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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Magnum Opus (aka Wall's Balls)

Wall's is anything but inconsistent. The ads suck, if you'll pardon the expression.

The Magnum ads have, once again, sparked a debate in Pakistan. Not the philosophical kind that raged in the West and on the Net about its "5 Senses" ad ... and whether it was blatantly sexual or merely sensual (the line is rather blurred between these two words now).

The current debate, with participants ranging from advertising and marketing execs to students, centres around whether local context, culture, values, and taboos must be respected or not. Many worry that such ads will open the door, at one of the worst moments in our history, to a flood of obscenities. Others are turned off and disgusted. The few who do not oppose it merely suggest we accept the fact that selling is a no-holds-barred enterprise. Some may even argue that, by being placed on a billboard - a medium that does not offer the luxury of reaching for the remote control and switching it off - it tramples upon the choice of those who do not wish to see this or have their kids exposed to it. At least not when they are together.

Here is one comment from a female participant of the above-mentioned discussion. There are dozens of more blunt and angry comments that I did not see fit to quote. i drove by karsaz today and saw the blown up magnum ad. even though the ice cream is amazing (took a bite off a friend's magnum), the ad made me feel kinda... sick. this is not about ethics, this isn't about what is socially acceptable. i did not want to have an ice cream that hinted at what magnum was hinting at. that is not pure indulgence for me. it so isn't. did the ad work? it worked in scandalising people and creating a hype. did people go out and buy the product? i'm not so sure. i'll say it again: the ice cream was amazing. but thinking about you-know-what is not what i want to think about while having it. thank u whoever-was-in-charge for spoiling it for me.

That the ad 'hints' (to use the above writer's word) at what it does is no accident. An earlier campaign by Wall's had many arguing that the young model was duped into portraying what she did not realize what the ad would suggest (or, as some held, the viewer was reading too much in it). I only requested such 'defenders' to look at several people, of all shapes, sizes, and genders eating ice-cream - even Magnum - and see how many had the eyes-half-closed expression or the emotion that the ad showed. None ever brought it up again.

As ad-savvy people who follow international campaigns know, Wall's ads have always had a clear intent. For example, one Magnum Cone storyline was described thus on an ad-related website: Man is eating a Magnum Cone when a woman walks by and starts licking it. [And one has to see it for the briefest of moments to understand what's being implied.]. Even a less provocative ad by them, which showed a man rolling paper into a long marijuana joint, did not escape the sexual innuendo: it was called The Sixties Nine

Do I have a problem with the ad? Yes! I think that this ad - and many more that seem to confuse modernity with sexual liberalism - play right into the hands of the fundos, destabilizing all moves towards the more important aspects of liberal or open-minded thought in an already confrontational society. Soon we'll have the right-wingers screaming and demanding of people if this is the kind of immorality they want their children to be brought up with --- a form of emotional blackmail that works and will help them gain sympathy, paving the way for other nefarious activities under their self-apointed position of moral guardianship. From disfiguring billboards (already a fairly common sight as you travel further north) it is but a short hop to disfiguring people— and they will stop at neither.

May I suggest that consumers express their views not merely on private and net-based forums but also to Unilever. Or shall we wait until the next Wall's ad appears with Studded for Extra Pleasure as a slogan?

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Blogger deranged_lunatic said...

you commented on my blog quite a few days ago so I apologise for not replying for so long...actually, I just noticed it :) so i dropped by to say thanks so much for your encouragement...means a lot coming from someone so much older and experienced! :)

24 January, 2006 21:20

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But wouldn't the fundos just be emboldened if the ads were removed? I don't like the ad but if we're looking at it simply a fm a fundoos vs. liberal perspective, then removing the ad would probably embloden them and not stop them from finding something else to fulminate about.

24 January, 2006 23:39

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Oh, quite possibly ... but ONLY if they were 'removed' by some law or official action. However, my point is for ad agencies and advertisers to be creative and come up with great ads without resorting to stuff that may force adverse reactions (from fundos OR the government). There is no need to pull the current campigns off, suddenly, but to be more sensitive to all the possible consequences in future.

As for being able to stop them from finding other excuses, that's not controllable ... but we do not need to 'provide' them with reasons ourselves.

25 January, 2006 01:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point taken.

25 January, 2006 05:56

Blogger insiya said...

And a mere coincidince: the model in this ad happens to be the same one who got arrested a couple of days before New Year (2004), from another model's apartment, after one of his neighbors (a Gulshan-e-Iqbal Nazim) complained about some "immoral activities" taking place in their apartment. One of our pop-singers happened to be there too!

Later, the police had refused to talk about the "contorted position they were found in during the raid."

None of my or your business but thought I'd share nonetheless.

*hops away!*

25 January, 2006 11:31

Blogger vintage said...

ooooohh gossip! i heard as well...
... but umm...
well, IF we're going to talk about the scandal just mentioned, i dont think the neighbour should have complained to the police, and the police shouldn't have raided. what goes on in their personal life is no one's business.

a lot of people consider that the add (somehow) leads the way to modernisation and liberalism and basically the future.

modernisation does not imply that we become explicit.

we should open our minds and not our umm... bodies.

unilever sold itself cheap by resorting to having a sexual connotation in their magnum add.

which is a shame, because, the ice cream is really really good!

25 January, 2006 18:57

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

25 January, 2006 22:55

Blogger Abbas Halai said...

Rather amusing.

28 January, 2006 01:44

Blogger BeanZ said...

Magnum advertising in Pakistan has always stirred up controversy and with each new campaign, they push the boundaries of acceptability, in a totally uncool way. It's deplorable how multinational corporations don't give a rats ass about cultural sensibilities and sensitivities. We have to suffer their narrow vision of progress, while they remain slavishly bound to international and regional briefs. UGH.

But WTF is wrong with these women who willingly choose to suck off icecream bars like they're you know what? Ladies, this is not what being liberated is about. Brand Managers and Creative Directors, get a life.

30 January, 2006 19:38


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