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5 Print Advertisements in India that landed into Controversies

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Celebrity hair stylist Jawed Habib has landed in soup over a new ad campaign. A print advertisement for JH hair salon depicting Hindu Goddess Durga having a spa day has offended several devotees. Published in a Bengali newspaper, Jawed Habib’s intent of promoting his hair salon for the upcoming Durga Puja massively backfired. Apart from getting trolled online, many complaints have been lodged against him for insulting Hindu religion. This is not the first time when an advertisement has rubbed the target audiences in a wrong way. Be it the racism, sexism, bold content or outright derogatory, here’s a look at the list of the most controversial print advertisements that outraged the masses in India.

1. Jawed Habib’s Durga Puja Ad

Jawed Habib ad

The most recent ad campaign to leave fuming is celebrity hair stylist Jawed Habib’s ad for the upcoming Durga Puja festival. It showed Hindu Goddess Durga along with Kartik and Ganesh, and other two goddesses, Lakshmi and Saraswati at the Habib’s beauty parlour, while the tag reads- ‘Gods too visit JH salon’. It led to a massive outrage with people accusing Habib of hurting their religious sentiments. While he has issued an apology, complaints have been lodged against him.

2. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Kalyan Jeweller Ad

kalyan jewellers ad

Leading Indian jewellery brand, Kalyan Jewellers drew major flak over an ad featuring Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The creative was branded ‘racist’ and promoting ‘child labour’ by netizens after it depicted the actress as a queen with a dark and bony child, holding an oversized umbrella over her head. After much hue and cry on the internet, the ‘racist’ print ad was withdrawn from Kalyan Jewellers campaign.

3. Tuff Shoes ad featuring Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre

tuff shoes ad

The 1995 print ad for Tuff shoes featuring Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre, is a must mention in the list of controversial Indian advertisements. The two were leading models back in the days and also dating at the time when they went stark naked for a raunchy, jaw-dropping photoshoot. The couple was seen wearing nothing but a pair of shoes each and a python wrapped around them. Such was the impact of the ‘obscene ad’ that charges of indecent behaviour were pressed against Soman and Sapre that lasted for 14 years, after which the courts acquitted them.

4. Ford Figo India

ford figo india ad

Ford Figo India advertisement by JWT India is touted to be one of the most controversial ads of 2013, which even led to the firing of its head. It depicted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi showing victory sign with the car trunk full of gagged and handcuffed women. The ad came during the time when India was enforcing tougher laws to punish sex crimes in the aftermath of a gruesome gang rape of a Delhi student. It naturally got the internet burning with rage for such a frivolous attitude reflected in the ad campaign.

5. Calida featuring Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea

Calida ad

Switzerland-based Calida is long forgotten innerwear brand but it still fresh in our memories for its infamous ad featuring actors, and then partners, Dino Morea and Bipasha Basu. The ad shot in 1998 shows the Dino pulling off Bipasha’s undergarment with his teeth as they tagline ran: ‘And you thought your appetite for indulgence could only be whetted by Swiss chocolates’. This was deemed too crass and provocative for the Indian audience leading several women organizations to raise protests.