Vaseline India creates a Facebook application to support Vaseline for Men’s ‘Be Prepared‘ advertising campaign and it’s being talked about across the world. Unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Blame it on the borderless digital age that we live in, but Shahid Kapoor and the app get mentions in PC World, CBS News and even The Atlantic (!). While some have used strong words to describe the campaign (crowdsourced racism), others have simply called the app ineffective. The Western world’s consternation at this ‘fairness = superiority’ promotion is understandable. But Vaseline India wouldn’t have expected this kind of reaction globally, I am sure.
But in a way the reaction to such an app is expected. People accuse brands like these of reinforcing the notion that fairness is more desirable, superior and causing great harm to society. The counter argument that such brands merely tap into an existing need (long before such products were even conceived or advertised) falls on deaf ears. I have seen educated, metro-bred, ‘cosmopolitan’ folks from North India carry a huge bias against people who are of darker skin (read, South Indians). I have also seen dark skinned folks yearn for a fair skin, almost pitying the way they are. That kind of attitude was not created through advertising. Hindi movies of the 70s and 80s did their bit to promote such stereotypes. Sure advertising attempts to strike a chord in them and taps into a latent need. If manufacturing such products is allowed, why is promoting them not?
Anyway, I am digressing. Over at the Vaseline Men Be Prepared application, many have rated the application poorly and left pretty nasty comments. I didn’t think much of the App as it was it has a gimmicky tone to it. The trick with ‘Simpsonize Me’ or the Obama Hope Poster kind of apps is that there is a fun element to it – they are childishly funny, prankish and encourage sharing. But simply paling your profile picture is no fun.