When Poonam Pandey attempts a ‘spoof’ on a new ad campaign within two days of its release, you know you have a winner on your hands. The ‘Do the Rex’ campaign featuring Bollywood young blood Ranveer Singh has gone viral on social media within a day of its release, with 1,50,000 views. The commercial, which literally begins with a ‘bang’ and a subsequent orgasm, has the actor gloating about the experience with a dance and a rap, written by the 28-year-old himself. The attempt is a far cry from condom ads of yesteryear, with their cringe-worthily self-conscious erotic moves. The image of the homely woman with a come-hither twinkle in her eye has been replaced by the chiselled hunk who encourages you to carry a khushiyon ka chhata along.
The mind behind the campaign, Partho Sinha of DigitasLBi, says that while the other campaigns began at passion and ended there, this campaign celebrates it. “The prime objective of the campaign was to demonstrate the idea that love and great sex are magical and we can enjoy the feeling without any apprehensions about practising safe sex.” It’s a novel way to approach and talk about sex, long considered a taboo by censor boards and looked askance at by norms of a society that is still somewhat tight-corseted under a loosening Victorian hold over it. The advertisement chooses its target audience carefully. The video was first uploaded on the internet with the intention of looking for a response from the youth, which has been “extremely positive”, says Nitish Kapoor, general manager, Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of Durex. “Within a few days of its launch, the ad went viral on Facebook and Twitter despite the nation being gripped by elections and the IPL,” says Kapoor of a campaign he believes is “truly digital at heart and whose activation has actually taken place outside the realm of conventional media”. The lyrics of the song impressed Jinisha Bhanushali, a student from Goa, who says the commercial “attracts the youth and promotes condoms in an interesting way”.
Probably the first Bollywood star to back a condom brand, the fact that Ranveer also chose to break his proverbial hymen in the field of endorsements with this product has people talking. It’s a psychological fillip for the average guy who is used to that awkward sputter at the drugstore while purchasing ‘that thing’. The inclusion of the male heartthrob as the centrepiece also gives women no reason to complain, says Sumedha, an aspiring journalist from Delhi. “It’s fun, the message is simple and effective and there is no unnecessary objectification of the female body,” she says. Sumedha points at the distastefully sensuous and raunchy representation of women in condom ads. From a Sunny Leone writhing in skimpy corsets urging you to have sex anywhere you want, to a woman feeling herself up at the very sight of condoms, ads have objectified women for long.
Ranveer is mindful of that. “I was always clear that I wanted to endorse a product that truly has a positive impact on society and sends out the message of being socially responsible too,” he says in an interview.
The 127-second ‘Do the Rex’ video pulls away from traditional condom ads featuring coy, just-married couples or models with unreal bodies by depicting sex as a normal activity. The commercial will in its next series “focus on capitalising on this attempt at creating a tolerant space to discuss sex, and involving stakeholders...other than the youth,” says Sinha.
The risque lyrics and Ranveer’s joyously muscular cavorting may seem frivolous and doubters may have issues with its message, but ‘Do the Rex’ unabashedly celebrates its unserious line.
By Siddhartha Mishra and Ashna Bajaj