India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has issued a directive to television channels not to show condom ads between 6 am to 10 pm so as not to expose children to sexually explicit ads of leading brands.
The move was mainly aimed at ads featuring leading Bollywood star Sunny Leone in Manforce condoms marketed by Mankind Pharma Pvt Ltd. The government directive has come following the appeal made by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body. The directive has evoked mixed reactions from the industry with some Ad agencies arguing that there was no blanket ban required in the day time but only on the Sunny Leone ad if that was considered offensive.
Condoms were first popularised in 1963 under National Family Planning Programme by the India Government as a population control measure with public sector Hindustan Latex Ltd (now HLL Lifecare Ltd) manufacturing Nirodh condoms for free supply through hospitals and primary health centers. HLL was also a pioneer in branded condoms too with its launch of Moods in 1987.
The market was dominated by Moods, Durex, Kohinoor and Fiesta and Kamasutra brought out by Raymond Group and JK Ansell Ltd. Durex, Kohinoor and Fiesta were owned by TTK Protective Devices and Reckit Benckiser operating under TTK-LIG. Following the stake sale by Reckit Benckiser they also retained the brands Kohinoor and Durex which was a blow to TTK Group. TTK Protective Devices was merged with TTK Healthcare Ltd and they launched their own brand Skore which eventually caught up with the other brands to emerge as No.3.
As the branded players emerged the focus of condom marketing turned to pleasure and safe sex (AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases) rather than population control.
Naturally, the ads started turning hot becoming sexually explicit with the earliest ones featuring Pooja Bedi in Kamasutra with the tag line, ‘Pleasure of making love’. HLL was more innovative in its campaigns trying to help men overcome the hesitation to ask for condoms in shops. One TV Ad showed a man hesitantly asking , ‘ er, er a pack of …’ And there comes a confident man asking the shopkeeper, ‘Moods Please’ and it ends with a tag line ‘Act with Confidence’.
HLL also launched an innovative campaign titled Moods on Waves Selfie Contest coinciding with Valentine’s Day this year. The contest required couples to log on to a website and register for the contest to upload selfies. Ten selected couples were offered 2 days and 1 nights stay in luxury boats in Alapuzha. HLL CMD had pointed out that the attempt was to break the boredom that tends to creep into a relationship over time. “MOODS strengthen relationships by getting them to do things together and bringing them closer.” The selected couples were also given special edition MOODS pack.
As marketing focus of condoms turned to pleasure companies began to be innovative with ultra-thin and dotted condoms not to speak of variety flavors- such as chocolate, strawberry, bubble gum, coffee, banana and even pickle. A BBC report in August said, “An Indian company has launched something which seems almost made in its lack of appeal – a pickle flavored condom”. While pickle is a delicacy on the dining table it doesn’t evoke romance, critics said.
The global market for condoms is expected to reach 48.5 bn units worth US $800 bn by 2022, according to a research report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. The growth is backed by increasing emphasis on preventing unwanted pregnancy and STD. The report also said condom marketing is moving towards emphasis on improving sexual pleasure.
Among brands, Manforce leads the market with 31% share while Moods and Skore share second and third positions . No reliable estimates of India’s condom market seems to be available but some estimates put it at Rs 800 cr but market penetration of condoms among all contraceptives is said to be less than 6%. It goes on to show that despite all the sound and fury regarding condom ads, the real love for it isn’t rising at an expected rate, according to research data. There is a genuine need for increased awareness about safe sex and use of condoms, therefore, restricting ads in prime time may not help, analysts said. Proper sex education in schools and home can rub of the negative effects of exposure to explicit ads, they point out.