse him from disassociating himself from all the slamming?
Or is this the new way to tackle negative press? Salman Khan did it when he refused to make a public apology or even comment on his ‘raped woman’ statement, and still got away with a blockbuster at the Box Office with Sultan. Is silently ignoring the protests and wishing people would forget – till the next big headline – the way ‘our stars’ now intend to address relevant social controversies? Maybe we should have taken a hint when Singh’s statement at the time of the campaign’s release said, “’Don’t Hold Back’ is a strong message that I believe will resonate with the youth of the nation. It’s a message that, I believe, echoes the vibe and attitude of our youth; follow your heart, and stop giving a damn about ‘log kya kahenge’!”
It really does feel like many ad-makers have stopped giving a damn about the negative implications of their work. After all, the idea seems to be to just wait it out till the next storm comes along. But how many storms would it take for it to stop?
Maybe Donald Trump could answer that!