All’s not fair in fairness cream advertising

July 25, 2008

Priyanka ChopraA new ad campaign featuring Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Neha Dhupia has viewers’ curiosity piqued with its almost soap opera feel, with each advert dealing with a new episode in their love triangle.

The story so far: Chopra and Khan were once together, and Chopra still carries a flame for him, and half a heart-shaped locket. Khan, who has the other half of the locket, is about to propose to Dhupia, but also still has feelings for Chopra. Incensed  Dhupia dumps Khan, and in the latest episode Chopra was looking for Khan at the airport.

So here’s the $1 million question: What was keeping them apart? You’ll never guess: Chopra’s dark complexion that lost out to fairer-skinned Dhupia.

The campaign for Hindustan Unilever’s Pond’s White Beauty will have us believe Chopra’s “wheatish” complexion – the polite term still used in Indian matrimonial ads – is the only reason she is not with her one true love.

But never fear, Priyanka, for Pond’s White Beauty with lycopene is here.  Watch the four episodes so far of Kabhi Kabhi Pyaar Mein here

These ads have only multiplied in recent years, as more cosmetics makers clamber onto the bandwagon for fairness cream which in adverts magically make women more desirable, successful and modern.

Shops stack a dizzying array of fairness creams and lotions from home-grown majors and multinationals alike. But in one way they are really fair — they now make them for men, too. The advertising, however, has guys biking on dirt roads or hanging out with their macho buddies.

Fairness creams are a multi-billion rupee industry in India, and Fair & Lovely, the original launched in 1978, is a blockbuster product for Hindustan Unilever.

Perhaps there is a case for a product that clearly has a demand in a country that places such a premium on fair skin.  Has their increasing popularity anything to do with the asipirations of millions of Indians in an increasingly globalised world? And what about their advertising?

“There is too large a population that equates fairness with beauty and superiority,” said Kiran Khalap, co-founder of brand consultancy Chlorophyll.

“It is so ingrained in our culture and sensibility, it is hard to imagine where the advertising can go from here.”

Chopra, in a promotion for the ad campaign says: “Love makes the world go round … Pond’s White Beauty gives it a helping hand.”

In love, all’s only fair, it seems.

9 comments

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Hi Rina Chandran,
An xcellent blog…

Posted by Swarnarekha | Report as abusive

i wonder if people are aware that these products can be precursors for skin cancer

Posted by A.S. Vali | Report as abusive

Please what is this world coming to. White people are fixated trying to get a tan.Black people are trying to become white. The most beautiful women in the world (Indian women, my opinion) should stay with what they have got and not try to change. Their natural beauty and all the natural beauty of other races far outways what the media wants people to be.
I’m a white mail from Yorkshire who is nearer 60 than 50 but appreciates good looking natural people. Please don’t be taken in by all the hype.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

@ A. S. Vali: Skin-cancer? Is that why you shouldn’t use these?

I don’t know about you, but I’m proud of my (dark) complexion and as Keira Knightley says, I might as well like the body I’m in if that’s the only body I’ve got.

The ponds ad actually makes no sense to me…neither the concept nor does it actually relates to the product. Just by hiring top stars, the ad agencies today think they can capture the product market. Secondly, it’s a very personal opinion whether one wants a fair or a dark complexioned partner. We have no right to either highlight it or criticise it for others.

Posted by Ashima Mahindra | Report as abusive

Go ahead folks..blame it all on the agency. Again.

This commercial like many others on Indian TV is a mere symptom of the deep seated racism amongst most Indians.

Posted by A K | Report as abusive

Many thanks for your efforts

i think in this ad priyanka chopra shud be replaced with amrita singh nd neha dhupia with kareena kapoor…then it may mak sm sense and give a personal touch ;)

Posted by tara | Report as abusive