Hamesha India Mein

Su sent me an interesting SAJA bulletin yesterday evening, and I thought it would be relevant to talk about here, especially since we do occasionally concern ourselves with the 'coulds, woulds, and shoulds' of beauty.

It seems that Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide has developed a miniseries of ads for a Ponds' skin lightening cream, called Ponds' White Beauty. I know what you're thinking - "oh no, another Fair & Lovely conversation"- but I don't have a ton to add to that debate. There are some really articulate posts Sepia Mutiny about it, if you want to check them out (here & here).  This mini-ad-drama is being called "Kabhi Kabhi Pyaar Mein"  

Upon searching for said ads on YouTube, I found that a version of this campaign ran in China and other East Asian countries, where the product was called Ponds' Flawless White, and the campaign entitled "7 Days to Love".  Don't ask me why, but this was a major surprise to me.  

With the exception of the product name, the ads have exactly the same storyline. I have to profess my ignorance about E. Asian cinema, but I do know that the Indian version of the ad has three fairly prominent Bollywood celebrities - Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, and Neha Dhupia.  I would assume that the actors in the Chinese version have achieved equal celebrity in Chinese society.

What interests me is the fact that this story was used as a 'universal' tale - everything from the 'boy meets girl, boy dumps girl' story, to the color schema, to the camera angles were copied.  It's a pity that we don't often find commonalities with our Chinese/Asian brethren, but it's particularly interesting that the same product is promoted in two different markets in exactly the same manner.  Check it out to see what I mean:

Asian Version

Indian Version

The Indian version has only just yet begun running, so episodes 4 and 5 are not yet available. [As an aside, it'll be interesting to see how they translate the 'white wedding' into the Indian version.] 

Like I said, I was shocked to see these ads  - on so many levels.  First, and most obviously, is the issue of color politics.  And while that's been a part of Indian society for centuries, it is not until celebrities jump OFF this bandwagon and take a stand against the color-ist environment that is perpetuated in India, that we're going to get anywhere.  To see big names like the Chote Nawab and a former Miss Universe throwing their weight behind such a product is extremely disappointing.  

I also have to admit that, while in no way did I think that color-ism was a uniquely Indian issue, I didn't realize the extent to which it was perpetuated in East Asia as well.  

And from a marketing perspective, was it wise of Ogilvy to do a straight translation of this ad across cultures?   Setting aside that such an ad should never ever grace anyone's television screen, is the color issue of equal significance in both cultures?  

What do you think of the ads?  


Truckspotter said...

In what world is Priyanka Chopra dusky? I'm in letter-writing mode and want to send one to Pond's. I say this as I apply yogurt masks to my face twice a week.

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