A Twitter user's comment about a lingerie ad on Nykaa opened up a conversation on how lingerie should be advertised in India. The post elicited a wide-range of responses. The digital ad from Nykaa, the e-commerce company founded by Falguni Nayar, was shared by Abhinav Agarwal. In his post he stated, “Looks like corporate governance is not the only thing messed up at Nykaa. Who, I mean, seriously, who, greenlighted this ad? For a company started by and led by a woman, this is a horrible example of both sexualization and objectification in a single ad.” The user later took the Tweet down.
Many users, especially women, replied stating they didn’t see a problem with the ad. For instance, Pratyasha Rath, in a reply to this tweet, said, “It is meant for the female gaze and speaks to a major pain point for most women. Men seeing lingerie ads would find it sexual but the product still has to be marketed. It is not pandering for anyone else’s attention at all. Meant just for the user and her comfort.”
It is meant for the female gaze and speaks to a major pain point for most women.— Pratyasha Rath (@pratyasharath) December 7, 2022
Men seeing lingerie ads would find it sexual but the product still has to be marketed. It is not pandering for anyone else’s attention at all. Meant just for the user and her comfort.
Past and present underwear ads
Over the years, men’s underwear brands have come under scanner for being indecent, vulgar and suggestive. For instance, in 2007, TV commercials for Amul Macho Underwear and Lux Cozy Underwear created controversy, resulting in both the ads being taken down.
The Amul Macho Underwear ad featured a young housewife suggestively washing her husband’s underwear on a riverbank as other women eye her curiously.
In the Lux Cozy Underwear, a man was shown with only a towel wrapped around him answering the door where he sees a young woman. The towel slips and the woman’s eyes gaze downwards.
Last year, actors Rashmika Mandanna and Vicky Kaushal who endorsed undergarment brand Macho stirred up another controversy. In the spot, Mandanna is seen subtly flirting with Kaushal and eying his underwear stripe. Many viewers thought it was in bad taste.
Earlier this year, Dixcy Scott created an outlandish, yet relatable ad campaign, about body language. This was a shift away from hyper-masculine category codes that the innerwear industry thrives on in India.
DaMENSCH, a premium men’s fashion brand, also launched a quirky digital-first campaign this year. The campaign titled ‘The Innerwear Therapy’ featured comedians like Rohan Joshi, Adar Malik, Jordindians, and Nirmal Pillai. The brand created Inception-like films where the comedians were seen reacting to watching themselves while playing a role in it.
It seems the advertising industry and brands have come a long way in removing old category codes and establishing new ones. But we still have a long way to go.