6 Indian Print Ads And TV Commercials That Landed Into Controversy

by Saumya Gaur

David Ogilvy, the father of the modern advertising, once said to prospective copywriters and ad-makers, “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the single purpose of advertising.”

Ogilvy, who is often looked up to as the God of advertising, saw it as a business skill, and actively discouraged people from looking at it from the perspective of art. But, how can one expect to discover new things and innovate if they don’t push the boundaries of their field a little, right?

And time and again, Indian copywriters and ad-makers have pushed the envelope to create memorable ad campaigns that have firmly imprinted the brand in the minds of its consumers. Be it Amul’s topical commentary cartoons or Cadbury Dairy Milk’s mushy ad campaigns, these ads always made the consumers look at the products fondly, but there are some which weren’t received so well.

Today, we have decided to look at a few such Indian print and TV ads that proved to be a bit too much for the audience to digest. Here they are:

1. This Print Ad For Tuff Shoes That Resulted In A Legal Battle (1995)

This black and white advertisement created quite a stir in its time. The bare bodies of supermodels Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman entwined in an erotic position with nothing except a python wrapped around them and a pair of Tuff Shoes covering their feet, upset a lot of people. So much so that it led to a filing of a case for indecent behavior against the models in a court. The advert was also dragged to the court by the wildlife protection authorities for illegal use of the snake.
The ad was ultimately banned.

2. Amul Macho Ad Featuring Model Sana Khan (2007)

If you happened to watch this ad with your mother or father by your side, you would have surely and awkwardly fumbled with the TV remote to skip the channel. Sexually suggestive, this ad was beyond the pale of the Indian audience. Soon enough the Indian Broadcasting Ministry banned the ad for being vulgar and indecent.

3. Sunny Leone’s Seductive Plea For Manforce Condoms (2017)

It makes sense for a condom brand to tie up with a former adult star turned country’s favorite item girl to promote their product. But this decision cost Manforce heavily when they tried to launch their ad by capitalizing on the occasion of Navratri (the 9-night festival celebrating the various incarnations of Goddess Durga). The copy line which translates to “This Navratri, play, but with love” drew on the playing of Garba (a popular Gujarati Navratri folk ritual). It drew the ire of All India Confederation Of Traders. Ultimately, Manforce had to withdraw the ad and tender an apology as well.

4. This Motorola Ad Which Never Made It To Our TV Screens (2008)

Now, that you’ve had a look at it, we are pretty sure that you agree that it was for a good reason. This ad which might have been trying to prove that Motorola’s new phone was nifty little gadget with its snazzy camera, ended up marketing it as every voyeur’s dream tool. It’s not a surprise that it was never released on television.

5. This Ad For A Swiss Inner Wear Company Featuring Bipasha Basu (1998)

Even though the inner wear company for which this ad was made disappeared from people’s radar quite soon, the ad managed to rake in quite a bit of controversy. In the print ad, the then-couple Dino Morea and Bipasha Basu were seen indulging in a few intimate moments wherein Dino was captured tugging at Bipasha’s underwear with his teeth.

The ad was banned after several women organizations protested against it. Later on, Bipasha went on to claim that those pictures captured some private moments between the couple and should never have been used or photographed in the first place.

6. Wild Stone Ad That Was Deemed Too Steamy (2007)


Even as you were going through this list, you would have realized that the overt portrayal of sexuality and religion are never a good combo. This ad for Set Wet deo ignored this unsaid rule by setting its racy ad in the context of Durga Puja, much to the dismay of its chaste Indian customer base. This ad along with other deodorant ads, which capitalized on sexuality, were banned by the Indian Broadcasting Ministry for portraying women as “lustily hankering after men under the influence of such deodorants” (1). It turns out, sex doesn’t always sell in our country.

Creative. Yes. But did these ads succeed in hitting the nail on the head? We are not sure.

What do you think about these ads? Share your views with us in the comments section.

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