Marketing managers have just had their jobs made easier by our self righteous Ministry of (Mis)Information: it has decreed that henceforth there shall be only two advertising slots on TV- Prime time from 6.00AM. to 10.00PM and Condom Time from 10.00 PM till the oui hours of the morning. Ads for the humble condom can only be shown in the latter slot so that young minds should not be corrupted.! As usual, however, the govt., which considers that sex is not part of Indian culture and came here with either Alauddin Khilji or the East India Company, has missed a few tricks.
There were approximately 20 million babies born in India last year, even though half the country's population was standing in ATM queues for three months ( how's that for good old Indian "jugad' ?- we never let an opportunity go to waste). Anyway, that's quite a lot of babies, even if it has a psephologist's standard margin of error of +/ - 3%. To me this figure of 20 million is significant for two reasons: one, all these births cannot be the result of Immaculate Conception because even the good Lord gave up this idea long ago in favour of the Missionary Up disposition, a genuflective posture which suits our profound religiosity; obviously, therefore, corporeal mergers are taking place at a rate that should satisfy even the Sensex, which appears to be drooping a bit these days. Secondly, has the I+B Ministry completely lost its marbles? The message this country needs to disseminate most urgently is not that we had cracked the atom in 7000 BC or invented the space shuttle the very next year but that condoms prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS. And this message needs to go out to precisely that demographic group the Ministry does not want the ads to reach- youngsters. Because how many babies are born in the next decade depends on them, not the mandarins of Soochna Bhavan who in any case probably have sex only on second saturdays and gazetted holidays( probably the reason why govt. servants oppose any reduction in these holidays).
Big Brother obviously doesn't agree, and in the process has revealed its total disconnect with reality. It should know that the only guys who are wide awake after 10.00 PM are the same impressionable young minds it wants to mollycoddle. All the others-adults, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water- have by then gone to sleep, effectively sedated by the screams of prime time anchors and exhausted by standing in queues the whole day to link their Aadhar with their college degrees, car number plates, marriage certificates, e-mail IDs and, ultimately, their own death certificates. So when Sunny Leone pops up on the screen at 10.03 PM doing to a strawberry what Donald Trump is doing to America the only ones clutching the remotes will be our under 25 demographic dividends. These kids already know more about sex than Dr. Kinsey and Hugh Heffner put together; thanks to the internet they not only get to be born free but also get porn free. Could it be possible that our I+B chaps don't know that said Ms Leone is the most googled person in India, or that 47% of internet users regularly visit porn sites? Who are they trying to "protect", for God's sake
The female form, including the plunging cleavage and the rising hem-line, has been used to sell products ever since it was first used to launch a thousand ships in Troy. Its on TV every minute selling pan masala, insurance policies, penthouses, cars, fashion products, based on the premise that galvanising the pheromones results in an opening of wallets. Sex is the silent persuader, the red flag that makes the stock exchange bull charge up the bourses. The condom is only just another such product, with a vital difference- it can save lives and curb the demographic explosion. It therefore needs to be promoted more widely than these other effete fropperies of modern life. And the govt. has to understand that just as cars, houses, insurance do so by leveraging our need for glamour,security and financial gain, condoms do so by titillating our sense of pleasure. In order to do so their ads have to be targeted at the younger lot, not at geriatric chess grandmasters- after all, the whole game is about mating, not check- mating.
The restrictive dictat will have no effect in anycase. The caterers of condoms will now resort to that old ploy of surrogate advertising, as our liquor barons do. Durex will now promote super thin latex gloves ( "nothing comes between you") , ManForce will advertise fruit flavours that will "blow" your mind. and SKORE will come up with Braille books that will help you score. Nothing will change- the same sinuous limbs and husky voices will now urge you to put on the gloves, sip the flavoured drink and -well, score. But I like my advertising the old fashioned way- I want to be sure that what I see is what I get; as the Duchess told the octogenarian Duke: " If I can't see it, how do I know its still there?" And let's be honest for once: who would you rather have to sing you a lullaby- Arnab Goswami or Sunny Leone ?
This story was first published on Hill Post, a website that offers news and views from the northern hills of India
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