Thursday, September 24, 2015

Situating the ‘Discourse’ in the ‘Fair & Lovely Ad Campaign’

Television commercials have evolved significantly over the last many decades. They have been the catalyst and reflection of a society’s aspirations. In their endeavour to sell, they have created images and metaphors which over time have assumed strong socio-cultural dimensions. The physical images have indeed been very overwhelming. Television commercials have not only created the perfect images but also woven pressing narratives which make the desire to attain that perfection imperative. These images have somewhere got domesticated and appropriated over time. In fact these images have managed to build a framework of ‘stereotypes’ with respect to different constructs including gender, class, religion, sexuality, ethnicity among others. The ‘Fair & Lovely’ brand was launched in the Indian market in the year 1975. The very nomenclature of the brand has been indicative of its USP – fair skin and women as its target audience. I have done a preliminary analysis of four popular 'Fair and Lovely' commercials over the years. One of the earlier commercials featuring Juhi Chawla has the protagonist as a homemaker who gets approval from friends, relatives and her spouse only after a regular use of ‘Fair and Lovely’ which improves her skin. Another one tells the success story of a young middle class girl who has flair for cricket commentary. She practices her trade at home with a pseudo-mike which is replaced by a ‘Fair & Lovely’ tube by her mother. The next part is the girls’ instant selection as a television cricket commentator where her radiant skin tone becomes the center of attention for co-commentators and the television audience. Another one builds a story of a dance group where the choreographer chooses one artist over the other because of her fair skin. The selected dancer advises her colleague that despite talent, she would not be able to shine out as doesn’t have the physical charisma. The physical charisma is then brought in by handing over the ‘Fair & Lovely’ tube to the protagonist. The last shot of the ad shows the male choreographer being enamored by the dancer who he had earlier rejected. Then there is one that shows the ‘not-so-fair’ daughter of a priest being ridiculed by the staff of an ‘air hostess’ training academy for not having the physical beauty to even be in that space. The next scene shows the priest being hurt by the lamenting and using all his expertise in ‘ayurveda’ to develop something that will change his daughter’s skin color. The ad situates ‘Fair & Lovely’ cream to be that concoction. Once the daughter uses it and attains fair skin the air hostess academy not only trains her but she also becomes a very successful air hostess. The narrative of each of the discussed ads identifies following common narrative agents - - The female protagonist - Her abilities and potential - Her rejection - Dark skin as the reason for rejection - An advisor/friend who brings ‘Fair & Lovely’ into the protagonist’s life - The immediate success after the use of the product enhances skin tone and gives fair skin For details go to

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