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Veena Malik's Power Prash show: Should claims made in the content be on the broadcasters?

Viewers who are late-night channel zappers, and there are enough of those, would have found it difficult to miss a rather conspicuous wave of hardsell.

, ET Bureau|
Aug 08, 2012, 02.04 AM IST
Veena Malik's Power Prash show: Should claims made in the content be on the broadcasters?
Channels airing long-drawn advertorials on late-night slots for out of the ordinary products do so because few mainstream brands will want to peddle their wares past the witching hour. Should a part of the onus of claims made in the content — which are often dubious — be on the broadcaster?

Viewers who are late-night channel zappers — and there are enough of those — would have found it difficult to miss a rather conspicuous wave of hardsell.

Veena Malik, an arguably popular and less arguably shapely import from across the border appears on a few television channels — mostly after midnight — and is seen making a case for Power Prash, a brand with an aphrodisiacal proposition.

To be sure, late-night television is crammed with advertorials, which are long-drawn presentations of a motley bunch of products from tummy and nose-hair trimmers to bust and butt enhancers.

In more than a few cases, the production values are abysmally low, the sets tacky, models garish, and the products, and the claims they make, dubious. Thecreative agency is unknown as is the marketer itself.

The Malik short film, which appears repeatedly on the late-night band, stands out because it leaves little to the imagination. Well, when selling a desi-Viagra clone, titillation comes with the territory, and the brand goes to town with images of immodest couples cosying up and how Power Prash helps a bunch of wistful men get their act together.

At a time when the moral police is at its vigilant best (or worst, depending on whose side you are on) — at least in Mumbai — it didn’t take too long for a complaint to reach the doorstep of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

The regulatory body did not want to come on record, but those close to the council say ASCI had first received a complaint against Power Prash in November 2011. The brand’s communication was found to be misguiding in its claims of performance enhancement and fertility.

Accordingly, all the claims were removed and the communication was modified. This time around the complaint is not about what has been claimed but about indecency.

Even as the regulatory body reviews the case, the question being asked in advertising and broadcasting circles is: whose responsibility is it, anyway?

Channels sell such advertorial slots during non-primetime with a disclaimer that viewers should use their discretion when watching such content; the broadcasters also absolve themselves of any product-feature related responsibilities.

Anil Nair, CEO and managing partner, Law & Kenneth, points out that a part of the onus does lie with the channel that shows such content.

“They have to be responsible for what they are telecasting, and the IBF (Indian Broadcasting Federation) needs to step in," says Nair From the points of view of the broadcasters and brands, such longdrawn advertorials are a win-win proposition: the brands — most of which rely only on direct marketing — are unlikely to find too many takers over the counter or in retail outlets; and late-night slots find few takers amongst conventional advertisers.

So, as brand consultant Harish Bijoor points out, such slots on television are a key element of the business plan of direct marketing companies.

Satbir Singh, managing partner & chief creative officer at Euro RSCG India, says such content is neither an “in-your-face commercial nor a television serial.” The advertorial is all about creating content around a product that is elongated, circuitous and engrossing, he adds.

That, by itself, may not be a bad thing at all. For decades now advertisers have attempted to ride on, what psychologists termed, the ‘habit loop,’ which encourages consumers to get into routine, and then get rewarded for that routine. A cue is needed to get the consumer into that routine and, for advertisers, that cue is an attention-grabbing campaign.

Legendary advertiser Claude C. Hopkins did that with amazing effect in the early 1900s when he introduced Americans to the toothbrushing routine by selling Pepsodent via print ads in long form.

Power Prash and Malik’s cajolery may not be able to do something as pioneering but, at best, can hope to increase the frequency of a fairly popular habit.

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