National Geographic magazine’s June 2018 cover garnered a lot of attention. Created by Mexican artist Jorge Gamboa, the cover aimed to create awareness about the negative impact of plastic waste on the environment. It was applauded for its tactful yet attention-grabbing approach to shedding light on the subject and also being impactful.
Not too long ago, the Indian advertising industry went down a similar path with an advertisement for Bombay Dyeing, but they had a slightly different approach.
At first glance, this print ad seems nothing out of the ordinary. However, the closer you look, the more apparent is the sheer stroke of genius this advertisement is. It became an important stage in the trajectory of the industry’s evolution in India, checking more boxes than one when it comes to putting together an effective image – great copy, eye-catching visuals and an apt celebrity spokesperson.
The copy reads “To save water we often take a shower together. And we always use a Bombay Dyeing towel.” It is concise, direct and draws attention to the product. It was sensational for its innuendoes and tactfully manages to fulfil the brand’s corporate social responsibility by hinting towards water conservation.
The visuals leave nothing to the imagination and depict precisely what the copy states. We see Sharmila Tagore and a male model, wrapped in a Bombay Dyeing towel, unapologetically (and rightly so) smiling at the camera.
Tagore, the first Indian female actor to have sported a bikini on celluloid, was famous for making bold choices. Being known for such stances in the past, her featuring in the advertisement would not seem uncharacteristic, which probably is the reason why there weren’t any major controversies or debates surrounding it. This was a time when discussions like female sexuality, sex, empowerment and gender issues were still very much tight-lipped.
This print advertisement is definitely one to take note of owing to its strategy, which was witty and progressive for its time. However, what unfortunately seems to have remained consistent over the years is the continuing objectification of the human form and sexualising content as a marketing tactic.
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